Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I've Moved!

As of March 10, 2011, Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved to Please update your readers, bookmarks, and front pages to reflect my new site address.

What does this mean for readers? If you subscribe to this blog via e-mail or an RSS reader, you should receive all future posts (please let me know if you do not). If you have this site bookmarked, you need to update the bookmark to:

Thank you to all you my friends and readers who have cooked with me over the last few years. Please visit to see the new site and read my latest recipes for Pasta Flora (Greek Jam Tart) made with Fresh Fig Jam.

The recipes and stories at the heart of Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska will continue unchanged. In addition, the new blog has many exciting new features, including:

  • An easy-to-read format that allows readers to quickly access recent stories
  • Printer friendly recipes
  • A recipe index, accessible by main ingredient, meal course, cuisine, special diet, food type, or recipe title
  • An easy to use form for contacting me to ask questions, give advice for how I can improve the site, or for any other reason
  • Resources for food lovers, including links to Alaska specialty markets, Alaska food blogs, Mediterranean food blogs, and a massive Greek cookbook bibliography
  • A calendar of food events in Alaska and a way to contact me to submit events to include on the calendar
  • Information of wild edibles, including resource information on wild edible Alaska plants
  • Blog of the Week, a feature to highlight and introduce interesting food and cooking blogs
  • A running daily feed of Alaska food news, located on my home page
  • A running daily feed of Anchorage restaurant specials, located on my home page

All posts from the original Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska will eventually be transferred to; I expect that process to be completed in the next two months.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Recipes: Bev's Apple Cake & Plum Torte (Κεικ με Μήλα & Κεικ με Δαμάσκηνα)

We stepped off the plane in Anchorage a month ago. The sun was shining brightly; the air crisp and cold. Our clothing, suitable for 75°F weather we left behind in Greece, left us shivering in Alaska.

We were one of the last to pass customs; our suitcases, fully packed with delicious Greek ingredients (including 30 pounds of cheeses), attracted intense governmental scrutiny. We helplessly stood by while a neophyte customs agent mauled delicate cheeses, sticking his thumb through their centers. Puzzled, he gave the cheese to a more senior agent for scrutiny, who immediately approved its entry. At long last, all our food passed muster, albeit a little worse for wear.

Because of the customs hold up, we missed the normal 30-people-fighting-for-10-taxis that happens after every international flight lands in Anchorage. Tired and relieved, we stepped into a waiting taxi and headed home.

Anchorage was awash with color: the sky, brilliant blue; the trees, gloriously gold. The mountains surrounding the city were deep green and snowless. Since we’ve been back, supermarket produce sections have been overflowing with fall fruits.

With all the fall fruit that’s landed in my kitchen, I’ve been doing a lot of baking. So far, my favorite treats are a pair of simple to mix, one-bowl cakes that are packed with fruit and wonderful flavor.

Bev’s Apple Cake is moist, has lots of apples, and isn't overly sweet. When fresh from the oven, the top crust crackles, nicely contrasting with the moist crumb and juicy fruit.

Plum Torte is one of the New York Times most requested recipes of all times. First created by Lois Levine and popularized by Marion Burros in her New York Times column, Plum Torte is moist, buttery, and absolutely delicious. Like Bev’s Apple Cake, it takes minutes to put together, but seems as if it took a lot of effort.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Triqui Family Makes Life in Alaska,Violence Grips Triqui Region in Oaxaca (with recipe for Reyna's Oaxacan Chicken Mole)

Reyna Martinez DeJesus stood before a line of smoking grills at the back of “Ricos Tostaditos,” a Mexican food stand at the Northway Mall Farmers’ Market. Tall pots, tightly covered and steaming, crowded two of the grills. On another, flank steaks cooked over flame, sending their tantalizing aromas out into the market.

