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Could it be true?!? Have I discovered the answer to my four-year quest for gluten-free filo dough? This guy sounds legit, the video looks legit, and the baklava looks like it might just make my yiayia proud. Oh, nellie. You know what I’ll be up to this weekend!!!

The Philosopher's Kitchen by Francine Segan

The Philosopher's Kitchen by Francine Segan

I just came across the coolest cookbook. It’s called The Philosopher’s Kitchen by Francine Segan. Apparently, the author has spent time studying ancient texts to glean recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome which she then adapts for the modern kitchen. And, if we believe that eating 2 lbs of meat per person per day is a relatively modern occurrence (which we do), it should come as no surprise that there are many delicious vegetarian recipes in the book. And, BONUS! Most are also gluten-free. Recipes such as

Minted Garlic Spread
Red Lentils in Garlic-Roasted Artichoke Cups
Lemony Celery and Leek Soup
Acorn Squash with Pine Nuts and Honey

… Interesting, no?

Here’s more from her site

Gluten-free Pizza á la greca: with spinach, feta, tomatoes, and dried olives


Mmmm… zaaaa.

Gluten-Free Pizza à la Greca: with Spinach, Feta, & Olives

  • One package Gillian’s Wheat, Gluten & Dairy Free Pizza Dough (available at Whole Paycheck)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pint fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 8 oz. chopped spinach
  • 2 oz. feta cheese
  • 1/4 c. pitted olives, coarsely chopped (try Penna’s Olivasecca – they’re amazing!)
  • 1-2 T steel cut oats or corn meal
  • oregano, salt & pepper to taste

This is a great quick meal if you have the foresight to thaw the pizza dough the night before. Of course, you can use a different pizza dough that doesn’t require thawing. Do a little exploring in the frozen foods section of your gross-hairy store and see what you can come up with.

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Slice the onion and garlic and saute in olive oil until glassy-looking. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and let cook down until there is very little liquid left. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until their skins start to split – approximately 10 minutes on medium high heat. Add the spinach; saute another 5ish minutes.

Cut a large piece of parchment paper and set on a flat surface. Sprinkle 1-2 T steel cut oats or coarse corn meal (polenta works) in a circle about 6-8″ in diameter. Flatten the pizza dough into a 1″-thick disc and place on the oats/grits. Roll the dough out until it is 12-14″ in diameter. Pinch the edges so you have a little ridge all the way around. Spoon the tomato/spinach/onion mixture onto the crust and distribute evenly. Spread the crumbled feta cheese and chopped olives on top. Sprinkle with oregano, salt & pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crust turns golden brown. Ta-zaaa!

French fries are BAD NEWS, bears. Oh, I used to think I could eat them, but where there are french fries, there are chicken wings, fried calamari, fried zucchini or mozzarella sticks polluting the fry oil. I dare you to find one restaurant that doesn’t fry anything wheaty in their fry oil (Actually, I can save you the trouble. It’s called Cafe Mediterra on 600-something S. Dearborn Street in Chi-town-is-my-town. Can you belieeeefff?! I quizzed the cooks, read the entire menu, and the only thing they fry are fries and falafels. So naturally I got both and they’re GOOD! The fries remind me of McDonald’s fries circa 1980. I don’t know how I feel about that. Wasn’t that at the height of their beef-fat frying days?)

The good news is that homemade french fries are infinitely better than any ‘straunt ones. When I was a kid, we’d make them all the time. The Greeks seem to be experts at it – most of the restaurants in Greece still serve real “patates tiganites” on their menus (as opposed to pre-processed disgusto bake-n-serv fries) and my yiayia made the best dern fries with nothing more than an inch of oil in a small soup pot (and potatoes, duh). Somehow those fries came out all super crispy and fab. So I am on a mission to find out what the heck kind of potatoes she used because recently my attempts at fries have been, well, soggy. So stay tuned! I’ve eliminated one type: baking potatoes. Sag-sog-tastic. Wohn wohn. If anyone has any suggestions, just holler. French fries must be had.

I knew some Greek somewhere had made chickpea meatballs before (see my post here)! Apparently they’re called revithokeftedes. Different than mine, but the recipe sounds good – can’t wait to try it. Peter’s blog, by the way, is very good – with beautiful photos and tasty, authentic Greek recipes. My one beef is that I wish he’d lay off the endangered fish (swordfish, grouper, roughy – all things I’ve seen often on his blog). Buzz kill, dude.

Correct me if I’m wrong here, but the best translation for “keftedes” is meatballs. That said, the Greeks make more kinds of meatballs without meat than with meat. I can think of patatokeftedes (potato meatballs), kolokithokeftedes (zucchini meatballs), kremidokeftedes (onion meatballs), and taramokeftedes (fish roe meatballs – amazing, by the way) for starters. And although I’ve never heard of them (outside of falafels), I’m betting that somewhere, sometime, some Greek made chickpea keftedes. I channeled this anonymous Greek the other day and came up with my own version. Husband’s review: “visionary.”

