Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread


My love of books started at a very young age. In one of my earliest memories, I must have been three years old, my parents had friends over and they were all sitting outside our house having a drink. It must have been past my bedtime but for some reason my mom had put me in my parents’ bed and let me sit there by myself and go through a picture book somebody had given me as a gift (maybe the friends who had come over?). The memory is very fuzzy but I remember a few things: how huge the bed seemed to me, how thrilling it was to be sitting in it, the safety I felt from the voices of my parents just outside their bedroom window, and the feeling of holding the book in my hands and flipping through the pages. I couldn’t read yet but it felt so exciting to hold this object in my hand that was filled with amazing pictures (and weird symbols I couldn’t understand) that changed every time I flipped a page.DSC04884

With my mom’s help, I learned to read a year later when I was four, so that when I started first grade at five years old (we started earlier back then), I could read comfortably and by the time I was in my early teens, when my birthday came around, the gift I wished for the most from people who’d come to my birthday party were books. I read everything I could get my hands on and with no access to a library, I was desperate for new books. When I was younger, I wanted fairy tale books, but by my mid-teens I was fully into literary fiction and science fiction books, a love that endures to this day.

Today’s recipe is actually from a little kids’ book called “Cranberry Thanksgiving.” I had never read this book as a kid (given that it’s a book about Thanksgiving, it was obviously never translated in Greek) but I found out about it and this recipe that comes from it from Steve’s sister Christine. She told me she makes this cake every year and that her three boys love it. The cake is peculiar in that it’s made using a method usually used for biscuits and scones, by cutting the butter into flour. So, you can think of it as a giant, golden scone, studded with red cranberries. The result is beautiful and delicious and yet more reason to love books and what they have to offer.

This is the last post for 2016, a year few people will look back on with affection. Let’s hope that 2017 proves to be kinder to us. Happy new year to everyone and see you again in January.DSC04901

Grandmother’s Famous Cranberry Bread – Slightly adapted from Cranberry Thanksgiving

Note: The original recipe calls for equal amounts of cranberries and raisins. That’s what I used in the cake you see in the photos. However, I’ve made it with only cranberries and we prefer it that way much more. Feel free to go either way.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg
1 teaspoon orange zest
3/4 cup orange juice
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups light raisins (or substitute with fresh cranberries, as above)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan and line it with parchment paper to help you getting the cake out.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or with your fingers, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. In a small bowl, whisk together egg, orange peel, and orange juice and then add to the dry ingredients. Stir just until mixture is evenly moist. Fold in cranberries and raisins (or only cranberries). The batter will be thick and there will be small pieces of butter throughout.

Spoon into the loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick nested in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Babka


No matter how much I try to reason with the results of this election, no matter how much I try to tell myself that this is not the end of the world, that four years isn’t enough time to reverse all the progress we’ve made in the last eight, my mind keeps stubbornly coming back to this: Once again, a smart, competent, incredibly qualified woman lost the job to an unqualified, insulting, brutish man.

No matter how much I try to understand what drove so many people to vote for him, no matter how much I try to tell myself that perhaps I (we) really weren’t listening to them, didn’t understand their plight, that their fears and hopes were not taken as seriously as they should have been, my brain keeps repeating this: Half of the voters (slightly less than half to be exact) either chose to ignore or chose to reward (with the Presidency!) speech and behavior that expressed hate for just about everyone other than white, able-bodied, heterosexual, Christian men.

And yet, life goes on. So be good to one another. Continue to defend the rights of those who fought so hard for them. Take time to enjoy those that you love and the things that bring you joy. Remain hopeful but vigilant. Cook and eat great food. Make this chocolate babka and forget all your worries for those few minutes when you bite into a soft, luxurious slice of chocolate heaven.

And always remember: progress never happens in a straight line.

Chocolate Babka – Adapted from Bon Appétit


½ cup whole milk, warmed
1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
¼ cup granulated sugar, plus more
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoon turbinado sugar


Pour milk into a measuring glass or small bowl; sprinkle yeast and a pinch of granulated sugar over milk. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Whisk egg, egg yolk, and remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in yeast mixture.

