Category Archives: GREEK CUISINE



Summertime in New Jersey means zucchini.  Bumper crops of them.  Everyone with a home garden grows them and the stores are overflowing with locally grown boxes of this versatile squash.  Italians and Greeks love cooking with them.  The recipes are endless.    Clearly, for easy and relaxing summerentertaining this is a host’s dream.  The day before I picked a nice bunch of fresh mint (spearmint) from my garden.  Zucchini and mint are a very Mediterranean pairing, especially in Sicily and in Greece.  I had some Feta cheese and there you go…a dish is born.  Add some sunny lemons for a real Mediterranean freshness.  Are you exhausted with grilled vegetables?  I am,

call me blasphemous, but most times they are not grilled enough or burnt, and loaded down
with balsamic vinegar and too much oil.  Not a fan of the strongly acidic and flavored balsamic with charred vegetables, the flavors are too heavy for me. (I can see the hate mail now…)Instead of grilling, I decided to oven roast the zucchini slices and marinate them over night in
fresh lemon and mint with a little garlic…topping it with feta…a platter of Summer sunshine
reminiscent of a Summer’s day in the Greek Islands.. 
  It brings blue skies, bright Mediterranean sun,
white washed stucco houses clinging to the side of an ancient volcano, blue painted domes
that blend in with both the sea and the sky…magic.  All this from a bag of local zucchini.

Start with 5 zucchini.  Slice them into rounds, about 3/8 of an inch thick, any thinner, they
will just fall apart on you.  In a large stainless steel bowl, add the zucchini
along with 1/8cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (look for Greek Olive oil for a more “authentic”
flavor), 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper.  Toss. Pre-
heat an oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large baking pan, arrange the zucchini without overlapping.
Bake for 10 minutes, then turn them, bake for addtional 6 minutes, turn the oven off, and leave
them in for another 5 minutes.  check for times though,  You may need to adjust for your oven.
Don’t let them burn, they should have a nice roasted bottom, then when you turn them over,
they should be soft to the touch.gently place them into a bowl after they have cooled for at least 15 minutes.  Mix together the
juice of one large fresh lemon, 1 finely minced clove of  garlic, 2 leavy sprigs of fresh mint, a
pinch of salt, and a good amount of freshly ground pepper.  Pour this over the zucchini and
cover. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Arrange on a platter and crumble 1/8 cup of Feta cheese over the top.  Top with some
whole mint leaves, a little black are done. Do not serve this cold.  Let it come
to room temperature to appreciate all the flavors on the platter…and go to your laptop and
book a trip to Greece…


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WHO LOVES GRILLED MEATS?  I see lots of raised hands out there so this blogpost is just for you.  Ever have a SPIEDIE??  Well it’s time you did and they are extremely easy to make at home.  They are an ItalianAmerican version of a typical skewered meat/poultry dish popular around the world, but in this fashion it’s typical of the Mediterranean version.  SPIEDO is the Italian Word for KITCHEN COOKING SPIT.  italian meats threaded on skewers in some fashion generally take the name Spiedini which has different regionalities to it depending on the location in Italy or Sicily.Maybe you’re familiar with SPIEDINI, the small rolls of filled meat/poultry threaded with onions and bay leaves, sometimes slices of Italian Bread.  Or you’ve probably had the more well known Greek SOUVLAKIA which is REAL close to ItalianAmerican Spiedies with a few less marinade ingredients and the Greeks us TZATZIKI sauce and a Pita.  Spiedies just get more of the marinade on them and can be rolled up into a slice of American White Bread or an Italian long roll.

So what makes these Mediterranean treats ItalianAmerican? Let’s go back to the old country for a moment.  In the ABRUZZO region a popular dish is cubes of marinated skwered lamb called SPIDUCC’..or SPIDDUCCI. In True ITALIAN fashion each section of the ABRUZZO has local terms for this dish.  ARROSTICINI, ‘RUSTELLE, ARRUSTELLE, all pretty much are the same thing.   The term SPIEDIE though is pure ItalianAmerican.   The cubes are marinated in a simple dressing of Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar (PUT DOWN THAT BALSAMIC!!! IT COMES FROM UMBRIA NOT THE ABRUZZO!! Lidia Bastianich says it best, foods from an area taste best when you use the ingredients from that area/region. Balsamic while delicious is not a substitute for all vinegar dishes, there, I’ve said it.  I know, in America it’s used on everything.  My purpose in  blogging is to give you the real deal, or close to it.  If you use balsamic, just don’t tell me LOL.), garlic or onion, peperoncino, salt, lemon juice, herbs like mint, oregano, basil, bay.  The lamb cubes would be marinated for as long as possible, threaded onto metal skewers and slow roasted over hot coals.    One of the world’s most popular ways of cooking meats yet still amazing wherever you have it.   The American connection comes in via Ellis Island during the great Italian Immigration from 1880s-1930s.  Many paesani from the Abruzzo settled in the area of Central New York State around Binghamton NY.  As is the norm they brought with them dishes from their homeland and adapted them to the new surroundings.  Lamb was first used but in the USA immigrants found ALL meats were easy to get and well priced so in true American fashion varieties of meats and poultry were used to make these Arrosticini or Spidducci which turned into the ItalianAmerican word, SPIEDIES.  Legend hotly contests who the creator of the first one in a restaurant was and who had the first “sauce” for them, but the Iacovelli family of Endicott, NY near Binghamton  in the 1920’s-1930’s gets the most credit.  Plenty of other stories about who and what but that’s where an Italian regional dish made the jump into ItalianAmerican cuisine.  These SPIEDIES were marinated in the cook’s version of SPIEDIE Sauce, and grilled, then with a piece of American White Bread (see, this is what makes things ItalianAmerican too) you roll the bread around the spiedie and pull it off into the bread.  Instant SPIEDIE SANDWICH. Italian Rolls used also.  Now let’s get your charcoal grill stoked and ready for grilling, or prep that gas grill and get this Summer on the road with a platter of SPIEDIES for your dining pleasure!!!