Chickpea Keftedes, why not?

Chickpea Keftedes, why not?

Chickpea Keftedes with Yogurt Dill Sauce

  • 3 c. cooked chickpeas (approx. 1 c. dry)
  • 2 c. diced potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 1/4 c. gluten-free nutritional yeast
  • 1 shot of ouzo
  • 3 T chopped fresh mint
  • salt to taste
  • gluten-free flour for dredging
  • 2 c. grapeseed oil for frying

Make the batter: Cook the chickpeas in a pressure cooker, covered with 2 inches of salted water (1/2 a teaspoon or so). If you’re using regular brown potatoes, peel them. If you’re using a thin-skinned potato like yukon gold, don’t bother. Dice them into 1-2″ cubes and steam or boil until a fork can be stuck into them smoothly. In a large bowl, mash the chickpeas with a fork or a potato masher if you have one. Add the potatoes and mash further. Don’t try to get a smooth paste – these are better with some chunky morsels in them. Add the mint, cheese, nutritional yeast, ouzo and olive oil and mix until combined. Taste for salt. Add the egg. Get ready for fryin’.

Fry ’em up good: Heat 1 c. of the grapeseed oil in a large frying pan. (I know grapeseed oil is a random ingredient – veggie oil works fine too, but I have been very impressed with grapeseed oil for frying. Apparently it has a higher smoking temperature which means it won’t evaporate at frying temps and gunk up your pan and kitchen with that nasty, hard-to-clean oily grawp.) Put 1/4 c. of gf flour on a large plate. Spoon out a golf ball-sized blob of the chickpea batter onto the plate and roll in flour. When the oil is hot, plop it in and flatten slightly. Fry on each side until a light golden brown. Serves 4.

Yogurt Dill Sauce

  • 1 c. plain yogurt
  • 2 T chopped fresh dill
  • 1 t. chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 t. salt

Directions: Mix von mix. Serve cold. Can be made a day in advance, but it’s so quick and easy, why bother?

Fried cheeeeeeeeeeese. La-laa!!!!

Saganaki. Oh, hells yeah!

Saganaki. Oh, hells yeah!

Generally, Greek restaurants are a good place to load up on wheat-free meat-free delectables if you know what to look for. Sadly, the saganaki isn’t one of them. That’s why we have kitchens in our homes, though. Here’s how to make this delicious treat. Locating the right cheese might be the hardest part. It’s made with Kefalograviera, a semi-hard salty cheese that is reminiscent of an aged manchego… in other words, GOOD. In Chicago, we get ours from an Indian market on Devon of all places (Patel Bros. just west of Western on the north side of the street). Cypriots make it with Halloumi, which you can sometimes find in specialty markets. It’s a weird cheese, though – kind of squeaky when warm.

Saganaki

  • Kefalograviera cheese
  • 2-4 T gluten-free flour (I use brown rice flour, but any flour or gf mix will do)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • veggie oil

Directions: Slice the kefalograviera into large 1/4″ thick slices. Put a couple tablespoons of flour onto a plate. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. While waiting for it to get hot, wet the cheese slices with water and coat with flour. When the oil is hot, put the cheese in and fry a couple minutes on each side, until the flour is a golden brown. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top and serve immediately.

YOWSAHS! Sorry for the hiatus. Had a baby. Wasn’t cooking. Back now, although only in 20-minute intervals. We’ll see how it goes.

My number-one, all-time favorite cookie? Easy. Melomakarona. Melo-ma-kwhoo? It’s a Greek treatsie made with the stuff of the Gods: olive oil, walnuts and honey. Aside from being ridonkulously delicious, if anyone gets on your tail about eating too many cookies, you can tell them that they’re made with olive oil, so they’re cleeeeearly healthy. Puh-lease.

I have wonderful memories of my grandmother making piles of these when she came to visit. The hilarious thing about trying to replicate her recipes is the inexact measurements she’d provide. For example, “one glass olive oil.” A glass? Which glass, Yiayia? To which she’d shrug and reply, “enh…” as she reached for the nearest glass and filled it to whatever arbitrary height she needed… Ah, yes. Sixty-five years in the kitchen’ll do that to ya.

Anywhooooo, I’ve longed for melomakarona since going GF. Finally got up the gumption to try. And how did the first attempt go? Very respectable! A bit more delicate than their gluteny cousins, but I don’t know that I’d change a thing. So here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Melomakarona!!

Gluten-Free Melomakarona!!

Gluten-Free Melomakarona

For the cookies

  • 1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. grated orange peel
  • 1/2 c. ground walnuts
  • 2 2/3 c. oat flour
  • 1 1/3 c. potato starch
  • 2/3 c. tapioca starch
  • 1 T ground chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 T brandy

For the syrup

  • 2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. water
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 1-2 cinnamon sticks

For the topping

  • 1 c. finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 T sugar

Cook them cookies: Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the olive oil and beat until smooth-ish. Add O.J., egg, baking soda, and orange peel and beat. Stir in ground nuts, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and brandy. Dough should be softer than your average cookie dough, but not sticky.

