You Are What You Eat: Introducing Greek Spoon Sweets
By Katy Wilkens
My love affair with Greek food started years ago on a trip to Greece with my husband. Salads brimming with tomatoes and cucumbers, lemons in everything, thick yogurt with dark Greek honey drizzled over the top or a spoonful of preserved fruit; all of these foods I brought home and made my own.
Spoon sweets are unique. Typically fruit, vegetable or herb is simmered slowly into a syrup that is condensed. Then one spoonful is served, usually on a crystal dish with a glass of dark Turkish coffee and a glass of cold water. I serve my spoon sweets drizzled over yogurt for breakfast, over ice cream or over cheese or baked chicken, or baked into cookies or cakes.
People tend to make spoon sweets out of produce they have lots of. When cherries are in season, they make cherry spoon sweets. There are spoon sweets made out of plum tomatoes, orange or tangerine rinds, quince and even lemon blossoms.
If you have an abundant ingredient, try making a spoon sweet. Whatever you choose, the technique for each is similar.
Cherry Spoon Sweets
3 pounds of fresh dark cherries
7 cups of granulated sugar
1 cup sour or dark cherry juice, (not concentrate)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
Pit cherries. If you like, put a blanched almond inside each cherry. Layer cherries with sugar and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Add cherry juice, lemon juice and extract. Bring to a boil. Use a spoon to skim off foam as it rises. Remove cherries after about 2-3 minutes. Keep cooking the juice until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon or until it drips onto a plate and stays in a circle. Don’t overcook; it will be too thick and hard. Remove from heat and add cherries back into the syrup. Serve over yogurt, ice-cream, cheesecake or hot or cold cereal like granola. For a savory treat, spoon over chicken the last 10 minutes it’s baking in the oven.
Calories: 31, Carbohydrates: 8 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 0 milligrams
Orange Spoon Sweets
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cup orange juice
1/4 cup white wine
Over high heat, bring oranges to a boil for 1 minute. Remove from water and cool. When cool, cut in half. Put cut side down on cutting board, and cut vertically into very thin slices.
In large pot, layer orange slices and sugar, add juice and wine and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 1 hour, or until thick. Keep cooking until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon or until it drips onto a plate and stays in a circle. Don’t overcook; it will be too thick and hard. Cool and serve or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Try hot water bath canning as you would for marmalade to keep all year.
Calories: 21, Carbohydrates: 5 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 4 milligrams
Tomato spoon sweets
3 pounds cherry or Roma tomatoes
3 cups sugar
1 cup water
2 tsp lemon juice
Put small tomatoes (pear, cherry or small Romas) in boiling water for 1 minute and then in cold water and peel skins with your hands. If you want, put a hazelnut inside each tomato. Layer with sugar in a large pot; let sit 2 hours. Add water and lemon juice and simmer until syrup thickens. If tomatoes get too mushy, remove and continue to cook the syrup until it thickens, and then add them back in. Keep cooking the juice until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon or until it drips onto a plate and stays in a circle. Don’t overcook; it will be too thick and hard.
Calories: 17, Carbohydrates: 4 grams, Protein: 0 grams, Sodium: 1 milligram
The recipes in this column are meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.
[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. A recipient of the Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award from the National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at www.nwkidney.org.]