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Summer Fruit Salad with Mastiha-Flavored Yogurt

12 Jul

 

The other day I spotted Homeric Mastiha in the store, and I had to try it! I’d heard of mastiha but never tried the legendary Greek liqueur. I like anything with a literary connection, and Stoupakis’ Homeric Chios Mastiha Spirit offered a unique intermingling of literature, Hellenophilia, and food and beverage.

Made from evergreen bushes found only on the Greek island of Chios, mastiha — or, gum mastic — is a Greek liqueur with a sweet and herbal finish. It’s known for its health benefits: it promotes gum health and is anti-inflammatory.

It’s a special alcoholic beverage on its own, which I’d say tastes closer to gin than ouzo. It occurred to me, though, that it would be a fun way to jazz up a summery fruit salad. I was right! I love Greek yogurt, but I have to be in the mood for it. It can be a bit sour at times. Mixing it with mastiha gives such a delightful floral taste. I’m not sure everyone would like it. It’s very Greek. If you hate loukoumi (Turkish delight), you probably won’t like anything flavored with mastiha. I, for one, thought it made the boozy fruit salad with yogurt something elegant. Here’s my recipe:::

  1. Scoop out your favorite Greek yogurt. I used plain Fage. This traditional Greek yogurt got its start in Athens in 1926. It’s known for being packed with protein and great for vegetarians, so definitely a winning combination for me!
  2. Wash and slice peaches, nectarines, and strawberries. Leaving the skins on is not only easier (yay!), but it’s also better for you! It’s got great nutrients in it. Toss the fruit over the yogurt.
  3. Douse the fruit-topped yogurt with mastiha.

It’s really that simple! I don’t have suggestions for portion size or how much mastiha I used. It’s really up to individual preference.

I packed mine in a to-go container and ate it in Central Park. It was delightful!

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Feisty Blood Orange and Supergreens Salad

29 Mar

Nikolopoulos Blood Orange

Stephanie Blood Orange

red onions

supergreens blood orange salad

Years ago, when my mother still lived in the States, she used to purchase sparkling Italian blood orange juice. It was tangy and just a little bit spicy. I felt glamorous whenever I drank it.

The Arancia Rossa di Sicilia (Red Orange of Sicily) has protected geographical status in Europe, much like champagne can only be called such if it is actually from the Champagne region of France and how feta is a protected designation of origin (PDO) product of Greece. Needless to say, my father has just about every citrus fruit imaginable in his garden in Greece, he does not have the vibrant-colored blood orange.

It’s currently citrus season in New York, and when I saw blood oranges at the supermarket I scooped them up without hesitation. They bring such exoticism to the table. I decided to make a blood orange with super-greens salad, perfect for revitalizing energy.

Here’s the recipe:::

Wash your favorite greens or a mixture of favorites. I used Organic Girl’s Super Greens, which is a zesty mixture of five different greens:

tangy red & green chard, hearty bok choy, and spicy arugula accented with mild sweet spinach.

Peel as many firm blood oranges as your heart desires. (I used three blood oranges for one 5 ounce container of greens.) With the peel removed, leave the fruit in its ball shape. It’s okay to leave the white pith on it–in fact, it’s actually healthier to do so. Take a sharp knife and cut the blood orange ball into slices.

Next, peel a red onion and cut it into thin slices. Then, gently push the insides of each slice so that it separates into rings.

Toss the blood-slices and the red-onion rings into the super greens. Drizzle with blood-orange olive oil. I used The Filling Station’s Blood Orange Olive Oil, which a friend gave me as a housewarming gift. The oil is warm and soothing, a great complement to the tangy-er and zestier ingredients.

Enjoy! The blood oranges are a delicious source of vitamin C and the greens are excellent sources of vitamin K and vitamin A. The red onion is high in flavonoids. It’s a healthy salad with a beautiful presentation that is sure to impress guests. Invite a starving artist over for dinner!

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A Greek Cure for the Common Cold

1 Mar

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“A little more, Antonkai,” my yiayia used to say to my father when she was feeling sick and wanted some homemade tsipouro, a Greek liquor made from the leftover skins of grapes. She only drank a little at a time but would keep having my father refill her glass with just a little more.

I followed Greek wisdom the other evening when I wasn’t feeling well: I had a little warmed up rakomelo, which is like tsipouro but with honey in it. I woke up feeling the best I’d felt in a long time.

