My second favorite Greek island would have to be Mykonos. This part of our trip was essentially fairytale Greece: sunwashed beaches, gorgeous white houses, unfailingly blue sky. Not to mention the Greeks’ fairly relaxed concept of time…meaning it’s pretty impossible not to feel mellow and lazy after staring at the ocean with lemonade in hand for a couple of hours.
The approach to Mykonos town. There’s no mountain to climb up like at Santorini: you just sail right in and the town is there laid out like white toy blocks on lapis.
Wandering through the cool blue and white labyrinth of Mykonos town. The streets were supposedly built winding and meandering to confuse invading pirates; in any case, it definitely makes exploring the town an interesting adventure. You’ll find yourself unexpectedly going down the same alleys again and again, although we did eventually make our way out.
One of my favorite artists, Thomas McKnight, loved Greece and made it the subject of many of his prints. I was astonished to find how accurately he had captured the whitewashed houses, cobblestone streets, and brightly painted doors – it was like I had stepped inside his art.
I love how you can catch unexpected glimpses of the sea; in Mykonos, you’re never far from the water.
Little Venice, a conglomeration of chic shops, restaurants, and bars perched on the edge of the sea, Venice-style. Obviously a tourist magnet, but early in the morning it isn’t so bad – in fact, it’s breathtakingly lovely. Now I understand why people buy overpriced coffees just so they can sit at a cafe and gaze out over the sea.
Closer view of one of many waterfront cafes.
The famous windmills at little Venice. They were built by the Venetians and originally used to mill grain, but they are no longer operational and now function mostly as a photography targets.
We had some excellent moussaka for lunch.
View over the rooftops of town, with little Venice to the left. You can see its a lot more spread out than Santorini but just as brilliantly white.
Baklava we had a little bar by the water – everything does taste better drenched in sunshine and sea breezes.
We also discovered a wonderful little store in town that sold all sorts of local honey.
The cute little sign for the honey store.
The interior of the store was just as charming; see the ceiling? And wall to wall honey jars. And a cute Greek guy asking if you’d like to sample some honey. Seriously, if you see this store – go in.
Headed back to the harbor and the perfect turquoise waters.
At the honey store I couldn’t resist picking some thyme honey, one of the most celebrated varieties from Greece. It has a beautifully clean, crisp flavor; sharper than most honeys here. I already showed off the baklava I made with some of this yummy Greek honey. Here’s another classic Greek sweet that uses honey: melomakarona, or Greek honey macaroons.
These melomakarona (Greek for, literally, “honey macaroon”), are nothing like French macarons, or the coconut macaroons of the US. They are a cookie all their own, made of flour and sugar, brandy and oil, mixed with citrus, cinnamon and cloves. The resulting sandy-textured cookies are then dipped in a honey syrup (The Greeks love drenching their pastries in honey) and rolled in crushed walnuts and sesame seeds. My hubby, who isn’t a fan of super sweet desserts (I know, awful, right?), really liked these – they are hearty, nutty, sweet and spicy at once.
The syrup is made from water, honey, cinnamon, and cloves. The macaroons are dipped briefly in the syrup so the outer layers soak up the flavor while the insides stay crunchy. The macaroons are good on their own, but dipped in syrup they are outstandingly addictive.
These cookies are traditionally a Christmas or New Year’s sweet – not surprising, given all the citrus and spices – but they’re delicious even out of season. It’s a wonderful, unusual addition to your cookie repertoire, and a great use of your favorite honey.
Greek Honey Macaroons
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 cups (15 oz) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon brandy or cognac
- 1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest
- 3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/3 cup sesame seeds. toasted
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
For the macaroons:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Dissolve the baking soda in the lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
- Place the baking soda mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the olive oil, water, brandy, lemon zest, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes until combined.
- With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until dough is mostly combined. It should resemble coarse meal, not a solid ball of dough. If you squeeze a handful together, it should stick together.
- Roll tablespoons of dough into cylinders 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Place on prepared sheets about 2 inches apart.
- Bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until firm and golden brown. Cool on wire racks.
For the topping:
- While the cookies are cooling, combing all the topping ingredients in a small bowl.
For the syrup:
- Combine all the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and skim any foam off the top.
- Line several cookie sheets with foil or parchment paper. Place 6-8 cookies at a time in the syrup for about 30 seconds (use caution as syrup will be hot). Use a slotted spoon to remove the cookies, shake off excess syrup, and place on the prepared sheets.
- Sprinkle cookies immediately with the topping. Let cool for about an hour before serving. Store covered for up to a week.