Welcome to Sisters' Sintages, a blog about family, traditions, and good food.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Labne Tart

This blog was started in March of 2010, so that my sister Pauline and I could share recipes and talk about family, traditions, and food. It feels somewhat unsettling coming back to it now that Pauline passed away and can no longer share it with me.. But today, in her memory, I was determined to share the recipe for a wonderful labne tart that I made. How she would have enjoyed not only eating it, but giving me a commentary on the recipe.
Labne is a yogurt cheese which can be purchased in markets that carry Middle Eastern foods. It is the consistency of cream cheese and in my opinion, it is more delicious and much lower in calories. I prefer the Turkish labne which is mild and mellow tasting. You can also make your own labne by straining plain yogurt overnight. There are several websites online that give specific directions in straining yogurt to make labne.
I used Alice Medrich's Labne recipe as adapted by Nicholas Day.
Makes 1 tart                                  
        8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
       1/4cup sugar
        1/4teaspoon salt
        3/4teaspoon vanilla extract
       1 cup all-purpose flour (4.5 ounces3 eggs
        1/4cup sugar
       1/8teaspoon salt
       1/2teaspoon vanilla extract
        16ounces labneh (aka: lebni, labni, kefir cheese
1.    Preheat the oven to 350. Find your tart pan (9 and 1/2 inch with a removable bottom)
2.    In a bowl, combine the butter with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until well blended. (If the dough is too soft, let it sit for several minutes.) Press the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the tart pan; there will be just enough for a thin layer. Place the pan on a cookie sheet. 
3.    Bake until the crust is a deep, golden brown, 20-25 minutes. If the dough begins to inflate after about 15 minutes, press it down with the back of a fork and prick it. When the crust is finished, remove it from the oven and lower the heat to 300. 
4.    While the crust is in the oven, make the filling, whisking together in this order: the eggs with the sugar, salt, and vanilla. Then whisk in the labneh. 
Pour the filling into the hot crust, spreading it evenly. Bake until the filling is set around the edges but quivers in the middle, about 15 to 20 minutes. This is crucial: check it several times in the last few minutes; be careful not to over-bake. Cool on a rack; if not serving within three hours, refrigerate



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chocolate Frangipani

It’s been awhile since I added a recipe to our food blog.
Early this morning, I decided I wanted to try to make something that I had never made before. It had to include chocolate and it had to be decadent... I settled for a chocolate frangipani tart with chocolate ganache glaze.

The results were out of this world!!! The mix of almonds and chocolate is a marriage made in heaven. The following recipe is a compilation of various recipes I found on the internet, and tweaked to my taste and the ingredients in my pantry.

The taste of this tart far exceeded my expectation, and I did what I usually do when I bake something that overwhelms my senses, I called my sister!!!
Pauline asked me for the recipe, but then thought about it for a moment, and said “Why don’t you put this on our blog”?
So here we go…

Chocolate Frangipani

For Cake:
1 8 ounce can of almond paste, grated
½ cup sugar I stick (8 tablespoons) soft butter
3 eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of flour
6 tablespoons of cocoa powder

For Chocolate ganache glaze (optional):
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons of half and half
2 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of  brandy

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour a ten inch tart pan.
2. Add the almond paste to the mixing bowl with sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until combined; then on high speed for 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time beating after each one.
4. Mix flour and cocoa and fold into batter
5. Spread batter evenly into pan. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Cool on a wire rack.

To make the glaze:
Put the chocolate pieces, the half and half and the butter in the top of a double boiler. Stir until melted together. Add brandy.
OR (You can microwave ingredient for 30 seconds, stir, and microwave again for another 30 seconds and stir. Do this until the ingredients have melted together).
Pour warm glaze over tart and smooth to the edges. You can also pipe whipped cream and garnish with berries.