Form into oblong logs (turds? Not so appetizing, but, hey – it’s a good way to describe them…) and with a fork, gently press a grid into the top of each cookie. (Alternatively, my yiayia used to press them gently against the textured side of a meat tenderizer. Needless to say, we don’t have one of those in our veggie kitchen.) Bake on the top rack of a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or until very lightly browned. The cookies will be rather dry and pretty delicate – don’t pick them up with a vice grip or you’ll have melomakarona dust. But the syrup is the antidote to said problem. Onward.

Finishing touches: Combine honey, 1/2 c. sugar, water, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan and heat over med. low heat until sugar dissolves. When cookies come out of the oven, dip each one in the hot syrupy goodness for a second or two, making sure each one is completely submerged. With a slotted spoon, transfer the freshly bathed cookie to a plate and sprinkle with a mixture of chopped walnuts, sugar and cinnamon. Serve with Greek coffee. Try not to eat all at once.

Fantastic.

The End.

Kidding! But for any celiacs in Chicago, Venus is a hot destination. A little visited restaurant in Greektown (little visited b/c it’s off the main strip on Halsted, but only by a half block), they serve Greek-Cypriot food. And, I just discovered they have an extensive gluten-free menu (two full pages!). Woo!

I first discovered their menu online and was skeptical because it did have some suspicious listings. For example, they had patates tiganites (french fries) listed which any savvy gf diner knows is bad news b/c it is fried in the same oil as the breaded Everything, etc. But, when the waiter handed me the gf menu, all of the suspicious items were blacked out – evidently someone showed them the errors in their ways. Being familiar with Greek food, however, I must say that they left off some great gluten-free dishes that do appear on their regular menu, so it’s worth a shot to look at the regular menu and ask. Two great vegetarian dishes to ask for are the pantzarosalata (marinated beets served cold with olive oil and herbs) which goes great with skordalia and talatouri, and lahanika scharas (grilled veggies served with balsamic vinegar and oil). On that happy note, I leave you to dream of gluten-free Greek food. I need my zzzs.

Truth be told, I’m a soupivore. If I could translate every meal into some kind of soupy goodness, I would, in a second. Maybe it’s a tribute to college days when we would “drink our dinner” (enh, not really – never was a big drinker) or the fact that I am a camel and unless you force me to drink water, it never really occurs to me to do so (much more likely). But to me, nothing is better than a big ol’ vat of soup with my name on it.

Avgolemono Soup Yiayia would be proud of

Avgolemono Soup Yiayia would be proud of

Ranking high on the list of soup favorites is a Greek masterpiece called avgolemono. The name literally (and oh so gracefully) means egg-lemon. You can stop drooling (you were gagging? How rude.) If you’ve never tried lemon in your chicken noodle soup (or veggie equivalent) you haven’t experienced the goodness that Greeks bring to brothy soup (they add lemon to everything. And it’s damn good, might I add.) Avgolemono is akin to a creamy chicken rice soup, but here I make it with veggie broth for us rabbits. Great for a quick meal on a cold winter’s day, or if you have a cold and need some love from the Greek Yiayia you never had (or maybe you did! What do I know?) Anyway, enjoy.

Avgolemono Soup

  • 8 cups veggie broth
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs

Bring 4 cups of broth to a boil. Add the rice, cover, and simmer until rice is tender (also a great use for leftover rice). Add the remaining 4 cups of broth and turn heat to medium-low so that no bubbles are breaking the surface (very important!). In a medium bowl or a 2-cup measuring cup, add the lemon juice to the eggs and beat.

The secret of making avgolemono is to make sure that the eggs do not coagulate and produce the strings characteristic of egg drop soup (Greek grandmothers everywhere gasp with horror). Rather, the eggs should act as a thickener, making a creamy soup without the help of a flour roux (which they do sometimes in restaurants as a shortcut, so ask before you order).

There are several tricks to avoiding the egg drop disaster. First, slowly add 2-3 ladles of the hot broth to the egg and lemon mixture while beating vigorously. This will bring the temperature of the eggs up slowly to approach that of the soup. Then, before adding the watered-down eggs to the soup, make sure the soup is not boiling or even simmering. Any bubbles that break the surface mean that the temperature is too high and you’ll get egg drop, I can guarannnntee. So turn the soup way down and make sure it is perfectly still before adding the egg mixture. As you add the egg mixture, again, beat vigorously. Serves 2-3.

Reheating this soup can be tricky. You have to watch to make sure it doesn’t simmer, or again, the egg drop disaster will rear its ugly head. Those metal heat diffusers can be handy if you have a gas stove. I think microwaves are also a safe option… don’t quote me on that, though!