My father later told me his mother drank Metaxa, similarly a Greek brandy-like drink.

 

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Dressing John Stamos for Awards Season

31 Jan

Grandfathered

It’s awards season in Hollywood, and Greek-American actor John Stamos just won Favorite Actor in a New Series for Grandfathered at the 42nd People’s Choice Awards! At the January 6, 2016, event, he hammed it up for the crowd, stopping to take selfies with adorable young fans. He looked quite suave in a black velvet suit accented with a red pocket square.

He seems to be a fan of the red pocket square.

He wore the red pocket square again recently, still with an all black suit, though this time it wasn’t velvet and there was a tie involved. (William Shatner was also involved.)

He wore it better with a tux a few weeks prior to the People’s Choice Awards when he attended The 67th Emmys Governors Ball. He told People:

“All dolled up and sporting Frank Sinatra’s pocket square. Given to me by his manager, the great Tony O.”

Okay, if I had a pocket square that once belonged to Frank Sinatra, I might wear it out as often as possible too!

But the pocket square might be getting a bit too ubiquitous. I mean, it’s kind of like how fellow Greek-American Jeffrey Eugenides became so known for his vest that someone started a Twitter account for Eugenides’ vest. Is someone going to start @StamosPocketSquare?

Even The Washington Post commented on it, though that time he wasn’t wearing Sinatra’s red pocket square but a different one.

I think it’s time for John Stamos to find a new accessory! If you follow him on Instagram, you know the man looks good in a pair of glasses. I’d like to see Stamos rock a pair of glasses at his next awards show. I’d recommend these Greek Handmade Frames:

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It would be great to see more Greek-American stars using their influence to help Greek and Greek-American companies, particularly during the Greek economic crisis.

John Stamos strikes me as a man who can pull off a piece of jewelry. I say, ditch the red pocket square and wear a piece of striking jewelry. After seeing Konstantino’s exquisite jewelry at the welcome reception for the GABBY Awards, I would pick a piece from his Byzantium collection for Stamos to wear:

bizantium_1

And you know how his Full House (and now Fuller House!) character Uncle Jesse was obsessed with his hair? I would obviously have Christo, the Greek-American hairstylist behind Curlisto, do Stamos’ hair. Curlisto did hair for the runways for the Greek American Fashion Week, and he has an entire line of men’s haircare products:

Curlisto

On to the fashion! For clothing, John Varvatos is a Greek-American clothing designer who creates stylish looks. For an awards show, Stamos could wear a grey John Varvatos Cotton Shirt.

Cotton-Shirt

Over the shirt, I would add some sophistication with this black Cotton Vest with Piping Detail:

Cotton-Vest-with-Piping-Detail

And over that, I’d layer Varvatos’ black Cotton Jacquard Jacket:

jacket

For pants, a simple black pair of pants like Varvatos’ Wool Blend Pant would do nicely:

pants

 

When Tommy John approached me about dressing a Greek star for the red carpet this awards season, I thought to myself:

Really? But can’t I just leave him … undressed?

I mean, he did just recently share a picture of himself on Instagram in his undies!

Stamos2

And then there was that time in 2014 when the Oikos spokesman showed off his underwear with the Greek yogurt logo on it.

Stamos

Why not just leave him in Tommy John’s underwear Second Skin Square Cut:

Red Carpet 2 TJ

And Tommy John’s Second Skin Crew Neck Undershirt:

Red Carpet 4

Have mercy!

Experience Hellas Every Day of 2016

14 Dec

HellasCalendar2016

I took this photograph in May of this year while standing on the beach across from my parents’ house in Greece. The name of the beach is Lagouvardos, which is part of the Peloponnese. I’d stolen one last look at the beach before I traveled back up to Athens to catch a plane.

Like the tides, I have a come-and-go relationship with Greece. It seems like I no sooner arrive, and it’s time for me to leave again. Perhaps like so many children of immigrants, I struggle with the concept of home. I call New York my home. I love the skyscrapers and window-shops, the fast-paced energy. It’s difficult in the beginning for me to settle into the quieter lifestyle of Greece, and yet soon it feels as if I’ve been there all along. Indeed, I’ve known my family’s house in Greece many years longer than the apartment I now live in in New York. More than that, it’s family that makes a home. It’s heartbreaking every time I have to leave.