The irresistible smell of grilled meat drew me over. I ate some in a tostada, dressed with fresh homemade salsa and hot sauce. I wanted more of Reyna’s food. I ordered pozole, traditional Mexican soup made with hominy corn and finished with red chile sauce, intending to take it home for lunch. I tried taking just one bite, to see how the chile sauce tasted. It was amazingly good. Before I knew it, I’d powered down every bit of the pozole.

During repeat visits to Ricos Tostaditos, I learned Reyna, 35, her husband Lorenzo DeJesus Flore, 40, and their six children are Triqui, an indigenous people from the mountains of Oaxaca, a southern Mexican state. Triqui, not Spanish, is their primary language.

So how did a family of Triqui end up in Anchorage, Alaska? It started with Lorenzo’s decision to leave his violent region for the United States.

Lorenzo and Reyna told me their story when I was at their house learning how to make Reyna’s Chicken Mole. I wanted a cooking lesson. Lorenzo wanted somebody, anybody, to know what is happening to his friends and family in San Juan Copala.

As for Reyna’s Chicken Mole, like every bite of food that Reyna makes, it’s delicious.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Recipe: Kale Galette with Yogurt Crust (Χορτόπιτα με Φύλλο Γιαουρτιού)

A few days ago we left Athens on a sunny 80°F day, warm enough to welcome airport air-conditioning. Thirty-six hours later, back in Anchorage, the sun still shone, but the temperature was only 40°F. A chill north wind cut through the lightweight clothing I’d donned on another continent.

When we arrived home, the first order of business was inspecting the garden. We’d heard there’d been a killing frost in Anchorage, so expected the worst. Zucchini, peas, Swiss chard, and most lettuce had been taken out by the cold. Broccoli and cauliflower had gone to seed. Cabbages were perfect and ready to harvest, as were arugula, garlic, onion, herbs, and a small second planting of Lau’s pointed leaf lettuce that inexplicably was unaffected by frost.

The garden’s best producer this year was Tuscan/Lacinato/dinosaur kale. The blue-green strappy kale leaves are lush and healthy despite nighttime temperatures well below freezing. Its perfect condition is remarkable; nearly every other garden plant was plagued by a horde of slugs brought forth by this year’s record-breaking rainy summer.

Having a kale glut seemed like the perfect opportunity to try Ayse Gilbert’s sour cream crust recipe. I used Greek yogurt, an ingredient I always have on hand, rather than sour cream. The dough mixed up easily and was a pleasure to roll out. This is a good crust recipe for beginners; it’s much easier to work with than standard pie crust dough.

With the tangy crust, I wanted a little sweetness to complement kale’s earthy flavor, so included dried currants and lightly sautéed onions in the filling mix. Feta always goes well with greens and I’d just brought some back from Greece that’d been mauled by a customs agent (don’t get me started) and needed to be used right away. So feta went in the mix, along with some garlic and Aleppo pepper.

The filling was well-balanced and its flavors worked well with the deliciously crunchy, flaky crust. Best of all, my friends liked it, the true measure of a recipe’s success.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rabbit Recipes: Litsa's Rabbit and Onions & Froso's Wine-Marinated Rabbit with Onions and Potatoes (Κουνέλι της Λίτσας & Κουνέλι της Φρόσω)

In Greece, our village’s economy depends on wheat and barley farming. In the last 10 years, rabbit populations have spun out of control, ravaging newly sprouted fields, and destroying entire seasons worth of crops. As a result, local hunters work diligently to keep the rabbit population in check, sharing their bounty with fellow villagers.

In September, rabbit is common village fare. Last week, two of my friends, excellent village cooks, served braised rabbit for dinner, but cooked it different ways. I decided to try both their recipes. Both were delicious; I’ll make each recipe again.

Litsa’s Rabbit and Onions (Κουνέλι με Κρεμμύδια της Λίτσας)
Serves 4
The sweetness of onions and Litsa’s light spicing combine with wine and meat juices to form a wonderfully flavorful sauce for rabbit. Our guests were sucking bones, licking fingers, and cleaning plates with bread to capture every bit of the delicious sauce. Chicken may be substituted for rabbit.

