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Lia Kastanidi’s Fanouropita

By Maria A. Pardalis

“In Greece you trust the chef to give you the best,” says chef Maria Loi. The self taught Hellenic food guru, who is known as the Martha Stewart of Greece, can be seen on PBS where she hosts the cooking show, “It’s All Greek.” The show enables Maria to share her recipes and love for Greek food with her American fans, but she soon realized that something was missing. Maria needed to be able to give her “best” and share her real Greek home-style cooking face to face. Opening up her very own authentic Greek food mecca was the way to do this and so Loi Restaurant was born.

What distinguishes Loi from many other Greek restaurants in Manhattan is that Maria herself is in the kitchen 7 days a week. She happily bustles around the white trimmed rooms adorned with images of Nafpaktos ensuring that her customers are not only satisfied with their meals, but feel as if they are dining at home. Hospitality is especially important to Maria who says, “My goal is for my diners to leave Loi relaxed and as if they had just visited Greece and indulged in its finest delicacies.”

Loi’s menumay slightly read as your typical Greek taverna fare, but the food certainly does not taste that way. Maria’s “traditional” moussaka is by far the best version in town. Sauteedminced meat and thinly sliced eggplantare perfectly stacked below layers of elegantmousse-like cream, topped with light béchamel - this moussakais simply plate-smashing bliss.

It’s important to pace yourself during dinner in order to save room for dessert. Loi’s robust glyka taste as if they have just arrived from Greece’s finest patisserie. After salivating over the rich menu composed of honey infused ekmekkataifidelicately laced with toasted nuts and creamy cheesecake adorned with freshly made cherry preserves, I knew I had to ask for a recipe. After tasting several soft wedges of heavenly walnut cake soaked in cinnamon syrup, I sneaked into Loi’s kitchen and convinced Maria to share her prized recipe for this luscious dessert.

  • 10 eggs
  • 16 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 16 Tablespoons walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 16 Tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 shot glass Greek brandy
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ Teaspoon grated lemon rind

For the syrup:

  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Greek honey
  • 1 orange rind
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup finely grated walnuts (for the garnish)
  • Pure Greek olive oil for brushing the baking pan


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and beat until stiff.
  2. Place the egg yolks and sugar into a mixing bowl and with the help of a mixer, beatuntil white. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  3. Now add a tablespoon of the bread crumbs, a tablespoon of the meringue and one tablespoon of the walnuts.
  4. Gently stir with a rubber spatula from bottom to top, and continue adding the remaining ingredients.
  5. Continue stirring and gradually add the cinnamon, the grated lemon rind, the vanilla and the brandy, until well combined.
  6. Brush a baking pan with olive oil, pour our mixture and evenly spread it. Place the karidopita into a preheated oven for about 40 to 45 minutes.
  7. While the karidopita is baking, prepare the syrup. Mix all the syrup ingredients, except the honey in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil.
  8. Continue to simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the honey, and stir, until honey melts. Leave it aside to cool.
  9. When the walnut cake is done,take the baking pan out of the oven and pour the cooled syrup over it.Allow the walnut cake to absorb the syrup and then sprinkle with finely grated walnuts.

Slice into triangular shaped pieces and enjoy.
Kali Orexi!

For more information on Loi restaurant: Loi, 208 West 70th Street, (212) 875-8600.


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