Archive | April, 2013

Grapeleaf, Herb & Yogurt Pie

26 Apr

Lots of attention has been paid to people who cook their way through the indelible Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the one and only Julia Child. I am, however, still waiting for word that Viola Davis will be portraying me in the made-for-TV movie about my love affair with Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Spending any amount of time with the Mediterranean palate is really an exercise in permutation (n! for my Algebra 1 fans out there)– you will always be successful if you combine tomatoes, spinach, pine nuts, garlic, cheese and olive oil in varying proportions. For me, this is what makes Greek food so fun to make: it’s more about the process and less about the precision–unlike some cuisines, which demand that you to measure your flour out to the 0.01 gram and are personified by delicate, breathy white women in major Hollywood motion pictures. I shall say no more.

But with traditional standards as good as classic Greek dishes (um helllooo steaming hot creamy cheese layered between olive-oil-ridden flaky dough), what’s the point of innovation? If Greek cuisine can stand the test of time along with the best of Hellenic exports (Democracy, Socratic Method, and Jennifer Aniston), why mess with a good Greek thing?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Because then this Ottolenghi fellow can come in and completely blow your hair back–this is a man who is not Greek, who eats meat, and believes very strongly in gluten’s place at the table and yet he is killing the gluten-free/vegetarian/Greek food game. Socrat-who?

I made his grape leaf, herb, and yogurt pie last night and it took all the willpower in me (which is, admittedly, not much) not to place a late-night international phone call to JetSet Kef for the third time this week. HOW HAVE I NOT THOUGHT OF GRAPELEAVES AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR PHYLLO DOUGH BEFORE? This is probably the easiest dish I’ve ever seen that uses grapeleaves, which are known to be finicky and annoying to manage. So if you’ve had a jar of grapeleaves in your pantry just WISHING they could be smothered in Greek yogurt and oil, now’s the time to jump on it!

photo-12Ottolenghi’s Grape Leaf, Herb & Yogurt Pie


  • 20-25 grape leaves (I found this jar at Whole Foods, and I’ve seen canned varieties near the olives at Harris Teeter and the fancy Safeways)
  • 2-3 cups boiling water
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1.5 TBS unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c Greek yogurt (FIBBYDY)
  • 2.5 TBS pine nuts
  • 1/2 TBS tarragon, finely chopped
  • 3 TBS fresh dill, chopped
  • 4 TBS fresh mint, chopped
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 c rice flour (look in your baking aisle- seems like almost everyone sells the Bob’s Red Mill brand now)
  • 3 TBS breadcrumbs (I used GF)


1. Preheat oven to 375F and put about water on to boil. Roll out the leaves so you have a flat stack of grapeleaves and place them in a shallow rimmed dish or bowl (I used a pie plate). Cover with boiling water and leave for 10 minutes.

2. Remove leaves from water and peel them off of the pile one at a time. Place them on a dish towel in a single layer to dry  (it gets too messy if you use a paper towel–trust me). Try your best to avoid tearing them, as full leaves will make a better “crust” later.  Use scissors to trim the hard stalk at the bottom of each leaf.

3. Heat 1 TBS of oil in a saute pan. Saute the shallots over medium heat until light brown. Throw in the pine nuts as soon as you notice some browning to toast lightly.  Once the shallots are all a golden brown, remove from heat and let cool.

4. In a round, shallow, ovenproof dish that is about 8-inches in diameter (apparently Ottolenghi’s a picky one), layer 1/3-1/2 of your grape leaves along the bottom and up the sides. The leaves can hang over the dish rim. Mix together the melted butter and 2 TBS olive oil. Use a pastry brush or your fingers to spread about 2/3 of this mixture over the leaves, all the way to their ends.

5. In a small bowl, mix together the shallots, pine nuts, yogurt, herbs, zest, and lemon juice. Season with pepper to taste. Add the rice flour and mix completely, until you have a homogenous paste. Spread mixture evenly throughout the dish– careful not to disturb your leaf crust too much!

