Anniversary & Melomakarona

Exactly four years ago tonight, I was a jittery and nervous wreck. I had menus to plan and food to shop for. I needed to figure out when I was going to make a mountain of variously filled crepes for a client, and I had to decide what I wanted to wear under my apron the following day. I was also hoping that he would like the Melomakarona I had made.
Mr. Fabelhaft was already on his way to Greece. To visit me.

We knew each other from high school. We were both on the stage crew, played Frisbee (because we came from the high school that invented Ultimate), and were very close friends. Pals, in fact. I thought he was gorgeous, but also that he was way too shy. He was the one I could pour my heart out to and he did the same to me when our burdens of being a teenager became too much. We went to epic concerts together and often went hiking and camping – once my mother got over her fear of letting me hang out with a bunch of boys as BFF’s.


We even hitchhiked to Maine together (time you found out, mom), when our parents thought we were elsewhere. On that trip, Mr. F admitted to having entertained various erotic thoughts since we were sharing the same tent by the roadsides, but since they remained thoughts, nothing interrupted our platonic state of being. We were friends.
Then he graduated high school, moved away to college, and we lost touch.
30 years later he finds me on facebook. (“You are where? In Greece?!”)
Our correspondence continued where we had left off… filling in three decades worth of information in the form of emails spanning many months. We discovered many common and uncommon things as the tone between us changed. We added chats to our emails, and when they weren’t enough anymore, phone texts. We spent so many hours laughing at each others’ stories, and smiling into each others’ eyes, until we knew we had to meet again. So he said he would visit me for Christmas.

Tomorrow, four years ago exactly, he walked into my shop.

This man was not shy and he loved my Melomakarona.
This man is Mr. Fabelhaft and this date will always be our anniversary.



1 1/2 cups of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup of cognac or brandy
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
10 – 12 cups flour

For topping:
4 cups of chopped walnuts  blended with 2 teaspoons cinnamon

For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups honey
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350F (170 – 180C)

Mix oil, butter, and sugar together until creamy. Mix in juice, cognac, and orange zest. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift & whisk together 10 cups of the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Add oil/juice mixture and form a soft malleable dough. If the dough is too soft and cannot hold a shape, slowly add of the remaining flour, kneading in between.

Form into small patties, place on to parchment paper lined baking tray, and indent each patty with a fork in a criss-cross manner. This will help hold the syrup and the nuts to the pastry later.

Bake for aproximately 1/2 hour, or until golden brown. Cool.


Make the syrup, by cooking the honey, sugar, and water together (in a large pot) until all the sugar is dissolved.
In batches, add enough cookies into the syrup, and carefully turn them on each side to maximize  syrup absorption. Leave them in the syrup at least 2 minutes.


Drain with slotted spoon and place on tray in layers.  Have a coffee, or tea, since you might be standing there doing this for a  while.


Before starting a new layer, generously sprinkle each layer with cinnamon/chopped walnut mix.


This lovely pastry which will fill your home with wonderful aromas, is at its peak in flavor and texture at least one week after it is made. It will keep for many weeks and is therefore made in such large batches.



It All Begins Again & Orange Cranberry Biscotti

Once upon a time, I became partner in a small and hip little cafe on a touristy little island in the Aegean. I cooked my butt off  and helped make many people happy when they ate at Orpheas Cafe and Winebar .

Orfeas 014

Years later, in a different part of that same sunny country, I designed, and operated a much larger cafe/bistro in a new marina. Office space was converted into Skipper’s Cafe.  It had gorgeous views and looked out over the Messinian Bay. Unfortunately I had really crappy business partners that were also members of my former husband’s family and I got out of that mess as soon as the place became established.

Having the need to finally run the game on my own terms without constantly justifying myself to misunderstanding partners, I set up another shop. I sold homemade meals-to-go, soups, salads, and sweets, mainly to busy professionals who had no time, or desire, to cook nutritious meals for themselves. They were tired of only having fast food options when they wanted to just pick up a meal and eat at home. So my new establishment didn’t have a lot of seating available because I made Slow Food To-Go.


It was an unusual concept, but it worked. I made a fresh soup, and two specials every day. One with meat, one vegetarian. Also available were various salads, and sweets, and everything was written daily on chalkboards. The menu always changed. What I cooked depended on what was in season, what I liked at the Market, or some new inspiration that I wanted to try. I was building up a great clientele who walked into my shop, took a deep breath of home cooked aromas,  and said, “Anke, what’s for dinner?”(in Greek of course).


Then the Greek financial crisis hit big time. Within a month, my trusting clientele who came a few times a week, dwindled down to a few times a month as fear spread throughout the country and everyone’s financial situations became more and more fragile. It was sad and tragic and to be honest, when I arrived back  in the States after over 24 years in Greece, I believed I would never cook again professionally. When people asked me what I did, I replied that I was a retired chef.

Making mosaics helped heal the wound and I entertained ideas of supporting myself as a mosaic artist, but Rochester isn’t really the ideal place for this art form. I also found a great part time job.
But retired? Really?
Something started to nag my conscious every time I heard someone complain that they just didn’t have time to cook…

It turns out that that funky little kitchen in the sun was the forerunner to what I am starting now, in an entirely different part of the world, in a hip and foodie city called Rochester; Anke’s Kitchen Personal Chef Service! I will once again cook for busy professionals, who have no time or desire to cook nutritious meals – all in the safety of their own kitchens. I can custom tweak all menus right down to every clients’ tastes and needs – something I couldn’t do in the shop. Their kitchen will be my kitchen.

I have made new friends here who agree that I need to get back to feeding people and making them happy, so they are having me cater a very important event of theirs. They just moved into a gorgeous Victorian house in the city, and their new home needs a roaring Housewarming Party. Their practically adult children are also gathering from far and wide for the holidays, so it is an absolutely ideal time to celebrate and be festive. We have all come so far!

This will be the menu for approximately 50 people:

Carrot Cumin Soup*
Pumpkin/Feta/Mint Pastry

3 kinds of Cocktail Sandwiches:
Austrian Style Roasted Pork Belly and Horseradish Sauce
Sauteed Mixed Mushrooms and Herbs with Goat Cheese
Mediterranean Vegetable and Meatball with Mozzarella

4 kinds of Salads:
Fennel/Orange/Caper Salad
Coleslaw with Apples and Dried Fruit
Mom’s Russian Chicken Salad
Mixed Fresh Greens

5 kinds of Sweets:
Orange Cranberry Macadamia Biscotti*
Salted Triple Chocolate Pistachio Cookies*
Greek Melomakarona
Chocolate Fudge Cake
Holiday Nutcracker Cake

* recipes can be found here on the blog

Today I started to shop and cook for this event. I will begin with the Biscotti. They contain no fat, other than what is in the eggs, and they are perfect for dipping into wine, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate… even when you claim you can’t eat another bite.

Orange Cranberry Macadamia Biscotti


Makes approximately 2 dozen medium sized Biscotti.

135gr (2/3 cup) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon orange extract
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
245 gr (1 3/4 cups) flour
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F (170C)

Prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the sugar and the eggs on high speed until thick, pale, and fluffy. Add the orange and almond extracts, plus the orange zest. Beat until well combined.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and combine well. Fold in the whole nuts and cranberries.


Dampen your hands with water (so the dough won’t stick to them), and form either one large log, or smaller logs (I find it easier to work with smaller sized because the dough is not very firm and quite sticky) and place them on the baking sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes or until firm to the touch and starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.


Reduce oven temperature to 325F (165C).
Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut diagonal slices about 1/2″  (1cm) thick. Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the slices over, then bake for another ten minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let them cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
(These make wonderful gifts!)