Do you want some coffee with those fish?

I sometimes complain about the way Greeks conduct business. “Do you want a receipt with that? If so, it’ll be 25 euros. If not, it’ll be 18 euros,” they shrug. Or maybe they charge you for 2 kilos of tomatoes when the weight is just 1.75 kilos. I’m always on the defensive when I go to the open bazaar every Friday in the next town. However, Greeks can also be very sweet when they conduct business. One day, my husband and I tried another fish store in Ormyllia, one we’d heard had the freshest fish. As we entered, we saw a display case filled with octopus, sardines, gavros, red snapper, cod, and more.

My husband ordered 2 kilos of gavros, a small fish similar to the sardine, as we like to fry them and eat them whole–bones and all. He asked the lady owner if she would clean them for us. She nodded her head with a smile and asked us if we’d like a cup of coffee while we waited. She turned to a small hotplate in the corner of her shop and proceeded to make us a coffee with her battered briki and in between talking about the upcoming elections, the weather, and the future olive harvest, she asked how much sugar we liked in our coffees. As she handed us our coffee in tiny cups, she motioned for us to sit at the small blue table in front of the display case. Then she turned to the business of preparing 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) of gavros–cutting off the head with her finger while pulling out the guts in one smooth movement. After years of practice, she was fast.

By the time we finished slurping our thick sweet coffee, the fish were packed in a plastic bag and handed over. The dishonest sellers and tax evaders we’d encountered in the past were shamed with this fish seller’s generosity and kindness. And she gave us a receipt without our even asking!

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Let’s start with vinegar….

We have 20 vines of grapes, 10 Merlot and 10 Sultanina (seedless green), and there’s only so many grapes two people can eat. Our neighbor Katerina suggested we make wine vinegar, and this is her recipe.

1. Pick the grapes, do not wash them (we do not spray insecticides), and place them in 1-meter tall plastic barrels. Squeeze each clump slightly with your hands to break the grapes open. Cover the barrel with netting (I used netting from past *boubounieras).

2. After 10-15 days, the garage smelled divine! Remove the grapes, squeeze well, leaving the juice in the barrel. Discard the squeezed grapes.

3. Pour the juice through a strainer (again, netting from past boubounieras) into a large glass 15 liter bottle (here called a damitzana–demijohn?). 

4.  Add water in the ratio of 10:1 or one container of water for every 10 containers of grape juice. Also add 1 cup of vinegar for every 10 liters of juice (acts as a yeast/starter).


5.  Add a small handful of any kind of pasta. I am not kidding. Use spaghetti, elbow macaroni, rotini….add the cork/lid slightly off kilter to allow air to escape from the demijohn/bottle as it ferments, and to allow a small vinegar-loving fly to enter and leave. Again, I am not kidding you..

6. After 30 days, strain (hello, boubounieras) through netting into smaller, cuter bottles to store and/or give to friends.

*Boubounieras are given to guests at weddings and baptisms in Greece. They are usually made of netting holding candied almonds and tied with beautiful ribbon. To see traditional and modern boubounieras plus more items for weddings and baptisms, visit my friend Maria Zeaki’s website.

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Recipe for Preparing Olives

Recipe for Preparing Olives

This year we picked enough Halkidiki olives to fill nine 2.5 liter and two 1 liter containers of olives. I call these olives “little taters” because they’re so huge. Two people could share one olive and be full!

Two of the nine jars have sliced or slit olives, two have cracked (great stress reliever to crack them between two flat rocks), and the rest are whole olives. After changing water every day for one week, we prepared the brine (salamoura) this way:

1. In a 15 liter plastic barrel filled with water, we added two 500 grams bags of coarse salt and two large wooden soup spoons of limon du ju or citric acid powder. To fill these eleven jars, we made one and a half of this mixture.

2. To get this measurement, we tested with a fresh egg (Thank you, Magda and your chickens!). You’ve added enough salt when the fresh egg floats just to the top and only about a quarter-size area of the egg is exposed to the air. (Actually, we’ve been told a 1-euro coin size, but it’s about the size of a U.S. quarter.)

3. Empty out the last dose of fresh water and fill with the brine to just cover the little

plastic floater.

4. Top off with about a 1/2 inch of olive oil to seal. Replace the lid and keep in a dark, cool location. The cracked olives will be ready to eat in just two months. The sliced and whole take a bit longer.

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If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers….

Make your own pickled peppers…Easy!