6. Fold any overhanging leaves back over the yogurt mixture. Cover the rest of the filling with remaining grapeleaves, allowing them to overlap slightly- I had 3 or 4 left over and that’s a-okay. Brush the leaves with remaining butter/olive oil. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and drizzle with remaining TBS of olive oil.

7. Bake for 40 minutes, or until leaves are crisp and breadcrumbs are brown. Remove from oven and let rest for at least ten minutes–but, like most casserole-type dishes, this is exponentially better (n!) if you let it sit overnight. Serve with a dollop of yogurt if you feel so inclined.

A New “Nice” Cream

25 Apr

Many moons ago, my amazing nutritionist cousin introduced me to Banana “Nice” Cream, which completely revolutionized the way I thought about frozen desserts. Since then I’ve been wondering if there’s a way to replicate the idea with other frozen fruits, and yesterday I stumbled upon the way to make a strawberry version.

My original plan was to make this frozen mango pie.  My superimpressive friend Allison (HIVWarriorKef? NoLongerClevelandParkKef?) surprised me with a little visit to help me eat said pie, but we were both disappointed to find that the flavor was way more coconut than it was mango (although I was glad to find out today that after a night in the freezer the mango was more pronounced–but I digress). So I got to wondering about a strawberry flavor and–voila!– Strawberry Nice Cream was born.


I’ve given you several posts with good pictures and could not be bothered with this one. Just trust me. It’s THAT good.

Basically, I combined lime juice, almond milk, coconut cream and frozen strawberries and the result was a very thick soft-serve consistency. I used some Pyrex to test how well my little experiment would hold up to some freeze/thaw action and was thrilled to find that within about 20 minutes it thickened and took on the texture of real, live ice cream. Over the next few hours I discovered that you can put it into and take it out of the freezer as much as you want without its devolving into a sloppy mess. Then I got really cute and spooned some in between two of my paleo graham crackers for an ice cream sandwich (!). And the church said, “Amen!”

So- if all you want is some gf/sf/dairyfree ice cream, follow the below instructions and ditch the crust-just combine and freeze. Next time I make the pie I will definitely do just the strawberry cream–but if you want to try the mango flavor, follow the above link. As always, you do you.

Frozen Strawberry “Nice” Cream Pie



  • prepared graham cracker crust (if you use the paleo grahams, prepare them the exact same way, but instead of rolling the dough out flat, press 1/2-2/3 dough into the bottom and sides of a greased pie dish. Let freeze, then use fork to poke holes all over crust and bake at same temp for same time)
  • 3/4 c coconut cream*
  • 1/4 c almond milk
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bag frozen strawberries
  • maple syrup/honey/agave, to taste (I used about 3 TBS)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

*Trader Joe’s sells this by the can, or you can refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk for at least 30 minutes, open it gently without shaking, and scrape off the solid white cream at the top. 2 cans should give you enough cream to get through this recipe.


1. Prepare your graham cracker crust and let cool completely.

2. Pulse everything but the crust (duh) in a strong blender or food processor until mixture is very smooth and creamy.

3. Taste and add more sweetener/vanilla extract if you feel so inclined.

4. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Smooth with a flat spatula. Freeze for at least 4 hours, but overnight would be even better. When ready to serve, let pie sit out for at least 10-20 minutes to thaw–otherwise it just tastes kind of, well, frozen.

Occupy the Grocery Store: Not-So-Giant Gigantes

24 Apr

Let’s play Family Feud. Except in this version, Steve Harvey won’t survey 100 people; he’ll survey just two people. Chef Kefi, RN and her brother, JetSet Kef.

Reasons for a Late-Night International Phone Call

5. Major holiday spent apart and What’sApp not working
4. Conference-call-style advice for a friend trying to recreate scenes from Love Actually to win over his one true love
3. Cooking advice
2. TIE: To find out an easily-googled phone number for drunk pizza delivery/ An update on FARAH’S life

And the number one reason to make a late-night international phone call for the SiblingsKef is:
1. TO INFORM THE OTHER THAT WE HAVE A NEW GREEK FRIEND AND THAT HE IS FROM THE SAME SMALL VILLAGE AS o παππούς μας (translation: our grandfather. And sorry — I don’t know how to use caps in the Greek alphabet yet).

