What to cook on a hot day

During the last coupe of weeks the temperature has been rising in Athens.  With the sizzling heat averaging about 35º C every day, I have to admit my desire to cook has diminished. What most Greeks seem to do is wait until the sun sets and then light up the bbqs outside. The charcoal scents lingering in most neighborhoods will make any mouth water. But what to do when you find yourself a bit peckish during the day and not in the mood to cook? 

I have never been a huge fan of cold soups, but there is something about the combination of sunripe tomatoes and fresh cucumbers in a gazpacho that appeals to me. Today at the market I came across a relative to the regular cucumber, aggouri, not to be confused with agori which means boy. I have made that mistake many times and you receive quite a puzzled look. This cucumber is slightly sweeter than the regular cucumber and it’s called gpethria. However as it’s most likely not available outside of Greece I’ve excluded it from the recipe below.

Top the soup with a small piece of crumbled feta cheese and a drizzle of Greek extra virgin olive oil; a recent favorite purchased during a recent trip to the Peloponnese comes from the fantastic area of Laconia (http://www.oliveculture.gr/).

Greek Gazpacho with Feta

Makes 1.5 quarts, 4 portions


  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into large dice
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled if not organic and cut into chunks
  • 4 large sunripe tomatoes, cut in half and seeds removed, then cut into quarters
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 4 oz feta cheese, 1 oz for each portion
  • chopped chives, as a garnish
  • drizzle of Greek extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put the onion, cucumber, tomatoes, stock, parsley and cilatro in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Add salt and pepper. Chill in refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
  3. Ladle into bowl and top with feta cheese, sprinkle with chopped chives and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

My Greek Salad

Today, being Wednesday, it is the day when the laiki comes to my neighborhood. I have purchased a small trolley to put my purchases in, which makes me feel a hundred years old, but my arms appreciate not having to carry all the produce back to our house.

Cantaloupes arrived a few weeks ago, but now you can definitly see that they have been pushed aside by their much larger cousin – the watermelon – or in Greek karpouzi. Perfect as a snack, a thirst quencher and my favorite: in my version of a Greek salad. The spicy arugula and the freshness of the cucumber and watermelon works wonders with the tangy feta. The dill adds a summer taste that puts a bit of Sweden into Greece.

Ingredients (makes a salad for 2 people):

  • 3-4 cups wild arugula, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped.
  • 1 cup cucumber, peel shaved (unless organic) and seeds removed.
  • 3 oz of good quality feta cheese, crumbled.
  • 1.5 cups watermelon, seeded and cut into large dice or baton
  • 1 tablespoon of Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of dill, finely chopped
  • black pepper, to taste



Cooking with mastica

As a recent immigrant to Greece, I decided that my first blog entry should involve a typical Greek food product. Although there are many to choose from, one that does not exist anywhere else is an ivory colored resinous extract from the Pistacia Lentiscus tree, only found on the Greek island of Chios, named mastica.

The mastica liquid drops from the tree and is dried by the sun and then called tears. When chewed it softens into a gum, and it has been used as a health food in Greece since ancient times. It claims to heal ulcers, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and to strengthen the immune system.

People have a love-hate relationship with mastica’s distinctive flavor and aroma; it can be described as a mixture of slightly smoky pine resin and lemon. The first time I tried it was at restaurant Anthos in New York where chef Michael Psilakis used it to create an pear mastica sorbet. So, standing in the a local grocery store, holding a small box of mastica in my hand, I was puzzled as to how to use it.

I recently purchased a new cookbook by Swedish chef Leila Lindholm (http://www.leila.se) called “A Piece of Cake”. It’s a beautiful book with recipes that remind me of home; both in Sweden and the US. I decided to try her cup cake recipe, but wanted to incorporate mastic in the frosting. The result: a golden cupcake with a mastic marshmallow frosting. Topped with sliced strawberries, these were very tasty!


Golden Cupcakes with Mastica Marshmallow Frosting

Makes: 12 large cupcakes


  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar)
  • 3.5 oz butter (100 gram)
  • 3.5 fl.oz milk (1 deciliter)
  • 12 fl. oz all purpose flour (3.5 deciliters)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • lemon juice and zest from one lemon
  • 4 large strawberries, cut into slices

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175C).

2. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

3. In a bowl, beat sugar, eggs and vanilla extract with a whisk until pale yellow and smooth.

4. In a saucepan, melt butter over low heat and let cool slightly, and then add milk.

5. In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In three additions, mix the dry ingredients into the sugar-egg mixture and end with the dry ingredients. When combined add the lemon juice and zest, stir gently until incorporated.

6. Spoon the batter 2/3 of the way into the paper liners. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are springy and golden. Transfer the cupcakes to a rack to cool. When cooled, top with the mastica marshmellow frosting and strawberry slices.

Mastica Marshmellow Frosting

Yield: about 3 cups


  • 1 cup granulated sugar (2.5 deciliters)
  • 1 teaspoon mastica drops
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • a pinch of salt

1. In a small sauce pan combine sugar, mastica drops and water. Heat over low heat until sugar and mastica drops are completely dissolved. Let cool.

2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form.

3. Carefully pour the sugar-mastica syrup into the egg whites and continue to beat until frosting is very shiny, approximately 5 minutes.