Froso’s Wine-Marinated Rabbit with Onions and Potatoes (Κουνέλι Μαριναρισμένο σε Κρασί με Κρεμμύδια και Πατάτες της Φρόσω)
Serves 4
Froso’s deeper, richer spicing gives a more sophisticated, slightly Middle Eastern edge to rabbit’s simple clean taste. Taking bites of meltingly soft onions and rabbit together elicited sighs of pleasure from diners, who smashed the potatoes into sauce to maximize flavor. By using only a small piece of cinnamon, Froso prevents its flavor from dominating the rabbit. Froso says marinating rabbit for 2 days is best, however, 24 hours is sufficient. Use slightly waxy potatoes like Yukon golds or red potatoes, not Russets or baking potatoes which tend to fall apart when braised with meat. The small onions used in this recipe should be about 1 1/2” in diameter, nor pearl onions. Chicken may be substituted for the rabbit, in which case, marinate the chicken for 12-24 hours.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Tomato Tart (Τάρτα ντομάτας)

Tomato Tart captures the essence of vine-ripened tomatoes and is a lovely way to highlight their tangy sweet flavor. Mustard goes surprisingly well with garden tomatoes and fresh herbs, and a buttery crisp crust is the perfect platform to show them off. Everyone in the family agrees on these points.

There is vigorous debate, however, on how long to cook the tomatoes for the ideal tart. I like them best when they’re just warmed through, leaving the tomatoes hot, juicy, and full of fresh tomato flavor. My husband prefers them oven-roasted to concentrate their glorious summer sweetness.

Since we both like both versions, I usually make whatever I have time for. With lots of time, I make the oven-roasted tomato version; with less time, the slice and bake version. No matter the version, since tomatoes are front and center, use the best quality tomatoes you can find. During the summer tomato harvest, when juicy red tomatoes are easy to find, my thoughts always turn to Tomato Tart.

Flavor-rich Greek tomatoes inspired Tomato Tart. I first started making it in 1987 when we lived in Greece and were blessed with a garden glut of the best tomatoes I'd ever tasted. When we returned to Alaska, and were stuck with insipid supermarket tomatoes, this dish was out of reach. In recent years, however, tomatoes bursting with summer flavor have been showing up at Alaska farmers' markets. When they're available, Tomato Tart is on the menu.

In addition to the fresh/oven-roasted tomato variations, I’ve made Tomato Tart with regular Dijon mustard and whole-grain Dijon mustard. I’ve made it with the herbs called for in this recipe, as well as with fresh sage, fresh thyme, dried thyme, and various combinations of all or some of the herbs. I’ve made it with every kind of cheese imaginable. The constants are tomatoes, mustard, cheese, and herbs; the specifics depend solely on what’s in the refrigerator.

There’s a reason I’ve been making Tomato Tart for over 20 years. It’s delicious.

Tomato Tart with Buttery Crisp Crust (Fresh Tomato Version)
Serves 4 – 6 (One 10” tart)
Like pizza, Tomato Tart is delicious served cold. Mix the dough for the crust first; while it’s resting in the refrigerator, prepare remaining ingredients. Although it isn’t absolutely necessary to peel the tomatoes, for the fresh tomato version the finished dish has better texture if peeled tomatoes are used. To peel them, cut a shallow “X” on the bottom of the tomato. Drop the tomatoes in boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove the tomatoes and drop them in cold water. Drain and slip off the peels.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
9 Tbsp. butter
1 egg yolk
2 - 3 Tbsp. ice water

Herb-Mustard Paste:
2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. minced fresh basil
1 tsp. crushed dried oregano
2 cloves chopped fresh garlic
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Herb-Mustard Paste
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated graviera, asiago, Edam, or another good melting cheese
6-8 medium fresh ripe tomatoes (or 3 large), sliced 3/4” thick
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed dried oregano
Drizzle olive oil