So picture this. Good ol’ Chef Kef is having the time of her little life at the Zaytinya agorá, talking about this delicious Greek honey and rubbing shoulders (literally) with Chef Jose Andres. The Greek Table stand is right next to the Manoli Canoli stand, and I overhear that the oil comes from Sparti, birthplace of the FamilyKef.  This is the classic Greek-American Choose Your Own Adventure scenario: I could FREAK OUT AND DEMAND TO KNOW EXACTLY WHERE IN THE

IMG_0274SPARTA AREA THIS OIL IS FROM (obnoxiously classic Greek-American reaction), or I could play it cool and try to strike up conversation naturally with my new countryman (favored by the nouveau-cool caste of dual citizens everywhere). Bet you won’t need three guesses to figure out which I did.

For once, it turns out that choosing the former worked out–turns out that Manoli Canoli’s owner has a dear friend from the exact same teeeeeeeeeensy village that my family is from. Naturally, I took this as a reason to wake up my very hard-working brother from a dead sleep  half-way across the world and tell him that I know someone who knows someone who is from Potomiá. And there you have it, sports fans. The global village of Greeks strikes again.

In honor of all the excitement, I thought I’d whip up a version of Gigantes, a salad of giant beans and tomatoes that is popular in mezzeria and delis everywhere. I was very sad to find that gigantes are extremely hard to find in the Mid-Atlantic region (seriously–if neither Trader Joe’s nor Whole Foods has them, we’re talking about a rare find), so I subbed the traditional fasiola bean for something called the Great Northern bean, which comes in a can and cost a whopping $0.89. I also switched out the usual flat-leaf parsley for fresh dill, as I find parsley to be a complete and utter waste of an herb. All in all, a delish dish that doesn’t require much of you–just the way we like it.




  • 1 can of Great Northern beans (available at Trader Joe’s) or 14 oz fasiola gigantes beans–if you find them, please tell me where
  • 6 TBS olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 14 oz (1 can) diced tomatoes (fire-roasted is the best)
  • 2 TBS tomato paste, dilute in 1 c hot water
  • fresh dill, to taste (I used about 1/5 a large bunch)
  • black pepper, to taste


1. If you are lucky enough to have gigantes proper, soak the beans in cold water overnight. Then drain them, rinse them again with cold water, and drain again. Cover the beans with cold water in a big pot. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and cook for about 30 minutes, until they are almost tender.

2. For the rest of us: Preheat oven to 350F. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan, add the onion and cook until the onions become soft, a little golden, and fragrant–probably about 4 minutes. Add the carrots, garlic, and thyme. Stir with a wooden spoon until a delicious garlic smell is wafting from the pan (2-3 min).

3. Stir in the diced tomatoes, cover the pan and let cook on medium for 10 minutes. Add the diluted tomato paste, then add the beans. Add black pepper and dill to taste.

4. Transfer the bean/tomato mixture from the pan and into a glass baking dish. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until beans are tender and moisture has reduced (but mixture is not dry). The tomato sauce will look slightly burnt–this means it’s done!

Grainless Graham Crackers

24 Apr


Somewhere, a dog barked.

Meanwhile, back at the barn, I whipped up something as surprising as it was delicious– gluten-free, sugar-free graham crackers. In my previous life as a Leave No Carb Behind eater, I could flatten a box of graham crackers in the course of a car ride (and not

necessarily a long one). Today, I flattened some in a totally different way: by rolling out my own!

Usually when I follow a recipe exactly, I just link to it and let you do the work.  This recipe is perfect, but I will re-write the instructions, as I made these without some of the fancier tools she used. You should definitely take a peek at The Paleo Mom one of these days, though–she has awesome stuff.

