Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Easy Greek-Style Breakfast

Kayana. Say what? Don't worry so much about the name, which is what this dish is called in Greece. And worry less about what to have for breakfast or eating healthy or eating clean or eating low-carb. Just do this: Gather two eggs, a couple of pieces of a good Feta cheese (creamy and tangy), four cherry tomatoes, olive oil and a large basil leaf (or other fresh herbs like parsley or dill). You are almost done with this "no recipe" recipe and "fast food" breakfast.  Stay tuned.

The traditional Kayana takes a bit longer, requiring cooking chopped tomatoes for a while before you add the eggs and feta. This is my simplified version.

Crack eggs into a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and whisk well. Set aside. Heat a small non-stick pan and pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Break each piece of feta into 3 smaller pieces and place directly into the pan. When the cheese begins to melt a bit on the bottom, flip it over and add the tomato pieces. What you're looking for is the cheese to develop a toasty golden bottom and the tomatoes to blister. At that point, pour in the previously whisked eggs and work quickly to move them around so that the eggs cook into large curds. You are not making scrambled eggs; you are making something between an omelet and a scramble. Turn out onto a plate and tear the basil over the top. Sit. Eat. Head off to school or work. It's going to be a great day!

Fast food breakfast Greek-style

Friday, September 29, 2017

The BIG GREEN...Salad Freestyle

No, not the Big Green Egg, the fancy grill of choice these days. A big green salad. Eat a big green salad. Read on.

Got the Blues? Not feeling great? Got an unhappy tummy? Eat a Big Green Salad! It will improve your insides and your mood.

Mixed Baby Greens: Beet greens, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula

What exactly is a green salad? What’s in it? Is there a recipe for that? Glad you asked.
A green salad is a salad made with…yup, greens. But, it can be more. Here is my easiest recipe for a green salad. By the way, it is a “no recipe” recipe. A “no recipe” recipe is easy, especially when you’re assembling a salad. It's freestyle cooking. Think of it as free-falling, so dive right in. You cannot fail--I promise. It's safe in the kitchen, so go wild! Experiment with reckless abandon. After all, you're doing something great for your body.

Dive in and make this salad without a recipe
(Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash)

If you’re making enough for yourself, grab a generous handful of greens, top it with as much (or as little) of your favorite ingredients as you wish, then drizzle with a nice dressing. See, it’s just like going to the salad bar. How about if you’re making this salad for a tableful? Do the same thing in a bigger bowl, but add more of the toppings and dressing. That’s it! Click for printable recipe.

Add your favorite toppings, drizzle on the dressing and toss. Easy!

mixed greens
red onion, shaved (use as much or as little as you wish)
gorgonzola, crumbled (use as much or as little as you wish)
carrots, peeled and shaved lengthwise
fresh basil, julienned (I used fresh dill in winter)

My Favorite Toppings:
toasted almonds or walnuts
toasted pumpkin or sunflower seed
edible flowers (nasturtiums, chive flowers, etc.)
shaved mushrooms
shaved radishes
shaved beets


  1. Wash the greens (unless they’re sold prewashed) 
  2. Peel, halve and shave the onion using a handheld mandoline 
  3. Peel the carrots, cut off ends. Shave lengthwise using a vegetable peeler. (If you do this on the mandoline, you may just lose bits of your fingertips.)
  4. Toss everything with dressing to evenly distribute ingredients.

Okay, I’ll give you a recipe for this.
In a jar, combine 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, one finely chopped garlic clove, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Remember to make more if you’re making a much larger salad.

You can use any dressing you wish, but remember to stay away from sweet dressings. If you're trying to do something good for your insides, avoid the sugar.

Sometimes all I want is a big bowl of beautiful crisp lettuce. Just a little onion and the dressing. So good!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The BEST Pancake Recipe

Yes, the best...and easiest and most delicious. They even taste good without syrup!

Today is National Pancake Day, as if we needed a reason to eat pancakes.

This recipe will yield about 30 pancakes. Follow the directions exactly, and you'll have perfect results every time. For example, this recipe uses oil to cook the pancakes. Use the oil! Don't make the mistake of thinking they'll be better with butter. Wrong. The reason the edges get a little crispy is because of the oil on the griddle. Don't add vanilla or change up the flour or sprinkle in coconut or chocolate chips. These pancakes are perfect just the way they are.

Top off these beauties with butter and a good maple syrup, and you've got something to celebrate!

This is NOT MY RECIPE. It comes courtesy of the New York Times online. Click here for the link.

You have enough left over to nibble on throughout the day. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

THE (cabbage) Slaw

This slaw is a classic in my family. Dewey (my husband) likes it with finely chopped pickles, which is how his mother always made it. Me? I like it just like this…always. Depending on how large a cabbage you have, this recipe will use up about half of one head. Not too many ingredients and it’s assembled very quickly. While it’s just fine to serve immediately, it improves greatly with age--about two hours. I like to make it in the morning or the night before.

