Savory and Sweet Favorites to Enjoy this Christmas

The National Herald Archive

Melomakarona, also called finikia, are a traditional Greek dessert favorite. Photo by Kalambaki2, Creative Commons license, via Wikimedia Commons

A Greek Christmas is not complete without the many delicious traditional foods and pastries made with recipes passed down through the generations.

From classics like moussaka and spanakopita to roasted meats and all the side dishes, the Greek Christmas table is usually crowded with holiday favorites. Of course, the dessert table always features kourabiedes and melomakarona.

In the Peloponnese, and especially in Kalamata, diples are a staple of the dessert table at every Christmas feast. Whatever foods you decide to enjoy, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Marinated Roast Pork

For the marinade:

1 bottle white wine

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

3 medium onions, diced

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 bay leaves

2-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

For the roast:

1 pork shoulder bone-in, (about 5 lbs.)

Greek extra virgin olive oil

Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

In a large nonreactive bowl, whisk together the white wine, the vinegar, the onions, garlic, sugar, and olive oil for the marinade. Add the bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, and the pork shoulder. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight, turning the meat over every so often to ensure the marinade is evenly distributed.

When ready to roast, remove the pork shoulder from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Season the pork generously with salt and freshly ground pepper and place in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a preheated 425-degree oven for 30 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and continue roasting the pork for about 3 hours or until tender. If preferred, for a crisp look, brush the pork shoulder with honey and continue roasting for another 10 minutes.

While the pork shoulder is roasting, pour the marinade into a large deep pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the marinade reduces by half. Strain the marinade and pour over the pork before lowering the oven temperature and continuing to roast.

Once the pork shoulder is done roasting, remove from the oven and allow it to rest 10 minutes before straining some of the pan juices to make the gravy. Remove some of the excess fat. If preferred, transfer the roasted pork to a platter and allow it to rest and make the gravy directly in the roasting pan. Over medium heat, deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula and simmer until the juices are reduced slightly.

Add a tablespoon of unbleached, all-purpose flour, if desired, to thicken the gravy, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Pour into a gravy boat or directly over the roasted pork shoulder and serve immediately. The gravy can also be made by straining the pan juices into a saucepan and simmering over medium heat. Add flour to thicken while stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve with roasted or mashed potatoes, roasted pumpkin, or the following roasted vegetable recipe.

Roasted Vegetables

5-6 small to medium Yukon gold potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 medium to large parsnips, peeled and chopped

2 medium turnips, chopped

2 medium red onions, cut in half

1/4 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

2 large sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dry rosemary

1 teaspoon Greek sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly in cool water, especially those that will not be peeled before cooking. Chop the vegetables into similarly sized pieces to ensure that they cook at about the same rate.

Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan and toss with the olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Spread the vegetables out in the pan to form a single layer as much as possible and roast in the preheated oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring about half way through the cooking process. If some vegetables are roasting faster than others, remove them from the pan and continue cooking the rest of the vegetables. Serve immediately.


The National Herald Archive

PHOTO: (by JIP, via Wikimedia Commons)

7 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup farina

2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup olive oil

1 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

1/4 cup cognac

For the syrup:

2 cups honey

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 cinnamon stick

For topping:

1 and 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, farina, baking powder, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, juice, zest and cognac and add to the dry ingredients, mix until combined. Form the dough into ovals about two inches long. If desired, form the cookie with a walnut half in the center or a combination of finely chopped walnuts and ground cinnamon as a filling. Place the cookies on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven about 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a large saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, water and cinnamon stick, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Dip the just baked cookies into the syrup and allow them to absorb some of the liquid, but work quickly so they don’t dissolve in the syrup. Cool the cookies completely and garnish with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts and a dash of ground cinnamon. Makes about 40-50 cookies.


The National Herald

PHOTO: (by JIP, via Wikimedia Commons)

4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour, plus more for rolling out

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 eggs

1/2 cup brandy

3 tablespoons sugar

3 cups Greek honey

1 1/2 cups water

2 cups finely chopped walnuts

Canola oil for frying


In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the brandy and sugar. Add the egg mixture to the flour and stir together. Knead on a lightly floured work surface until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for about 15 minutes. Using about a quarter of the dough at a time, roll out to 1/8-inch thickness. With a pastry cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough into strips 1 1/4 inches wide and about 9 inches long for the rose shape or wider for the traditional folded shape. Continue with the remaining dough.

To fry, fill a large deep pot with canola oil or preferred oil for frying to about 3 inches deep. Heat until the oil is about 375 degrees F. Place the strips into the heated oil and using two forks turn them so they form diples, or folds, like a rose. Fry until golden brown on all sides. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Continue with the remaining dough until all are fried. For the syrup, in a saucepan heat the honey and water up to a simmer, place the fried diples in for a minute or two then remove to a serving platter and sprinkle with the finely chopped walnuts and cinnamon. Serve immediately. If preferred, allow them to cool completely and store at room temperature for a week to ten days, though they will not be as crispy as on the first day, they will still be a tasty dessert.

To make diples in other shapes, use pizzelle irons. Dip the pizzelle iron mold into the batter and then place in the heated oil and fry until the cooked dough drops off the mold. Remove from the frying oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Wipe any excess oil from the mold with paper towels before dipping it into the batter again to ensure the cooked dough drops off properly when fried. Dip into honey syrup as above and top with walnuts and cinnamon. Serve immediately.