So, back to that dog…

Gosh Darn Good Graham Crackers


  • 1/2 c shortening (I used Spectrum brand palm shortening–I am sure Crisco is just as good)
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 TBS coconut flour
  • 1/4 c tapioca flour
  • 2 c almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • parchment paper (yes, you really need this)


1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (everything but the shortening  and honey). Use a whisk to mix it all together evenly.

2. In a separate, larger bowl, combine the shortening and honey with a rubber spatula until it is well combined. Then add the dry ingredients and mix very well, until a dough ball forms. I had to do a little hand kneading at the end.

3. Split the dough in half. Put one half of the dough in between two pieces of parchment paper. Do not try to be cute and sub with wax paper. It won’t work.

4. Roll out dough to about 1/8th of an inch thick. Peel off the top layer of parchment and set aside (you can use it again for the other half). Using a very sharp knife, a pizza cutter, or a pastry wheel, cut the dough into rows of the desired cracker shape/size. Do not try and peel crackers off the parchment–put the entire piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Repeat this process until the dough is finished. You can stack pieces of parchment with crackers on them right on top of each other on the same cookie sheet.

5. Put crackers in freezer for at least one hour.

6.Preheat the oven to 300F. Remove the crackers after at least an hour–they will now easily peel off the parchment. Separate them from each other and arrange in a single layer on 2 cookie sheets. Use a fork to make holes that penetrate about half-way through the crackers.

7. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until just golden brown and a just little crisp. Let cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack–this is when the texture moves from cookie-like to cracker.

Chef Kefi Gets A Greek Sugar Mama

22 Apr

… or something like that.

I’m so excited to announce that Chef Kefi, RN is teaming up with  The Greek Table to bring freshly-prepared Greek meals to a store near you!

Exhausted after a long shift (is there any other kind?) a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon The Greek Table’s line of prepared Greek meals in Whole Foods (also available at Balducci’s, Roots, and Costco). Not usually one for prepared foods and wary of most things labeled “Greek” that are not served to me in a vinyl booth by someone named Gus or Kostas, I was skeptical. What a happy surprise to find the vegetarian (and gluten free!) moussaka was authentically delicious and had not even a drop too much olive oil (a difficult feat for anything eggplant).  I returned the next day to try all the other vegetarian options (in the name of  research, of course) and was thrilled to find the artichoke stew, gigantes, and eggplant with feta were just as good. Flash forward a few  twists and turns, and you can find me giving out free samples of The Greek Table line at grocery stores through the DC area. Fear not, meat eaters–there are lamb, beef, and chicken dishes, too!

You can find me tonight at one of DC’s most-loved Mediterranean restaurants, Zaytinya.  Famed chef Jose Andres and company are showing off the brand new patio with a Greek agorá , featuring happy hour drink specials, live music, and Greek goods for sale. Come find the Demeter’s Pantry/Greek Table stand and I’ll autograph your ouzo glass. Promise.


Monday, April 22nd, 6-10PM
Agorá Night Market
Experience the grand opening of our newly renovated patio at this festive night market. A live DJ heats up the event with modern Greek music and Zaytinya’s bar team cools it down with a special liquid nitrogen ouzo cocktail. Zaytinya will also be passing complimentary tastes of their fresh and inventive mezze for all guests to sample. Come celebrate the tastes and sounds of modern Greece in the heart of the Penn Quarter!

GF/SF Lemon Bar

11 Apr





I love a lemon bar. I followed this recipe exactly and came out with an easy to make, nicely set, quick cutting lemon bar that tastes like the real thing. I found the top layer a bit too gelatiny–but a quick dusting of cinnamon fixed that.

Chef Kefi Joins The Digital Age

11 Apr

The whole I’ve-got-my-own-domain thing has been feeling all kinds of saucy, so I went and got an @ before my name, too. Now you can follow along with all the fun by adding @ChefKefiRN to your timeline!

I don’t totally know what I’ll do with those 140 characters–but head over now to see a list of my favorite recipes from the archives. #ican’tbelievei’montwitter #canyouevenuseaprostrophesontwitter?

If the Pope can Twitter, why can’t I?

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