Combine salt and 2 cups flour in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add egg mixture and beat on low speed until nearly incorporated, about 30 seconds. Switch to dough hook and add 7 Tbsp. butter; beat on medium-low until butter is completely incorporated, about 8–10 minutes. The dough will be sticky.

Using a spatula or a spoon, scrape dough onto a lightly floured surface and using a spatula or dough scraper, fold it several times from the edge over the top, until very smooth (dough will still be wet and a little sticky). Transfer to a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1½–2 hours, then chill 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter a 8½x4½” loaf pan. Heat chocolate, cocoa, 2 tbsp. butter, 1 tbsp. granulated sugar, ¼ tsp. cinnamon, and ⅛ tsp. salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and butter are melted and mixture is smooth. (Alternatively, microwave on medium power 1 minute, stirring halfway through.)

Turn out chilled dough onto a clean lightly floured surface. Roll out to a 22×12″ rectangle and orient so a long side is facing you. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate filling over dough to extend to the edges. Roll up dough away from you like a jelly roll, pulling lightly on it as you roll to maintain thickness. (Use a metal bench scraper if needed to help dough release from surface.)

Cut log in half crosswise. Set halves so they are side by side and touching. A long side should still be facing you. Place one half over the other to make an X, then twist the two ends on one side twice. Repeat on opposite side. (You should have a total of 4 twists.) Transfer bread to pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 30 minutes.

Whisk egg and cream in a small bowl and brush egg wash over loaf. Sprinkle top with turbinado sugar.


Bake babka, rotating pan halfway through, until golden brown, 50–60 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let babka cool in pan 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack, running a paring knife around edges to help loosen if needed. Let cool completely before slicing.


Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake


When we fly to Paris from New York, always on an overnight flight, we have a routine. We pack lightly so that we don’t have to check in our luggage. After we get through security at the airport, we buy a bottle of water to share on the plane. Once we are on the plane and we take off, I watch all the episodes of Friends that are available (they are still so funny and so much fun to watch). We eat our dinner (always the Hindu Vegetarian meal option – it’s by far the best airplane food on United Economy), drink some wine, take something to help my nerves (I am a very nervous flyer), put on ear plugs and eye masks and try to sleep.DSC05282

After a few hours of fitful sleep, the cabin lights come on and we are all awakened for “breakfast.” We used to dread the soggy, microwaved sorry excuse for a croissant that filled the cabin with a smell of fake butter and warm plastic. So a long time ago, we added something to our routine: at the New York airport, we visit Starbucks and buy two slices of their lemon pound cake. As everyone grudgingly wakes up and the flight attendants pass out those god forsaken croissants, we politely decline and sink our teeth into the delicate crumb of the lemon pound cake, savoring its lemony glaze.

This recipe for a lemon poppy seed cake is an even better, homemade version of that Starbucks lemon cake. It’s made with olive oil so it’s less rich (and better for you), and the glaze is thinner and more subtle. The poppy seeds add a crunch and a tiny bit of a nutty flavor. It makes a wonderful breakfast treat no matter where in the world you are or traveling to.DSC05046

Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake – Slightly adapted from the New York Times


1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
zest of 2 lemons
1 cup sugar
½ cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper, leaving extra paper on both sides to help you lift cake out of the pan.

In a bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar and rub with your fingers until it looks like wet sand. Whisk in buttermilk, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, eggs, and olive oil. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and poppy seeds. Add dry ingredients into the batter and mix until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan until warm to the touch, then lift out of the pan onto a baking rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.

Whisk together 4 teaspoons lemon and the confectioners’ sugar. Use a pastry brush to spread glaze evenly over top and sides of cake. Cool completely before slicing.

Whole Wheat Apple Cider Baked Donuts


I didn’t grow up with school-provided lunches or even school cafeterias where students sit down to eat. In all grades, school ended around 1:30pm and we all went home for lunch. There was a food vendor in the school that worked out of a small room with no tables and with one single window from which we could order sodas and sandwiches if we wanted them during class breaks.