I created Hellas: A 2016 Calendar to capture the natural beauty of Lagouvardos and Filiatra. The photographs show the blue, blue waters my father grew up swimming in; wildflowers that signify Greek resilience; our blue-and-white flag flying victoriously; and mountains rising toward heaven.

Experience the beauty of Greece every day of the year with Hellas, a 2016 calendar. The natural landscape of the Mediterranean comes to life in rich, colorful photography of Greek beaches, wildflowers, and lush palm trees. As you record your daily appointments in the calendar, the stresses of life will recede like the tide of the ocean in these stunning photographs.

Purchase your own copy of Hellas here.

Consulate General of Greece in New York Proves That Current Greek Art Matters

26 Oct
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The new art exhibion Colors of Greece at the Consulate General of Greece in New York is a phenomenal display of artistic diversity. I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of subject matter and aesthetic style of Greece’s contemporary artists.
 
Contemporary Greek art—be it visual art, as it was in this case, or the literary arts—matters to me a lot. Now, more than ever.
 
As a Greek, I am proud of my country’s rich Classical history. Our ancient art and architecture is revered the world over, and for good reason. To this day, I still stand in awe every time I look up at the Parthenon. How could anyone not? And yet, as well-meaning individuals speak to me about Olympia and Homer and all the beautiful work of Greece’s centuries’ old history, a part of me feels frustrated that only the Greece of the past is recognized. It is as if the Greece of today is nonexistent in their eyes. I think most Americans would be hard-pressed to name any Greek artists living today.
 
This saddens me because Greeks and Greek Americans have done much to enliven the postmodern art world. As a scholar of the Beat Generation, I have often turned to the art of the 1940s and ’50s. Specifically, I have researched the abstract expressionists who hung out at the Cedar Tavern and mingled with the Beats. Several of the most famous abstract-expressionist artists were Greek American: Wiliam Baziotes, Theodore Stamos, and Peter Voukos. Another famous artist of that time period was neon-sculpturist Stephen Antonakos. Today, there are artists like Maria Fragoudakis, who continues the collage and pop-art work of that era. These artists have done exceptional work that does not hinge on their being Greek.
Colors of Greece, likewise, demonstrates the vast scope of Greek art in 38 works. The artists cast their eye far and wide, landing on people swimming in blue, blue bodies of water; dramatic flora; city streets; the human face. Their style is photorealistic, figurative and full of emotion, abstractions. In a small exhibit hall it may perhaps seem jarring to view dissimilar works, and yet that is what makes this exhibit so special. It only captures a small sliver of the variety of work Greek artists today are doing. 
 
At a time when contemporary Greece is looked at through a negative political and economic lense, drawing attention to contemporary Greek artists’ work is a political statement. The Consuate General of Greece in New York shows that there is more to Greece than what you see on the evening news and read in history textbooks. There is a Greece that is vibrant, full of life, energetic, and colorful. There is a Greece that sees beauty among the ruins. It is the artists who perhaps will raise Greece up, who will innovate, who will create a new Greek generation.
 
Colors of Greece runs until October 30, 2015. Free of charge, the exhibit is open to the public from 9:00am to 2:30pm at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, located at 69 East 79th Street.
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Also, I’m pleased to announce Hellas, a 2016 wall calendar that I created using photographs I took while in Greece this past summer. You can purchase it here.

The Personal “I” in Literature: Narcissus & Literature at the Onassis Festival

12 Oct

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Is writing inherently narcissistic? Even when writing in the third person, can the writer ever fully disappear from the page? Is the personal “I” more trustworthy in journalism because it acknowledges the reporter’s presence? Is the personal “I” in literary fiction more prone to becoming an unreliable narrator than a third-person narrator?

Lorin Stein, editor in chief of The Paris Review, sat down with Donald Antrim, Elif Batuman, and Jessica Moss to tackle the question of how writers interact with the mirror of the page in the panel Narcissism & Literature at the Onassis Festival‘s Narcissism Now: The Myth Reimagined on October 10, 2015.

Jessica Moss, professor of philosophy at NYU, opened the dialogue up by discussing Plato’s RepublicShe discussed Plato’s thoughts on writing in the first person versus the third person, literary concepts that didn’t quite yet have terms at the time. She revealed that Plato believed that a first-person narrator should be “a good, noble person.”