2 LBS MEDIUM CUBED MEAT/POULTRY..Pork, Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Turkey
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup LEMON JUICE, not the bottled stuff, use fresh Lemons
3 finely minced GARLIC cloves
2 Bay Leaves


you will need to make 2 batches of the marinade.

SALT and BLACK PEPPER, to taste (be generous with it)

LONG HEAVY DUTY WOODEN SKEWERS (soaked overnight in water), or METAL SKEWERS

Double the marinade recipe and blend well.  Let this sit at room temperature for 1 hour.  Now separate in equal amounts.  Cover and reserve one batch for serving with the finished Spiedies.  Add the meat to the other batch and make sure all the cubes are in the marinade.  Add the squeezed cut lemons to the bowl and cover. Marinade in the fridge optimally overnight, or no less than 3 hours. Remove the marinating meat from the fridge and LET IT COME TO ROOM TEMPERATURE.  Thread the cubes on the skewers, depending on the length of them make sure to leave some blank space at the tip and the end of the skewers.  On a well oiled medium heat grill start cooking them lining them up without touching each other and give them at least  7 minutes per side, or more, esp with the chicken/turkey.  You can rotate them a few times to get them more evenly grilled.  Discard the first marinade and use a little of the 2d batch to baste certainly using a new bowl. Keep the rest of the marinade for serving with the finished dish.   Remove the finished Spiedies from the grill and place on a platter. Have the extra Marinade and sliced bread or rolls handy to wrap around the SPIEDIES, PULL OFF, add more marinade and ENJOY.  Makes enough for 6-8 servings.

In the Summer an Annual SPIEDIE FEST is held in Central NY…here’s the link:


Happy Cooking!!!  Oh yes, you can buy Spiedie Sauce already made.  Or not.  Make your own.






003  FUSION CUISINE, for this home cook those words make me shudder.  Truth is I’m very closed minded about 95% of anything termed FUSION. They say good cooks need to have an open mind but let me explain myself here, and btw, my opinion is only …my opinion.  Even if I’m 100% right..LOL.  I believe Lidia Bastianich best said this, and I paraphrase..that food tastes best when the ingredients come from the same place.  Fusion when using that guideline can be a good thing.  The current craze in many 3d generation Italian American restaurants is the Sausage and Broccoli Rabe EGG ROLL.   Again, just my opinion, no thank you.  Chinese and Italian cooking have zero in common with each other on every level except they share the same regional philosophy of using great ingredients and they take great pride in their cuisines and their food culture.  I’ll enjoy the broccoli rabe and sausage filling inside of a fried calzone. That makes sense for me.  So…using that line of thinking..countries with different cuisines but sharing a general type of produce, weather, seafood, meats, etc..THOSE cuisines seem to be candidates for a fusion of sorts.  Let’s take the Mediterranean region rich in Olive Oil, Olives, similar seafoods, cheeses, produce, wines, herbs, fruits,nuts…with varying degrees many dishes are all decended from or related to other cuisines in the region.  Religious and local customs have created many of the subtle or not so subtle differences but whether it is Southern or Southeastern French, Corsican, Moroccan, Sicilian, Maltese, Tunisian, Israeli, Turkish, Greek, Croatian, Italian, Dalmatian, Cypriot, Lebanese..well you get the idea…there’s a common thread in the region’s cuisine which then allows for lack of a better term, some “fusion”.  When the cuisines are unrelated fusion, for me, is disastrous.

Fresh herbs are part of the Summer season so…here’s a fusion of Greek and Italian ideas in a wonderfully bright and satisfying pasta dish…SPAGHETTI WITH ALMOND OREGANO PESTO with FETA AND LEMON.    Let’s cook!!!