However, I remember that for a little while when I was in elementary school, we would get a school provided mid-morning snack. I was going to an elementary school that a lot of refugee children attended (from the 1974 war in Cyprus), so the government was providing some food to those schools. It consisted of a giant pot filled with sweetened condensed milk that had been thinned with water to the consistency of regular milk and heated over a gas flame until it was almost boiling. We all brought our own mugs and a teacher would stand next to the steaming pot with a big ladle and fill our mugs with the sweet drink. Sometimes we could even get seconds.

But even better was what came with it. A plump donut, often filled with jelly, and covered in white sugar crystals. The combination of the sweet milk and even sweeter donut was what I looked forward to the most at school every day. Now that I think about it, it must have been a terrible idea to give a bunch of elementary school kids a giant sugar spike in the middle of the morning, expecting them to sit quietly in class afterwards.

Today’s recipe is for a different kind of donut. They are cake donuts that are baked, not fried. They are also made partly with whole wheat flour so they are a little more healthy than your regular fried donut. Nevertheless, they pack a ton of flavor from the apple sauce and boiled cider, as well as the maple sugar and cinnamon. They won’t give you the sugar high I probably got back in elementary school, but they will definitely hit the spot.DSC03569

Whole Wheat Apple Cider Baked Doughnuts – Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes 12 donuts

Note: You can buy donut pans at King Arthur Flour or on Amazon. For the boiled apple cider, I highly recommend the one sold by King Arthur Flour. However, the recipe allows for substituting both the donut pans and the boiled cider if you don’t want to buy them.


1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup maple sugar (you may substitute with brown sugar)
1 cup applesauce, unsweetened preferred
4 tablespoons boiled apple cider; or substitute with 6 tablespoons additional applesauce
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour

2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two standard doughnut pans. If you don’t have doughnut pans, you can bake these in a standard muffin tin; they just won’t be doughnuts.

Whisk together the oil, eggs, sugars, applesauce, boiled cider, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder until smooth.

Add the flours, stirring with a spatula just until smooth. Do not overmix.

Fill the wells of the doughnut pans nearly to the rim; use about 1/4 cup of batter in each well. If you’re making muffins, fill each well about 3/4 full; the recipe makes about 15, so you’ll need to bake in two batches (unless you have two muffin pans).

Bake the doughnuts for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. If you’re making muffins, they’ll need to bake for 20 to 23 minutes.

Remove the doughnuts from the oven, and loosen their edges. After about 5 minutes, transfer them to a rack.

In a medium bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar. While the doughnuts are still warm (but no longer fragile), gently toss them in the cinnamon-sugar. If you’ve made muffins, sprinkle their tops with cinnamon-sugar.

Pickled Carrots


There is a Greek Orthodox holiday called clean Monday (kathara deftera). It’s the end of carnival (the Sunday right before it, when everyone dresses up in costumes, much like Halloween) and the beginning of the great lent before Easter. Carnival is the last day of being able to eat meat and clean Monday is the first day of fasting. Since it always takes place in the spring, the tradition has always been to go out into the countryside and have a picnic that is all vegetarian.

Even as a kid, I wasn’t that excited by the idea of eating on the hard ground outdoors. But there was one reason for which I really looked forward to clean Monday: the pickles. These weren’t the American variety pickles, in salted brines or heavy on spices. These were pure vinegar, sugar, and water pickles. There were all kinds of vegetables (cauliflower, beets, carrots), all tantalizingly tart and crisp. And there was pickla, a mixture of veggies pickled in a vinegar and mustard sauce that I ate by the spoonful.

I absolutely loved everything pickled, and I still do. This recipe for pickled carrots couldn’t be simpler. It’s a little different than how carrots would have been pickled when I was a kid, but it still has everything I love: bracing sourness, a satisfying amount of sweetness, and an audible crunch.


Pickled Carrots

Note: If you don’t have the right spices, don’t worry. You can use whatever whole spices you have. Experiment with different flavors.


1 lb carrots peeled, and cut into 1/2″ thick sticks
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
2 mason jars or any other glass containers that can withstand boiling water


Place carrot sticks in mason jars (don’t pack them too tight; leave room for the brine). Divide peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, and garlic between the jars.