I hope you enjoy this luscious tart as much as I did!!!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summer Tomatoes and Scrambled Eggs

It's that time of year again . The end of summer brings its bounty of vine- ripened tomatoes. If your lucky like me , they come from your vegetable garden. Recently I posted a note on Facebook anticipating the first tomatoes of the season. I received a note from my cousin Angie Seremelis, from Philadelphia, telling me that her mother, Eleni Seremelis, too was anxiously awaiting the first crop. She said her mom had a favorite recipe for scrambled eggs and tomatoes. I laughed when I read her comment because I was anticipating the very same favored dish. A few days later, I spoke to another cousin, Jim Argerakis, formerly of Philadelphia, now retired to Florida. We were talking about our moms, who were first cousins, and some of their recipes. Jim mentioned that his mom, Theia Aggerouka, had about ten different ways of cooking eggs with tomatoes. I don't know whether it's a family thing or a Brondadousiko thing(the town in Chios where my mom's family is from)but we all assosiate summer tomatoes with the wonderful scrambled eggs and tomato dishes our moms prepared. So in memory of Theia Aggerouka, Thei Tzina, Theia Asimina and my mom and in honor of Theia Eleni, I give you Avga me Ntomates (eggs and tomatoes).

Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes

olive oil
2 eggs beaten
3 to 4 Roma tomatoes chopped coarsely(or any type tomato of your choice)
salt and pepper to taste
optional ingredients: 1/4 cup feta cheese or 1/4 cup sliced souzoukaki(pepperoni)

Heat enough olive oil tp cover bottom of small frying pan. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute. When the tomatoes have softened and released their juices, add the beaten eggs. Scramble gently, until eggs have just set. Be careful not to overcook, as the eggs will harden. Season with salt and pepper. This is the most simple of recipes. However, if you wish , you can add feta or souzoukaki(pepperoni)or both. If adding the feta, crumble it and add after adding beaten eggs. If adding the souzoukaki, slice it and saute slightly, before adding to beaten egg mixture. Fresh herbs, such as basil or oregano, also complement this dish.(Serves one)
Contact Jim for other variations to this dish.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Tina's Bougatsa

My friend Tina is a one of a kind. She is a world traveler, a gourmand, an oinophile, and has a sense of humor like no other. If Tina had not become a school principal, she would have made a bundle of money as a stand up comic. My buddy has the most colorful language imaginable, and has her own unique and descriptive characterizations, which we call Tinaisms.

Of all the traits that epitomize Tina, the one that clearly defines her however, is her generosity of spirit. Tina has been extremely kind and generous to all her family and friends. I will never forget the number of times that Tina visited us in New Jersey when my sister Pauline was very ill. Tina was afraid that we would not have time to cook after running back and forth to the hospital, and that we would starve to death. So each time she visited, she brought food not only for Pauline and me, but for the whole family as well. Some of the foods were purchased from a Greek restaurant in Astoria, while others were homemade by Tina. The meals were sumptuous and mouth watering and included salads, appetizers, main dishes and dessert. The absolute highlight of the feast was Tina’s homemade bougatsa. Tina said that the recipe was from her sister Eftihia, but to me it will always be my friend Tina’s bougatsa. I remember the first time she came over with the bougatsa, she brought powdered sugar and cinnamon from her house, to enhance the presentation.

Tina’s bougatsa has become a staple in my house. It is simply extraordinary and is extraordinarily simple to prepare. Tina’s bougatsa does not require the tedious buttering of each phyllo sheet which is the case with other phyllo recipes. I have tweaked the recipe a bit for my own use. I use cream of wheat where Tina’s original recipe calls for cream of rice. I have also used fat free, 1% and 2% fat milk. In her recipe, Tina uses mugs, to measure ingredients; I substituted measuring cups for mugs.

Tina’s bougatsa is so popular that that my neighbors who have tasted it have requested copies of the recipe, and now I am happy to post Tina’s bougatsa on our food blog.

