Is your cholesterol a bit high and want to be as butter-free as possible this Christmas?
We reached out to New York City-based Chef Maria Loi who’s an expert on “healthy Greek cuisine” and asked if butter-free Greek deserts were possible.
“Possible?” Chef Loi interjected. “It’s not only possible, it’s the rule in my kitchen. I don’t use butter— ever.”
Chef Loi, whose eponymous restaurant in Manhattan’s Midtown neighborhood serves classic Greek healthy fare, shared three of her most popular Greek dessert recipes with us— all without using a drop of butter.
Most of these (and so many more) are available in her best-selling cookbook The Greek Diet, published by Harper Collins. [Amazon affiliate link to her book or single item ad*]
These cookies are such an important part of Greek holiday tradition that Chef Loi even hosts an annual class every December to help teach the next generation of bakers how to make them. (Join our email list here to receive updates about Chef Loi’s cooking classes in New York City or email us here if you’d like to organize a day-long cooking workshop with Chef Loi in your city or community)
Baklava so famous it’s been featured on the cover of a magazine! This is also standard dessert fare at Loi Estiatorio where guests can savor after their meals. The recipe uses extra virgin olive oil instead of butter— heresy for some Greek cooks when brushing the filo dough but, as Chef Loi said— the norm in her kitchen. Make your own Kyklos Baklava with Chef Maria Loi’s recipe here.
These sweet cookies are a staple on any Greek holiday table and together with kourambiedes (see below) make up the dynamic duo of Greek Christmas Cookies. In Greece, they are sold in bulk and often shared as a “kerasma” or offering at restaurants and shops. Greek airline Aegean Airlines even serves the cookie to passengers on flights around the holidays. See Chef Maria Loi’s recipe for Melomakarona here.
Wrapping up the Greek dynamic duo are the fluffy and light Kourambiedes that are covered with powdered sugar and resemble small snowballs. Chef Loi uses a bit of Mastiha in her recipe which adds a unique twist to the traditional recipes. See Chef Maria Loi’s kourambiedes recipe here.
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