You will need:
–a bunch of medium sized banana peppers and/or small thin skinned peppers
–red wine or apple cider vinegar
–one head of garlic
–one bouquet of broad leaf parsley
–olive oil

In a large pot, fill with water and about half cup of vinegar. Bring to boil. Blanch the peppers for about a minute (be sure to poke each pepper with a fork beforehand) and drain. Chop the parsley and sliver each clove of garlic. Set aside. In a large glass or clear plastic container, begin to layer the parsley, garlic, peppers, squirt of vinegar and a good salting. Repeat until the jar is full.  Fill to the top with olive oil. 

Leave on your kitchen counter for a day or two and then refrigerate. When you want to serve, pull out a few of the peppers along with the garlic and parsley. Save the juices/oil to make another batch when your garden says, “Enough, already!”

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Too many zucchini!

Too many zucchini! Here is a quick and easy casserole to make if you’re asking yourself, “What do I do with all these zucchini?”

In a fairly large casserole dish, slice 5-7 medium sized zucchinis, 1-2 sliced onions, a couple of mashed garlic cloves, one tomato cubed. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Put in oven for 40 minutes at 350 F.

While that is browning in the oven, melt 1/2 stick of butter or margarine, stir in2-3 TBL flour. Then add 1 cup white wine (I used Retsina, a white Greek wine) and 1 cup milk. Bring to a simmer until thickened, then add a handful or two of Monterrey Jack or Kasseri or any cheese you like. When the vegetables are browned, pour the sauce over, sprinkle with more cheese and continue baking 10-15 minutes until the top is browned.

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Make your own word cloud


I just discovered a wonderful website where you can make your own word cloud. I chose this blog’s words to be formed into a bird. You can choose other shapes, text, and colors and save it to use as you wish.  Go to

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Helidonia (swallows)

Helidonia (swallows) live with us. When we lived upstairs, these helidonia built their architecturally sound and so efficient nests under the eaves. But when we moved downstairs to more spacious living area, we did not frequent the upstairs veranda area very often except to retrieve one more glass or to store something in the freezer. And the helidonia population dwindled. We didn’t know why. We still see them from time to time and their nests still populate one side or our house, but they no longer build their nests above the sliding glass door we opened 100 times a day. There is less helidonia poop to clean up, but we miss our birdie friends.

A neighbor sat drinking a cup of coffee with us one evening last week and asked about our helidonia. He told us that they like to build their nests and live where people live. They interact with people. The more the merrier! When we moved away, they moved away, too. Interesting phenomenon.

The other bird population we have here is the sparrow who builds nests inside our ceramic roof tiles.

Each morning we are awakened by the trill, whoop, tweet and joy of helidonia and sparrows and more birds…as yet unidentified.

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What to do with all that apricot jam? Make Pasta Flora!

I made all this apricot jam. Now what? Make Pasta Flora! 

My mother-in-law used to make too much apricot jam when her four grandchildren from America went to visit for the summer in Greece. She was disappointed they didn’t eat more of her homemade jam, so she got them to help her make pasta flora and ….eat more jam!
Here is an easy recipe:
1 c. corn or vegetable oil
1/3 c. orange juice
3 TBL brandy (optional)
1 TBL orange or lemon peel grated
3-3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder.

Mix wet ingredients and then add dry. Mix just until all is moistened and it forms into a ball. Divide in half. Pat out half of the dough into a round 10-12 inch pan pushing the dough up the sides slightly to form a crust. Slather well with apricot (or any other kind of jam) jam (about 1/2″ thick). With the other half of the dough, roll (here’s where little hands can help you) dough into ropes and form a lattice on top of the tart. Bake at 350 F for about 30-35 minutes until golden.

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Apricot Jam

 The apricot tree is empty now. I made 4 batches of apricot jam this week. The recipe is simple. Fortunately, apricots have pectin, so you just need 8 cups of ripe apricots (remove pit and pull apart), 6 cups or one kilo sugar, and juice of one large lemon. Bring to boil, skim off foam, and boil until thickened. 

Pour into clean jars, add lid tightly, and turn upside down. When cool, you will have a sealed jar of apricot jam. What a beautiful color!

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Greek Carrots

I read about some carrot recipes on NPR today, and they all looked good; however, NPR did not include my sister-in-law’s special garlicky carrots.
Boil one package of baby carrots until tender.
Drain and immediately add 2 cloves of minced garlic, a good douse of olive oil, and juice of half a lemon and return lid. Stir to distribute the oil/lemon and garlic. Let sit for a few moments with the lid on to allow the steam to soften the garlic bits. Salt to taste.

You will have boiled carrot haters change their minds when they eat these carrots!

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