Tina’s Bougatsa
Adapted by Vivian

½ cup sugar
½ cup cream of wheat (farina)
2 sticks of unsalted butter (½ stick for the cream and 1 ½ melted sticks to add to phyllo)
1 quart of milk (4 cups)
4 eggs
¼ tsp vanilla
phyllo (I use 8oz of pre packaged phyllo)

• mix the milk, cream of wheat, sugar, beaten eggs, ½ stick of butter, and a dash of vanilla in a pan.
• Cook over medium heat, for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly until the crème starts to thicken.
• Remove from heat and allow the cream to cool.

In the meantime, melt the remaining 1 ½ sticks of butter in the microwave.
Butter the bottom of a rectangular 9x13 baking pan. Add about 7 sheets of phyllo to the buttered pan, (Do no butter each individual phyllo sheet). Add about ¼ of the melted butter on top of the seven sheets of phyllo. Add the cooled cream layer on top of the buttered phyllo layer. Add the remaining phyllo sheets on top of the cream. (Again, do no butter each individual phyllo sheet.) On top of this layer of phyllo, add remaining butter.

Bake at 350 for about 1 hour.
Let it cool and serve it with powdered sugar and cinnamon.


Sunday, April 11, 2010


When our children were little, one of our favorite activities was going to the beach in Southold with our seine net. This net was used to catch small fish called whitebait or sperring known as "atherina " in Greek. We purchased the seine net at one of the local baitshops cum hardware stores located on the North shore of Long Island where we have a summer home. We attached small weights to the bottom of the net and attached two broom handles to either end of the net. That net and a bucket were all the children needed to keep them occupied for hours at the beach. The best beaches for this kind of net fishing were Gooseneck Beach and Cedar Beach. The fish were most plentiful in August and September. Usually Stella and Mark would manage the net and it was Angela's job to splash the water to chase the fish into the net, since she was the youngest of the group. The net bottom had to be held close to the sandy bottom
while the fish were corraled into the net and brought to shore. These fish were always found close to shore and the children could safely net them in the shallow water. After bringing the full net to shore and laying it on the sand, the children would pick out the sperring and put them in the bucket filled with sea water. Sometimes they would also catch crabs, star fish and hermit crabs in the net as well. These were always thrown back in the sea. After catching enough sperring to fill our bucket, we we would head home so Yiayia could cook their catch. She would put them in a colander to rinse them out and pick out pebbles or stray inedible fish. She would then slice a couple of onions into rings and toss them with sperring. Then she'd toss them in salt and pepper seasoned flour and fry them up in vegetable oil. After they were fried, a squeeze of lemon or a sprinkle of vinegar was all that was needed. Yiayia had a special trick she used to do when making this dish. She would fill the frying pan with enough fish and onions to fill the bottom of the frying pan while the oil was very hot. When the fish looked browned on one side, she would take a plate and cover the top of the pan. She would then flip the pan over and slip the cooked side of the fish onto the plate. She then would slip the uncooked side down back into the frying pan from the plate. She always managed to do this without spilling the hot oil or burning herself. The finished product always came out of the frying pan all in one piece like an omelette. I have never been able to do this, so when I cook this dish the sperring is always in small clumps or individal pieces. I just flip the fish in the oil until they are done. This dish, served with a tomato and cucumber salad is all you could ask for after a day at the beach.


2 pounds whitebait or sperring
1 large onion or 2 medium, sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste
1 to 1/12 cup of all-purpose flour
1 lemon, halved or 2 to 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
vegetable oil for frying

Rinse fish in cold water in a colander. Drain and toss in sliced onion wth the fish, Season flour with salt and pepper. Add seasoned flour to fish and onion mixture and toss well. Make sure that fish and onions are coated with flour. Heat oil in fry pan to sizzle. Add fish to pan in batches. Do not over-crowd fry pan with fish mixture, because fish will not fry up crisp. It is better to do smaller batches rather than one large one because the fish will steam and turn soggy. Do not attempt Yiayia's trick unless you are very brave and very dexterous. After frying drain fish on paper towel and then plate. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon or a sprinkle of wine vinegar. Traditional accompaniment is a tomato and cucumber salad or a plate of boiled dandelion greens.