SERVES:  4-6                       TIME: 1/2 hour

1 lb IMPORTED ITALIAN SPAGHETTI (or other long pasta) cooked al dente according to package directions

1/2 CUP FRESH OREGANO LEAVES, packed stems, make sure leaves are gently cleaned












Using a food processor, add the herbs, lemon juice and zest, garlic, and almonds.  Pulse until they are all crushed.  DON’T over pulse.  Next, slowly add the Olive Oil in stream while the blade is processing.  It should look like a pesto now, nice and smooth.  Now add the feta, reserving a little for garnish, and gently pulse until is somewhat blended in.  TASTE, based on what you think, add salt if necessary to taste and add about 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper.  Gently pulse. NOW..leave it out at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions in well salted water and only till AL DENTE. Drain. At that point, pour the pesto over the pasta a gently blend well. Top with some Feta and fresh sprigs of Oregano, even a little squeeze of lemon would be nice. Done..  Enjoy.

So here’s some sidebars…never cook pesto. ever.  If pesto is off colored it means it’s old or was cooked..make your own.  Herbs are one of the cheapest foods out there in the summer unless you are growing your own, even better.  The Consistency of the pesto even with the most exact and tested recipes can vary. If you find the pesto is too thick as more Olive Oil and Lemon juice to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Don’t over do the oil though as it will separated out from the mixture and it will get “oily”.  Mint (fresh) is an alternative to the grassy green flavor of the Parsley.  Feel free to use!  Fresh Thyme is another herb to use but it’s quite strong so don’t use too much of that.

Enjoy this sunny dish from my kitchen to yours!!



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Much of my inspiration for cooking comes from the immediate world around me and this KOTA RIGANATI, Greek Baked Lemon and Oregano Chicken is no exception.  At a recent local Greek Festival (the Jersey Shore Greek Festival at St.George’s Greek Orthodox Church) there was a vast array of all the most popular Greek dishes here in America.  Although I didn’t chose it, the tray of Kota Riganati stuck with me and never left…( a food obsession indeed!) until I cooked the dish myself.  At the risk of sounding like that semi-homemade cooking hack Sandra Lee you will love the ease of this one.  The chicken is always on the bone, generally a full split chicken, which is my preference, but not a large one..or a whole cut chicken.  The bird is marinated in a mix of fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried oregano (Greek would be best!), Olive Oil (Greek would be best!!) and garlic. There is a harmony of all the ingredients, not too lemony, oily, salty, herb-y or garlicky.  I love garlic, I hate overuse of garlic where it’s the ONLY flavor you taste. Balance.  It’s what you strive for with your dishes with some flavors take front stage but not punching you in the teeth.  Make sense?   Good.

The dish is cooked with potatoes so I will include that in this recipe.  You will thank me for all of this!!

Let’s Cook!

This will feed 4-5 and will take up to 12 hours if you factor in the overnight marinating or 2 hours start to finish if you decide to not marinate.  Up to you. more flavor though when you marinade this.

3 lbs of a medium sized chicken, NOT an Oven-Stuffer type. either whole, but I prefer it split, or cut into 8 pieces

1/3 cup of Greek Olive Oil (if possible, if not a good fruity one will work, you want pronounced Olive flavor)

Kosher salt, Ground Black Pepper

2 finely minced cloves of garlic

1/4 stick of unsalted butter cut into a small dice

1 tbs. of dried Oregano  (again, be authentic if you can, find Greek oregano)

Juice of 2 lemons

1/2 tsp of sweet paprika

3 potatoes peeled and sliced into wedges or cubes, let them sit in salted water until you are ready to use them, you will do this on the day you cook the chicken


Pat the chicken down (sound racy doesn’t it?) with paper towels..season with salt and pepper liberally.  Whisk together all the ingredients except the potatoes of course.  Pour over the chicken in a non-reactive pan and make sure they are completely coated and sitting in the marinade. Cover tightly and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, optimally, overnight will impart the most flavor.kotariganati 005

If marinating for a longer period of time, take the chicken out of the fridge at least one hour before you are going to cook it.  This helps the chicken to cook more evenly.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Make sure the chicken is SKIN SIDE UP or you risk having rubber chicken skin which is foul (or fowl in this case..sorry, couldn’t resist that corny joke).  Place into the middle rack of the oven and check on it in 15 minutes.  Is it browning yet?  If not, close the oven and at the 20 minute mark you should definitely have started browning on the skin.  At this point add the potatoes to the bottom of the pan around the chicken and lower the heat to 325 degrees F.  Make sure the potatoes are all coated in the juices.  Top the chicken with the butter pieces , season with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper and bake uncovered for 1 to 1 1/4 hours .  The chicken juices should run clear and the potatoes should be browned on top and very tender.  That’s it. You are done…a nice Greek Wine with this, a spinach salad maybe? It’s really very delicious.

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I like my cooking to take me back to somewhere I’ve been or where I’d like to go. Imagine yourself on a terrace in Fira, Santorini looking out at the Mediterranean Sea (actually the Aegean) and sit back and relax..You can certainly imagine that from you kitchen table.  This pic was taken in August of 2006 on a family trip to the Greek Isles.