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Make Crust: Whir flour and salt together in food processor. Cut butter into chunks, add to food processor, and pulse until butter is mostly combined with flour, but a few pea-sized pieces remain. (You can also cut butter into flour with two knives or a pastry blender.) Add egg yolk and 2 Tbsp. ice water and pulse to combine. If dough is too dry to hold together when pinched, add remaining 1 Tbsp. ice water and pulse. Dump dough out onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap and form into a solid disk. Wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Make Herb-Mustard Paste: Pound all ingredients for Paste together in mortar and pestle or combine well in a blender. (Start with 1 Tbsp. olive oil; add more as needed for smooth paste.)

Bake Crust: Roll out dough into 13 - 14” diameter circle. Center in 10” tart pan, pressing dough towards center and into edges. Trim overhanging dough so that it is size of the tart pan’s sides; fold over the overhanging dough to form a double-thickness side crust. Prick bottom of dough all over with a fork. Cut a piece of aluminum foil double the size of the tart pan, fold foil in half, and press it firmly into the dough (the foil prevents the dough from bubbling up while baking). Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven.

Assemble Tart: Turn oven down to 400°F. Spread Herb-Mustard Paste over hot, prebaked crust. Evenly distribute grated cheese over mustard paste and top with sliced fresh tomatoes. Where necessary, cut tomato slices into pieces to fill in any gaps in tomato coverage. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and crushed dried oregano. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and tomatoes are just warmed through. Serve immediately.

Oven-Roasted Tomato Variation: Preheat oven to 400°F. Increase quantity of tomatoes by 4 medium or 2 large. Don’t peel tomatoes. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil. Put tomato slices on baking sheets in single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake until tomatoes have dried slightly and the oil is browning on the foil around the tomatoes, but are still soft in the middle, about 45-60 minutes, depending on the tomatoes’ size. Remove from oven and cool on racks. Continue with recipe, as above.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Gathering Wild Mushrooms in Alaska, Drying Wild Mushrooms, and 5 Recipes for Wild Mushrooms

Perfect 1 pound 10 ounce Boletus edulis

Steve arrived home from work last Friday, a briefcase in one hand and a massive Boletus edulis in the other. A smile of pure joy lit his face. “It’s time to go mushrooming.”

He handed me the mushroom, a king bolete, also known as porcino in Italy and cep in France. I weighed it: 1 pound 10 ounces. When I cut into it, the flesh was firm and pure white, untouched by worm, fly, slug, squirrel, or rot. I’d never seen anything like it. Normally, porcini this big have been heavily predated upon and are chock full of worms.

“Where’d you get this?” “Right in front of the house.” “Whataya mean, right in front of the house?” “Let me show you.” Steve brought me to a spot twenty feet from our front door.

“It’s definitely time to go mushrooming,” I said, thoughts of dinner already a distant memory. “Let’s get changed.”

Leccinum subglabripes

It’s been raining for weeks, so on went rain coats, rain pants, and waterproof hiking boots. Going mushrooming involves tromping through woods, pushing through understory, going up and down hillsides, seeking out terrain where desirable mushrooms thrive. Staying dry is key to maintaining proper enthusiasm.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

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Rules for Gathering and Handling Wild Mushrooms
The first and most important rule for mushroom foragers is: “When in doubt, throw it out.” Do not gather mushrooms that you can’t absolutely, positively identify.
Leave all unknown or questioned mushrooms alone, even if it means walking past many mushrooms of every color and shape before finding one you recognize.

1. The best way to learn about mushrooms is to have someone show you the edible species; spending time studying field guides also helps. The perfect field guide for Alaska doesn’t exist.

The books I like best are...

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

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Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce

Fresh Porcini Salad with Shaved Fennel and Parmesan Cheese

Pasta with Wild Mushroom and Clam Sauce

Wild Mushroom Ragu (Pasta Sauce)

Port Duxelles

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!