Coffee and Toast

A few days ago I stopped at a local deli to pick up a container of coffee and a buttered roll. I got a whiff of bread toasting in a toaster and suddenlythe smell of the toast took me back to my dad's coffee shop, When I was a litle girl my dad owned a coffee shop on Columbus Avenue and 82nd Street in Manhattan. Sometimes my sister and I would go there before close up time to meet our father. My father would always prepare a special treat for me. He would make me an order of buttered white toast using the square pieces of white bread you'ld only find in restaurants. He would sprinkle the buttered toast with sugar and cinnamon and then give me a cup of coffee in a green and white cup and saucer. Of course, my coffee was mostly milk with just enough coffee to color and flavor it. The toast, always two slices,would sit on the plate squared off and sliced on the diagonal into triangles. The butter would be all melted into the toast and the cinnamon and sugar would seep into toast, especially if my dad had used an extra pat of butter. I loved dunking the toast into the coffee. Towards the end, the coffee would get a little sweeter with a cinnamon taste. Many years later, when I was already married and a young mother, I found a square white bread by Taystee in the market. It was called sandwich white and I bought a loaf home. I was so excited thinking that I could finally re[plicate my father's treat for my children.

Comfort Foods

When I was a little girl, the best treat my mother had to offer was not candy, cookies or cake. It was a special treat that some Greeks may be familiar with, the beaten, sugared egg yolk or "ktipito avgo". She would separate the egg yolk from the egg white by cracking the egg shell in half and shifting the yolk from shell to shell letting the white separate from the yolk. She would then drop the yolk in a cup and add sugar. Then the tedious process of beating the yolk and sugar with a spoon would begin. If she was tired or in a hurry, the finished product would have a grainy texture because the sugar was not completely incorporated into the egg yolk. However, when she had time and energy, the treat would be satiny and glossy, the sugar having been beaten into submission by her vigorous beating of the mixture against the side of the cup by the spoon. This was the sweet that I longed for. Shiny and smooth with not a hint of a sugar grain. For a really special treat, she sometimes added cocoa powder to the mixture, which gave this treat an extra special kick. Vivian and I remember this treat from our childhood, but Vivian also remembers a different experience involving eggs. She grew up in Greece during the Great Famine which took place during wartime and post WW II. She remembers our mother chasing her and giving her a precious raw egg to drink, which Vivian didn't like, while all the while telling her that her aunt's children were being deprived of the precious egg that Vivian didn't want to swallow. I, being the child born in America, had the benefit of having my egg yolk with sugar, which was in very short supply in wartime Chios. Vivian has told me that they used carob as a sweetener during that time. Yiayia also used to make this treat for her grandchildren, Stella, Mark and Angela. Stella still has memories of her Yiayia making her special "ktipito avgo me chocolata".
Another special treat that both our mother and father would make for us, especially when we had sore throats, was a drink of hot milk, butter and honey. They would heat up a glass of milk in a small sauce pan until it simmered and then pour it into a glass. They would then add a pat of butter and two to three spoons of honey. They would stir this all up and let us sip it slowly. It always soothed our sore throats and it became a sick time tradition. My children still ask for honeyed, buttered heated milk when they have sore throats.
Our father didn't have a sweet tooth, but he had one favorite dessert. He loved honey and nuts, particularly filberts (hazelnuts) and honey. He would shell the filberts, add them to a cup and drizzle the nuts with honey. If he didn't have filberts, he would substitute walnuts which are actually more common in Greece, but he preferred filberts. I remember sitting with him and him letting me use the nutcracker, while he cracked the nuts with his hands. We usually had a jar of Greek honey from Mount Hymettos which was considered the best Greek honey avaiable here in the United States. We purchased it at the Greek specialty store, Margaritis on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. After cleaning the nuts and drizzling them with the honey, we would proceed to eating them. Daddy would also sometimes have a shot of Metaxas, a Greek brandy,with his honey and nuts. Truly a dessert fit for the gods.