We’ve all been told eating a Mediterranean diet is healthy for us, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s why I was so excited to get the chance to review Debbie Matenopoulos’ cookbook It’s All Greek to Me and be a part of her blog tour! Right on the cover, it notes it’s the way to “transform your healthy the Mediterranean way with my family’s century old recipes.”
I loved reading the introduction. In it, Debbie notes she never when to cooking school, but learned everything she knows from her mom. I think the best way to learn how to cook is just as Debbie did. Growing up with food, working with it on a daily basis, and learning to cook little by little through tradition is so important. It sets us up for a life of delicious and healthy eating.
She learned to eat seasonally and focus on organic, free-range, and hormone free foods from her mom, who taught her this before it was trendy. Debbie also shares the schedule on which Greeks tend to enjoy their meals. It is quite different from what we have become accustomed to here in the US, with lunch being the largest meal, desserts enjoyed in the afternoon, and dinner only a light meal.
Following the introduction are basic cooking tips and an index of ingredients common in the Greek pantry and many of the dishes in the book. This was incredibly interesting to read. From the medicinal properties of cinnamon and garlic to Debbie’s favorite honey and vinegars, this is part of the book I will reference often, even when I’m just experimenting in the kitchen on my own.
The book is broken into sections with appetizers, basic sauces, salads, savory phyllo pastries, soups, stews, and one-pot meals, seafood main dishes, meat and poultry main dishes, vegetables and rice, sweet pastries, cakes, and cookies, and the extras. In between some of the sections is a feature on part of Greece. While they were all interesting, I loved reading about the Athens Baker Boys as well as how they read coffee cups kind of like reading palms in Greece.
Of course, I also have tons of pages flagged with recipes I want to try. Mom and I are dying to try the garlic sauce with potatoes. She once had sauce like that at a restaurant and has always wanted to recreate it. The lentil soup and baked cod with lemon garlic parsley sauce are also calling my name and sure to be on the dinner table soon. And the desserts, oh my, the desserts. I want to try them all, but I can’t stop thinking about the classic walnut cake.
Today, I have Greek Wedding Cookies for you. You’ll want to make these right away while you order a copy of the book and wait for it to come. I did make a couple changes to the recipe based on what I had in my pantry. I used regular sticks of butter instead of whipped, almond meal instead of grinding the almonds myself, and bourbon instead of cognac, and they turned out perfectly. Mom kept saying how they look just like the ones in the book! They are the lightest cookies, with a hint of crunch before they dissolve in your mouth, leaving the most pleasant vanilla flavor. I kept reaching for more and more, because they are just so good. The ingredients listed below are as written in the book; I included my adapted instructions.
Because I know you’ll love this book, the publisher has been kind enough to provide me with a copy to giveaway!
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2 cups slivered blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 pound whipped unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
2 large egg yolks
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 3 cups for coating
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cognac
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
In a large bowl, cream butter, egg yolks, and ½ cup confectioners’ sugar with a hand or stand mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Reduce to low speed and add in almonds, vanilla, and cognac, before raising the speed back to medium-high and beating for an additional 2-3 minutes.
Reduce speed to low again and add the flour one cup at a time. Start with 4 cups, add more as necessary until the dough comes together and is soft and not sticky. I used the recommended 4 ½ cups. Knead the dough by hand for about a minute to make sure all ingredients are incorporated.
Scoop out heaping tablespoons of dough, form them into half-moons and place on the baking sheet. Cookies do not need to be too far apart as they will not spread, but they should not be touching. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the cookies are pale yellow. They should not be brown. Cool about 5 minutes on sheets before placing remaining confectioners’ sugar in a bowl and rolling each cookie in it until fully coated. Allow cookies to cool completely. Cookies may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Additional cooling time is necessary
Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy and the giveaway of It’s All Greek to Me, but all opinions, as always, are mine.