I love to try new foods from different regions, countries and cultures. Whenever we visit a new place, I always try the local cuisine – whether it’s escargot or crepes in France or homemade tortillas made over a fire in a small village in Belize…cooking latkes during Hanukkah with Jewish friends or finding the best falafel in Greece … tasting my neighbors homemade Chinese rice balls while celebrating the Chinese New Year or consuming inordinate amounts of crawfish with my Louisiana family – I adore the traditions of food. I certainly don’t consider myself a particularly extravagant chef nor am I a food blogger, but I do love the stories behind foods and traditions.
As my 10-year old has been completing her 30-day new food challenge this month (I will write a full report on how that went soon) I have found myself seeking out foods for her to try from around the world – all different cultures and tastes. Friends have started to share traditional foods, local ethnic grocery stores or recipes from their own cultures with me too. It has gotten me excited to expand my family’s world view through food and also made me realize that my family (and friends) have many different traditional foods that we make for holidays, celebrations or daily that are influenced by culture, ethnicity and history. So, occasionally, I will share some of our traditions or new cultural foods or recipes we encounter, here.
First up, every year around Easter, my mom cooks up a batch of Greek Easter Cookies or koulourakia – a tradition she learned from Greek friends while living in Chicago. She has been baking them every year for as long as I can remember. I’ve recently learned that the word kouloura means anything baked made in a circular loop shape such as bread or cookies. Koulouraki is the diminutive of koulouri. There are a variety of koulourakia: savory, sweet, vegan, with olive oil, with tahini but the Easter ones have butter.
If my girls are around, they love to help my mom with these cookies – the dough is rolled out and shaped into several traditional Greek shapes (commonly a twist, a circle or a figure 8) and it’s much like playing with play-doh – perfect for kids! My mom lost her old recipe a couple years ago (actually her dog chewed it up, sigh) but she tried a new recipe that produced softer cookies – which my family loves as well! This weekend, we will be with her to celebrate Easter, so my girls may get to help make her Greek Easter cookies again. But if she’s already made them, we’ll be glad to help by eating them up!
Here‘s the new recipe:
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
6 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, beaten ( mixed with the milk)
7 tablespoons milk
Cream butter. Add sugar gradually. Add eggs one at a time alternately with orange juice. Add flour that has been sifted with soda and baking powder, a little bit at a time. Should be a soft dough. Shape as desired and brush with egg and milk mixture. Traditional Greek cookies are 2 small strands of dough twisted together (or made into a circle or a figure 8) and brushed with an egg-milk mixture and sprinkled with sesame seed. Using a greased cookie sheet, bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until slightly browned on the sides.
Do you have any traditional Easter foods you love?