Recipes to Make and Enjoy from Kukla’s Kouzina

The National Herald

Stuffed Mushrooms by Kukla's Kouzina. (Photo by Anastassios Mentis,

Kukla's Kouzina, a labor of love for creators Kelly Salonica Staikopoulos, Joanne Staikopoulos Marzella, and Jacqueline Maria Marzella, includes the Kukla's Kouzina website, cookbook series, and Kukla's Kouzina Flippin' Greek! YouTube channel, all inspired by the original Kukla, Mary Halkias Staikopoulos, Kelly and Joanne's mother and Jackie's grandmother, who was affectionately called `Kukla`, the Greek word for doll.

The family's recipes, passed down through the generations, using ingredients and cooking techniques from the Dodecanese island of Karpathos, are now available in a cookbook series, a wonderful addition to any cookbook collection. The first two books, Meze and Spreads & Dips, feature delicious recipes and beautiful photos, and are available online in paperback and Kindle format. The Kukla's Kouzina creators generously shared two recipes for the holiday season, along with their charming introductions to the recipes.

Gemista Manitaria Stuffed Mushrooms

Recipe from Kukla's Kouzina: A Gourmet Journey~Greek Island Style, Meze

Available on Amazon:

Kukla needed one more meze for a special occasion but she wanted to make something different, so she combined some of her favorite ingredients to make a stuffing for mushrooms. It's hard to eat just one, or two, so in the end you might be the one that's stuffed!

PREP TIME: 35 minutes

BAKING TIME: 20 to 25 minutes

MAKES 24 stuffed mushrooms

24 large white mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and reserved


2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon minced onion

3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup freshly grated kefalograviera cheese (or Parmigiano-Reggiano)

3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon good quality steak sauce

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, cut up into 24 pieces, for dotting mushrooms

1. Make the filling: Chop the reserved mushroom stems. In a medium skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and chopped mushroom stems and sauté until the onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Combine the bread crumbs, cheese, walnuts, steak sauce, and salt in a large bowl. Add the mushroom-onion mixture and stir until combined well. Makes 1 and 1/2 cups.

2. Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 400 degrees F. Stuff each mushroom cap with about 1 tablespoon of filling and place in a large shallow baking dish. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the dish and dot the mushrooms with the 1 1/2 tablespoons cut-up butter. Bake the stuffed mushrooms until lightly golden around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.

© Copyright Kukla's Kouzina, LLC,

Ahladakia Amigdalota - Almond Pears

The National Herald

Ahladakia Amigdalota, Almond Pears, by Kukla's Kouzina. (Photo: Anastassios Mentis,

Recipe by Kukla's Kouzina (to appear in an upcoming cookbook)

This Kukla's Kouzina cookie is one-of-a-kind –inspired by the Dodecanese island of Karpathos – with an almond dough (not flour, so gluten-free!), fig filling, and sugar coating for a crystallized effect. Attach the marzipan leaves and you have a real showstopper.

KOUZINA TIP: These cookies are faster and easier to make with two people, one filling and shaping them and the other rolling them in sugar.

PREP TIME: 1 hour plus standing and decorating

BAKING TIME: about 20 minutes

MAKES about 3 dozen cookies


2 cups whole blanched almonds

3/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

2 large egg whites

3/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel

2 drops almond extract


4 ounces dried Calimyrna figs (about 6 figs), stems removed

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon orange juice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 drop almond extract

Vegetable shortening, for cookie sheets

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

36 whole cloves

1. Make the dough: Process almonds and confectioners' sugar in a food processor until almonds are finely ground. Add egg whites, lemon peel, and almond extract; process until mixture forms a ball. Transfer dough to a bowl (dough will be sticky) and cover with plastic wrap.

2. Make the filling: Pulse figs in a food processor until finely chopped; add remaining filling ingredients and pulse until blended. Transfer to another bowl and cover. Let dough and filling stand 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 325°F and arrange rack in lower third. Grease 2 large heavy-duty cookie sheets with vegetable shortening; set aside. Spread granulated sugar on a plate. Coat hands with about 1 teaspoon softened butter to prevent dough from sticking while shaping the pears (using more as needed). Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place a ball in palm of hand and press in center to make an indentation. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon filling into indentation and press dough around filling to cover. Re-roll into a ball and form into a pear shape. Insert a clove into the top (rounded side down) to make a stem. Gently roll pear in granulated sugar. Place, stem side up, 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

4. Bake 15 minutes. Lay a sheet of foil loosely over the cookies and bake 5 to 7 minutes more, until sides are just lightly golden (do not overbake). Cool cookies completely on baking sheet on a wire rack. Transfer to an airtight container and let stand at room temperature overnight (to soften and for flavors to develop before serving). (Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 2 weeks or freeze up to 1 month.)


Green paste food color

1/4 cup almond paste

Make marzipan leaves (if desired): Dab green paste color into almond paste with a toothpick. Mix until well blended, gradually adding dabs of paste if necessary for desired color. Roll 1/8-inch thick and shape into 1/2-inch leaves. Attach one leaf to each cookie.

© Copyright Kukla's Kouzina, LLC,


Kukla's Kouzina Meze:

Kukla's Kouzina Spreads & Dips:

Kukla's Kouzina Flippin' Greek! YouTube cooking series: