I’m not alone in this post today. I have a really good friend to introduce you to, Krystina, the chef behind Kouzounas kitchen.
Hello from sunny California. Thank you for having me on Eat Yourself Greek, Eugenia. I am very excited to be here, and hope your readers enjoy this fun interview. Before we start, can I say one thing?
I have been fasting for over a month now for Greek Easter, and I came across a fabulous mouth-watering recipe Eugenia!! Your amazing MEATBALLS recipe!! If you guys haven’t tried this recipe, you must. One of my favorite Greek mezes of all time.
I absolutely love your way of fasting – I do follow exactly the same regime – no reservations, all in! Jokes aside though, tell me what inspired you to start a food blog?
My inspiration for Kouzounas Kitchen, all started back in 2012. Many friends of mine asked me to start a food blog, so they could follow and learn how to make some of my traditional Greek recipes. I decided that was a great idea, and created Kouzounas Kitchen.
The name Kouzounas originated from my sweet Yiayia, Stavroula Kouzouna Kalapothakou from Mani, Greece who was a fantastic home chef. I learned many of her traditional Greek recipes, and now I can share these recipes with you. Don’t get confused with the Greek word “kouzina” which means kitchen.
I know you are a very busy girl, working, keeping up with the blog and you have also published a book, Back to my roots. Tell me more about its journey.
Yes, for some reason April has been one of the busiest months for me yet! From collaborating with many Greek food bloggers like yourself Eugenia, to managing my online organic spice/ tea store, and promoting my new cookbook, it’s been keeping me on my feet.
I finally fulfilled a long awaited dream of mine. I released my first self-published cookbook called Back To My Roots.
Back To My Roots takes us back to the days of robust village life as we explore traditional Greek recipes with my very own twists.
Inspired by my grandparents’ village in Mani, Greece, and with the help of popular Greek food bloggers, this book is full of delicious Greek food recipes—such as Spanakopita (Greek Spinach Pie), Karidopita (Greek Walnut Cake), and Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)—plus Greek beverages, spices and teas.
Back To My Roots is not only packed full with mouth-watering recipes, but I also share my personal story, kitchen tips and tricks, bits and pieces of the history of olive oil and its benefits, and much, much more!
Many amazing food bloggers helped me on this project and just to name a few.
Athina Pantazatou, Gina Zarcadoolas, Panayiotis Galanis, Eleni Anagnostopoulou, and Christine Tsalavoutas. With all the support and love I received with BTMR, it was possible to make this book a success.
Back To My Roots is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. We are working on the e-book to be up and running by this week. Very excited to have both versions of the book available, and that will give readers a chance to have an option to purchase a print or e-book.
American and Greek cooking, often the two cuisines seem like they are worlds apart. How do you manage to combine the two?
Ha, good question! I would like to say 90 % of my cooking is based on Greek cuisine. The other 10 % is a mixture of New Age American cuisine, which is really a mixture of French, Latin, & Mediterranean cuisines. I would really like to call that fusion cuisine. Although the other day I came up with an interesting recipe. I took a traditional Mexican dish, and put a touch of Greek on it, and it became Grexican style chicken mole tostada. Don’t ask me why, but sometimes I get these crazy ideas in the kitchen, and I just run with it.
Do you think it is easy for the everyday person to adopt Greek cooking and recipes and integrate them in their everyday life? What are your everyday favourites?
Yes I do believe that any person can adopt to Greek cooking, as Greek cuisine offers a wide range of recipes varying from easy to challenging. I believe if you have the passion to cook, then you can most certainly learn.
My everyday favourite recipes….. This is hard Eugenia, you got me.
I must say anything “pita” is my favorite. From savory to sweet Greek pies, I am in love. (Spanakopita, tiropita, milopita, and more.) A simple recipe that I believe many people enjoy is a Greek salata. Currently I am enjoying Vegetarian Greek recipes for lent, and I have come up with a nice selection of recipes on my food blog for anyone who is fasting.
On Greek products now, tell me the one you absolutely love and the one you absolutely hate cooking with.
I would say its definitely Greek olive oil. I am actually working on a new project now that is all about Greek olive oil. From the history, to the benefits of olive oil, I am trying to show the amazing properties olive oil offers.
One ingredient that I hate: I do not like bamies. (Okra) It has always been my least favorite vegetable, and I can only eat it if my father makes it in a tomato base stew.
Let’s not forget you are a trained chef as well, what’s the one kitchen tool you couldn’t live without?
I have many favourite tools, and to state the obvious is my Santoku knife. If I could say another favourite is my microplane. (I like to add orange and lemon zest to many of my recipes, so it’s a must to have my microplane with me at all times.)
Outside of your work and blog life, what else do you enjoy doing?
I love travelling, music, art, working out, and going to the beach. The appreciation of music started at a very young age as my grandmother is a retired music teacher. I took 4 years of acapella in high school and really enjoyed that. I later had a new found love of playing acoustic guitar for fun. (Can I play guitar now, no way.) 😛
I love to travel to different parts of the world. I was able to travel at a young age back and forth to Greece, and various parts of the world. I am actually itching to go back to Greece soon. I miss relaxing on the beach, and enjoying Greek delicacies.
When I am cooking, I have to listen to Greek music. If my Greek music isn’t on, then something is wrong in the kitchen.
If you were to come and live in Greece, which place would you choose?
One of my dreams was to live in Greece, and I made that happen. In 2009 I made the move to Greece, going for my externship from Le Cordon Bleu.
I was lucky enough to do my externship on the island of Skiathos, Greece where I was a sous chef at a Spanish restaurant. I learned quite a lot from my travels in Greece, and really appreciate everything I took in. Travelling abroad really made me become the person I am today. I have a love for travelling, and that all started when I went to Greece.
I would say if I could go back and live in Greece the place that stole my heart is Mani. My family still resides in Mani, and I just love everything that Mani has to offer. (Sea, fresh produce, bakeries, tavernas, and the people.) Losing all of my dad’s immediate family to cancer, was very hard on all of us. The only true connection I have to the lost loved ones, is going back to Mani and visiting cousins, and re living the fond memories.
Passionate chefs run in my family. My yiayia’s cousin, Giorgos, owns a taverna in Kotrona, Mani. We were lucky enough to dine at his taverna in 2004, where he served us a traditional Greek dish called Kokinisto.
Those who haven’t visited Greece, should go. From beautiful landscapes, molecular gastronomy, outstanding beaches, amazing art and history. What is not to love about Greece?!
I want your favourite Greek dish – recipe and all – fire away!
This recipe is perfect for Greek Easter, which is coming up around the corner.
How about a twist on our traditional tsoureki Easter bread. After experimenting with a few recipes, I finally came up with the ONE that will have your taste buds dancing away.
Flavourful Tsoureki Muffins (12 Servings)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt (Pink Himalayan Salt)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp mastiha
- 2 tsp orange zest
- 1/2 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp mahlepi
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp vanilla flavoring
- 1 cup almond milk or regular milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 cup nutella
2 tablespoons almond milk
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees, and grease a muffin pan.
- In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients. (Flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, mastiha, cardamom, and orange zest.)
- In a medium pot, add the milk, butter, and mahlepi. Whisk to combine over medium heat.
- Remove from heat, and let cool.
- Add the egg, vanilla, and orange juice to the milk mixture and combine. (I use my hands to mix the dough together.)
- Fill the muffin pan. You should be able to get 12 muffins out of this recipe, if not more.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on wired rack before you ice the muffins.
- In a medium bowl, place the nutella and heat for 20 seconds.
- Whisk in the almond milk, and powdered sugar.
- Drizzle the nutella icing over the top of the tsoureki muffins.
Thank you very much Eugenia for having me today! I really enjoyed this interview, and hope your readers enjoy too.
Thank you Krystina, for sharing your story and the lovely tsoureki recipe! Best of luck with your wondeful cookbook, I hope it grows very deep roots!
Krystina is an extremely passionate chef, graduating from Le Cordon Bleu as a pastry chef, she started noticing a growing desire for culinary affairs. Growing up in a Greek household in the USA, she was introduced to culinary mysteries and made her very own spanakopita at the age of seven. She is the chef behind the blog kouzounas kitchen and author of cookbook Back to My roots.
From California & Athens with love,
Krystina & Eugenia