Monday, October 25, 2010

Recipes: Bev's Apple Cake & Plum Torte (Κεικ με Μήλα & Κεικ με Δαμάσκηνα)

We stepped off the plane in Anchorage a month ago. The sun was shining brightly; the air crisp and cold. Our clothing, suitable for 75°F weather we left behind in Greece, left us shivering in Alaska.

We were one of the last to pass customs; our suitcases, fully packed with delicious Greek ingredients (including 30 pounds of cheeses), attracted intense governmental scrutiny. We helplessly stood by while a neophyte customs agent mauled delicate cheeses, sticking his thumb through their centers. Puzzled, he gave the cheese to a more senior agent for scrutiny, who immediately approved its entry. At long last, all our food passed muster, albeit a little worse for wear.

Because of the customs hold up, we missed the normal 30-people-fighting-for-10-taxis that happens after every international flight lands in Anchorage. Tired and relieved, we stepped into a waiting taxi and headed home.

Anchorage was awash with color: the sky, brilliant blue; the trees, gloriously gold. The mountains surrounding the city were deep green and snowless. Since we’ve been back, supermarket produce sections have been overflowing with fall fruits.

With all the fall fruit that’s landed in my kitchen, I’ve been doing a lot of baking. So far, my favorite treats are a pair of simple to mix, one-bowl cakes that are packed with fruit and wonderful flavor.

Bev’s Apple Cake is moist, has lots of apples, and isn't overly sweet. When fresh from the oven, the top crust crackles, nicely contrasting with the moist crumb and juicy fruit.

Plum Torte is one of the New York Times most requested recipes of all times. First created by Lois Levine and popularized by Marion Burros in her New York Times column, Plum Torte is moist, buttery, and absolutely delicious. Like Bev’s Apple Cake, it takes minutes to put together, but seems as if it took a lot of effort.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Triqui Family Makes Life in Alaska,Violence Grips Triqui Region in Oaxaca (with recipe for Reyna's Oaxacan Chicken Mole)

Reyna Martinez DeJesus stood before a line of smoking grills at the back of “Ricos Tostaditos,” a Mexican food stand at the Northway Mall Farmers’ Market. Tall pots, tightly covered and steaming, crowded two of the grills. On another, flank steaks cooked over flame, sending their tantalizing aromas out into the market.

The irresistible smell of grilled meat drew me over. I ate some in a tostada, dressed with fresh homemade salsa and hot sauce. I wanted more of Reyna’s food. I ordered pozole, traditional Mexican soup made with hominy corn and finished with red chile sauce, intending to take it home for lunch. I tried taking just one bite, to see how the chile sauce tasted. It was amazingly good. Before I knew it, I’d powered down every bit of the pozole.

During repeat visits to Ricos Tostaditos, I learned Reyna, 35, her husband Lorenzo DeJesus Flore, 40, and their six children are Triqui, an indigenous people from the mountains of Oaxaca, a southern Mexican state. Triqui, not Spanish, is their primary language.

So how did a family of Triqui end up in Anchorage, Alaska? It started with Lorenzo’s decision to leave his violent region for the United States.

Lorenzo and Reyna told me their story when I was at their house learning how to make Reyna’s Chicken Mole. I wanted a cooking lesson. Lorenzo wanted somebody, anybody, to know what is happening to his friends and family in San Juan Copala.

As for Reyna’s Chicken Mole, like every bite of food that Reyna makes, it’s delicious.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Recipe: Kale Galette with Yogurt Crust (Χορτόπιτα με Φύλλο Γιαουρτιού)

A few days ago we left Athens on a sunny 80°F day, warm enough to welcome airport air-conditioning. Thirty-six hours later, back in Anchorage, the sun still shone, but the temperature was only 40°F. A chill north wind cut through the lightweight clothing I’d donned on another continent.

When we arrived home, the first order of business was inspecting the garden. We’d heard there’d been a killing frost in Anchorage, so expected the worst. Zucchini, peas, Swiss chard, and most lettuce had been taken out by the cold. Broccoli and cauliflower had gone to seed. Cabbages were perfect and ready to harvest, as were arugula, garlic, onion, herbs, and a small second planting of Lau’s pointed leaf lettuce that inexplicably was unaffected by frost.

The garden’s best producer this year was Tuscan/Lacinato/dinosaur kale. The blue-green strappy kale leaves are lush and healthy despite nighttime temperatures well below freezing. Its perfect condition is remarkable; nearly every other garden plant was plagued by a horde of slugs brought forth by this year’s record-breaking rainy summer.

Having a kale glut seemed like the perfect opportunity to try Ayse Gilbert’s sour cream crust recipe. I used Greek yogurt, an ingredient I always have on hand, rather than sour cream. The dough mixed up easily and was a pleasure to roll out. This is a good crust recipe for beginners; it’s much easier to work with than standard pie crust dough.

With the tangy crust, I wanted a little sweetness to complement kale’s earthy flavor, so included dried currants and lightly sautéed onions in the filling mix. Feta always goes well with greens and I’d just brought some back from Greece that’d been mauled by a customs agent (don’t get me started) and needed to be used right away. So feta went in the mix, along with some garlic and Aleppo pepper.

The filling was well-balanced and its flavors worked well with the deliciously crunchy, flaky crust. Best of all, my friends liked it, the true measure of a recipe’s success.

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska has moved as of March 2011. To read this post please go to

Please click on over and visit my new site. Thank you!