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve. Carefully pour boiling brine over carrots in mason jars, leaving only about 1/2 inch from top. Let them cool for about 30 minutes, close jars with their lids, and refrigerate.

Pickles are ready to eat after just a few hours but they are best after a day or two. They last in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars


When I was a kid, strawberries were really exotic. They’d appear briefly in late spring, early summer and they were very expensive. So when my parents would buy some, we’d cherish them, eating them slowly and savoring every juicy bite. Before we knew it, they were gone until the next season. This scarcity of strawberries must still be in the back of my mind because strawberries are the first fruit I gravitate to in a breakfast bar or salad bar. And right after chocolate desserts, strawberry ones always catch my eye on a restaurant menu.

So, when I saw the picture of these strawberry rhubarb crisp bars on the excellent food blog Smitten Kitchen, I was immediately, well, smitten. I’ll admit, rhubarb is still a bit of a mystery to me. Sometimes it really works, adding a grassy acidity and a mildly fibrous texture to desserts. But most of the time I just don’t know what to do with it. Here it works well. It cuts through the richness of the crust and as always, pairs perfectly with the strawberries.DSC03965Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars – Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen


1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
3/4 cup (95 grams) plus up to 2 tablespoons (15 grams) extra all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (95 grams) light brown sugar
Heaped 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional, but helps firm up the filling)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1 cup (125 grams) small-diced rhubarb (from about 1 1/2 medium stalks)
1 cup (155 grams) small-diced strawberries


Heat oven to 375 degrees F if using metal pan (350 degrees if using glass pan). For easy removal, line bottom of 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper leaving overhang on two sides.

Place oats, 3/4 cup flour, brown sugar and salt medium bowl and mix. Pour melted butter over, and stir until clumps form. If the clumps feel soft or look overly damp, add the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons flour. Set aside 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture. Press the rest of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Spread half the fruit over the crust. Sprinkle it evenly with cornstarch (I use a tea strainer to do this), then lemon juice, and 1/2 tablespoon of granulated sugar. Spread remaining fruit over this, and top with second 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Scatter reserved crumbs over fruit and bake bars for about 40 minutes, until fruit is bubbly and crisp portion is golden.

Let cool in pan. Remove using parchment paper and cut into squares. Alternatively, you can place them in fridge to chill and crisp up, before cutting. These are best eaten the day made. Store leftovers in fridge.

Lemon Cornmeal Pistachio Muffins


Every now and then, I’ll see a recipe title and I will know, instantly, that not only will I make that recipe, but that I will love the end result. That is exactly what happened with these muffins. Their recipe comes from Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients, the amazing cookbook by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. The first time I leafed through the book, as soon as I saw the words “lemon,” “cornmeal,” and “pistachio” together in the title, I immediately bookmarked it.


If I remember correctly, it was the first recipe I tried from that cookbook and I wasn’t mistaken. The end result was indeed as great as I thought it would be. These are not super sweet muffins. They are not giant, moist, cakey muffins, like those you’ll find at your grocery store. They are almost hearty. They are slightly tangy, with a satisfying crunch from the cornmeal and a finishing nuttiness from the pistachios on top. They make a great breakfast but an even better snack in the afternoon with some hot tea.


Lemon Cornmeal Pistachio Muffins – From Baked Elements: The Importance of Being Baked in 10 Favorite Ingredients

Makes 12 muffins


1/2 cup shelled pistachios
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
3 oz unsalted butter (3/4 stick), melted and cooled
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder


In a food processor, pulse the pistachios until they are coarsely chopped. Remove 1/4 cup of the chopped pistachios and set aside. Continue to process the remaining pistachios in the food processor until they are almost powdery.

Preheat the oven to 400º F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan (or use paper cups to line it).

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Add the sour cream, the lemon juice, the zest and the butter and whisk them until they are combined.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour cornmeal, sugar, salt, the powdery pistachios, and the baking powder. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in it. Fold everything together until just mixed. Don’t overmix them.

Fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full and sprinkle the tops with the coarsely chopped pistachios. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Transfer the pan on a wire rack and let it cool for 10 minutes. Take the muffins out and serve immediately or let them cool completely and store them in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap for 2 days. They also freeze very well.