The author of The PossessedElif Batuman is also well-known for her journalism for n+1 and The New YorkerShe related that she likes putting herself into her journalism pieces because she feels she will be perceived as more trustworthy. Her editor, at times, disagrees, telling her to remove herself from the story. Batuman transitioned the conversation from the Greek Plato to the Russian Fyodor Dostoyevsky. She told how Dostoyevsky — or as Jack Kerouac would call him, Dusty — originally wrote Crime and Punishment in first-person diary form before switching to the third-person narrator of the published version. In discussing this, the panelists agreed that the third-person showed the story through more action.

Donald Antrim, who also frequently writers for The New Yorker, is the author of the memoir The Afterlife, which deals with his relationship with his mother, Louanne Antrim, and resulted in him writing in the third person to tell her life story. Antrim explained that one of the pitfalls of the first-person narrator is that he or she is constantly in the reader’s ear, justifying his viewpoint. Antrim said, “We’re not interested in a narrator who’s telling us all the time what to think.” Antrim brought the conversation from the Greek Plato and the Russian Dostoyevsky to the English Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, an interesting exploration of narration, which starts out as a letter from a sea captain, transitions into Victor Frankenstein telling his story, and then transitions into the story of the monster.

Antrim said, “The third person doesn’t require having things figured out”; he explained that, in contrast, a first-person narrator either is telling the reader exactly how he or she feels in that moment or is reflecting on that moment. Stein said the first-person stories that interest him are the ones where there is dramatic irony because the narrator doesn’t know something. He suggested French novels use more immediate first person than American novels do. That reminded me of how Darcey Steinke once said French authors think American writers write “close to the house,” an expression, if I remember correctly, that suggested American authors over-explain themselves. As a memoirist, this is something I’ve spent significant time thinking about and working out in my writing. I once had someone in a workshop come up with what they thought was a revelation about why I acted and thought the way I did and she asked me if I realized that thing about myself, and I, frankly, was surprised that she’d asked me that because I had purposely written to reveal that very same thing. I had thought my subtlety was a sign of good writing, but their question made me wonder if people would think I’m not self-aware if I don’t spell things out for them. Unfortunately there wasn’t a Q&A for the panel because I would’ve been quite curious to hear the panelists thoughts on immediacy and self-awareness in memoir writing. I was surprised there wasn’t more talk about memoir, personal essay, semi-autobiographical writing, and the insertion of the personal “I” in journalism in a panel on narcissism. The discussion of narration in literature, however, was riveting.

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The Wall Street Journal Excludes Greek American Novels in Its List about the Immigrant Experience

7 Oct
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In a list of “10 Notable Novels about the Immigrant Experience,” there are bound to be many great and notable novels who don’t make the cut. This isn’t about just literature, though. This isn’t just about craft or sales numbers.
It’s nice to see a novel about a Swedish-American family on the list, as we Swedes are sometimes overlooked. However, I was disappointed not to see any novels about the Greek-American immigrant experience on the list.
That being the case, I would like to offer up Jeffrey Eugenides’ Pulitzer Prize-winning Middlesex, which in portraying three generations of Greeks weaves a story of immigration and the American Dream.
What would you add to the list?
PS::: Remember that time Jeffrey Eugenides’ vest was Tweeting? And a great quote from the author.

Jalapeno-Infused Lemonade

28 Jul
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In the early 2000s, my sister and brother liked a stand-up comedian by the name of Russell Peters, who used to do a routine on children of mixed heritage. Growing up with a Greek father and a mother of Swedish ancestry, we’d often joked if we were Greekish or Sweek. One of Russell Peters’ jokes was what do you call a baby of Dutch and Filipino heritage? A jalapeno!
That joke rang in my head as I mixed up jalapeno-infused lemonade. Zesty and tart, it’s a trip for your taste buds. Here’s how to make it:
Slice a jalapeno into rings (the seeds are extra spicy so keep or toss the seeds according to your tolerance)
Drop the jalapeno rings (and seeds?!) into your favorite lemonade (I used Newman’s but you can squeeze your own if you’re not as lazy as me)
You can drink it immediately, but it’s even better if you muddle the jalapenos and let the flavors infuse the lemonade overnight.
Really want to go wild? Tequila does the trick. It cuts the tartness of the lemon and pairs well with the spiciness of the jalapeno.

Kalo Mina! Happy First Day of May!

1 May

KaloMina

Kalo Mina! Happy first day of May!! May this month be full of reading in the park, adventuring in foreign lands, and shedding layers, both literally and metaphorically.