My stepchildren and two granddaughters love this slaw. Other coleslaw recipes, not so much. The onion in this recipe has a history, and it’s been a secret of mine (and Dewey’s) until recently.

I always use a hand-held mandoline to shave the cabbage. Makes quick work out of this task!

Years ago, when the kids were younger and onion was not a favored ingredient but something to pull out of your plate instead, I chopped it very, very, very, VERY finely. I always chopped and added the onion when no one was looking and I didn’t tell a soul. Regardless of everyone’s hatred for one my favorite food flavorings, they all loved my slaw. The finer an onion is chopped, the more flavor it releases; allowing it to sit in the slaw for a few hours mellows its flavor profile. The end product is delicious but without the sharp and (to some) offensive taste of a just-chopped onion.

Today, the secret is out, and stepdaughter Emme recently asked for my recipe. While I’ve made this slaw hundreds of times over the last 24-plus years, I’ve made it without a recipe. This weekend, I measured everything and, poof! Perfect slaw and a recipe. So, for Emme, Thomas, Tara, Corley, Olivia, Steve and Dan…here’s the recipe for THE slaw.
Tools of slaw-making

THE Slaw
8-9 cups finely shredded cabbage (I use a hand-held mandoline)
¼ cup VERY finely chopped yellow onion (sweet, like a Vidalia)
1 t ground black pepper
½ t fine sea salt (Celtic or Grey)
1 t sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise (we always use Duke’s)

Stir to combine well. Cover and refrigerate for two hours or longer. May also be served immediately

Mix in a larger bowl and serve in a smaller one.
Dust with ground pepper before serving.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Grilling Veggies

Yes, vegetables can go on the grill. It's not all about the meat, although I like the meat.

You can cut assorted vegetable into large cubes, toss lightly with salt, pepper, herbs and olive oil, then thread onto skewers. Grill until all veggies have softened a bit and serve with grilled or roasted chicken or pork. If you'd rather keep it simple and meat-free, serve with your favorite rice and drizzle everything with this simple vinaigrette: 2 T fresh lemon juice, 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper and chopped dill, thyme or basil. Top with shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese.

One of my favorite recipes for grilled vegetables turns all the smoky veggie goodness into a salad. This salad makes a great wrap sandwich too, by-the-way.

Grilled Vegetable Salad

4 medium zucchini cut into ¼ “ lengthwise slices
1 large yellow squash cut into ¼ “ lengthwise slices
3 peppers (red, orange & yellow), skin charred and peeled, cut into 1/2'” strips
4 medium Japanese eggplant cut into ¼ “ lengthwise slices
1 medium red onion, peeled, cut into ½” round slices and threaded onto a metal skewer
salt & pepper
olive oil

Once vegetables have been washed and tops cut off, peel the eggplant and red onion. Slice all vegetables except peppers--they will go on the grill whole. Drizzle everything with olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Place the peppers on the grill over highest heat. They will be ready when almost completely black. Remove to a bowl and cover with plastic. (Later you will remove the stem and all of the seeds before slicing)

Grill the remaining vegetables and place everything into a large baking dish to cool. At this point, the vegetables will be cool enough to handle and you can begin assembling the salad. You can also grill a day ahead, cover the cooled vegetables and refrigerate, removing to a counter one hour before you begin assembly. This takes the chill off the vegetables and allows more of the natural sweetness to come out.

Remove onions from the skewer and chop coarsely. Cut remaining vegetables into large pieces. I cut across, which yields pieces that are about 1 ½ “ squares.

Place all of the vegetables in a shallow bowl and toss gently with the basil, cheese and fresh onion.
In a jar, shake well the vinegar, oil, grilling juice, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss gently again. Top with a bit more of the shaved cheese and a large spring of basil.

Serve at once or cover and take to a picnic or cookout. This is an easy side to steaks or burgers.

3 T Balsamic vinegar
9 T extra-virgin olive oil
juice from resting grilled vegetables
pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
3 T finely chopped red onion
10 large basil leaves, julienned

1 c shaved Parmesan cheese

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Coolest Potato Salad Is Hot

Yes, the coolest potato salad at a Labor Day picnic this weekend is hot. Hot? Yes. Perhaps you've heard of Hot German Potato Salad? Right. Me too, but I haven't had one that I liked. Either too sweet or too tangy, this type of hot potato salad has left me cold.

Recently my husband pleaded for a German Potato Salad. Well, I am a sucker for delivering whatever this sweet man asks for, so I did my research. Without too much time on the internet, I discovered that potato salad is a German invention and that there is a cold version (like what we're used to in the U.S.) and a hot version. Today, I'd like to share with you my version of the hot version!

Because I like a balance of flavors in my forkful of food, and because I love contrasting textures, I developed my riff on a theme of the traditional German Hot Potato Salad. I call it German-Style Hot Potato Salad, to be sure that no one thinks of my version as an authentic recipe. My recipe has a few vegetables thrown in at the end for crunch and freshness. I hope you like it as much and Dewey and I do.

I present to you, Despina's German-Style Hot Potato Salad. If you are so inclined, this weekend you may want to try it out at your Labor Day picnic, cookout or pool party. Let me know how it goes.

For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

German-Style Hot Potato Salad
4 lbs potatoes (Yukon Gold, Red Bliss or new potatoes)* cut into ¼” thick slices
1 T salt
12 oz bacon cut into small pieces
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup shaved (or thinly sliced) red onion
1 cup shaved (or thinly sliced) celery
Dressing Ingredients:
½ cup (about) of the bacon fat rendered in pre-cooking the bacon
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
6 T sugar
2 T Dijon mustard
5 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Wash and scrub the potatoes, then slice into ¼” thick slices. Yes, you will leave the skin on.
In a boiling pot of water, stir in the salt and follow with the sliced potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook until they are soft but still firm enough to hold their shape. Drain.
While the potatoes are cooking, fry the bacon pieces to a crispy golden brown and remove to paper towels to drain excess fat.
Slice the onion and celery, chop the garlic and parsley.
Into the hot bacon fat, whisk in the sugar and mustard and allow to cook for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the vinegar and cook until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the garlic. Continue to cook until dressing has thickened (about 2-3 minutes).
Put the potatoes in a large bowl, and toss gently with bacon pieces, parsley, onion and celery. Adjust with additional salt and pepper if needed. Pour the hot dressing over everything and toss lightly to distribute the dressing evenly.

*You may use any potatoes, but the ones I prefer are waxier and less starchy, making them better to use in a potato salad. The starchy ones break down more easily and release too much starch, making the salad a bit “gloppy.”

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Don't Hate (the) Avocado Toast

When you hear, see or read this on a menu or food blog...AVOCADO TOAST...does this word come to mind?

Synonyms: overused, overdone, overworked, worn out, vapid, stale, tired...etc.

Foodies, food people, Instagrammers, it's okay. Calm down. Don't hate the avocado toast. It's just another bit of mashed up goodness on top of a piece of crunchified (a.k.a. toasted) bread. It's easy to assemble. It's a vehicle for your healthy eating creativity. It's the same as peanut butter or goat cheese or--gulp--cream cheese on a bagel, for heaven's sake. Take a deep breath and read on...unless you've fainted.

According to the Washington Post, avocado toast became "a thing" in the 1990s when an Australian chef added it to his restaurant menu. Then, apparently, a New York City restaurant added it to their menu around 2006. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow added to the growing interest in Avocado Toast by including it in her cookbook, which was published in 2013. Instagram currently has 491,817 posts associated with the #avocadotoast hashtag.

With the rise of posting your creative food endeavors on Instagram, so has the popularity of avocado toast creativity. It's not such a bad thing, is it? Especially when it's encouraging us to eat healthy foods.

Wikipedia tells us that this mashing of avocado and spreading onto toast has been around in the Bay area since least. See there, nothing new. It's like a potato. Brilliantly delicious in all its simplicity as a boiled potato, but so good in so many other ways. Potatoes easily morph into the tasty goodness of your current desires. So do avocados.

Scroll down for recipes or click here for a printable view for avocado toast or do my favorite thing: Get a perfectly ripened avocado, cut it down the middle, discard the pit, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grab a spoon. Eat it right out of its own shell.

  1. Fear & Loathing of Avocado Toast (No Recipe Recipes)
  2. Guacamole Avocado Toast
    Make your favorite guacamole recipe or try mine (recipe here). Toast bread. Rub with smashed garlic clove. Liberally spread guacamole on toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with crushed tortilla chips for a contrasting crunch against that creamy goodness.
    Breakfast Avocado Toast
    Boiled eggs, sliced or eggs fried with medium-set yolk
    Taco seasoning
    Avocado Mash:
    1 avocado
    1 small tomato, diced,
    1 tsp fresh lime juice
    1/3 cup queso fresco
    Mash one avocado together with crumbled queso fresco, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and lime juice. Toast bread and butter lightly. Spread *mashed avocado mixture on toast. Top with egg slices or fried egg and sprinkle with taco seasoning. Adjust quantities of ingredients to suit your taste.
    Salad Bar Avocado Toast
    Mash one avocado with salt, pepper and hot sauce.  Top with all or any combination of the following:
    Tomato slices
    crumbled feta cheese
    toasted sesame seeds
    your favorite sprouts
    baby greens mix or baby lettuce salad mix
    shredded carrots
    shaved mushrooms
    shaved cucumber
    dill, basil, cilantro
    thinly sliced red onion
    extra-virgin olive oil
    aged balsamic vinegar
    Bread for Toast
    I like a seeded bread or pumpernickel. They have substance and add complexity to the flavor profile of the finished product. Sourdough, rye or even a crispy slice of French bread. Experiment to come up with your favorite.