Photo of Anna Theoktisto
Photo of Anna Theoktisto

Anna Theoktisto

Anna Theoktisto is a recipe tester and developer. Anna has been working in Dotdash Meredith test kitchens since 2017, and her recipes and writing have appeared in over 10 nationally distributed print publications, as well as on various digital platforms. When not in the kitchen, Anna enjoys hiking with her son, husband, and 2 dogs, and fostering puppies for a local animal rescue group.

Expertise: Culinary Arts, Baking and Pastry, Animal Rescue

Experience: Anna Theoktisto earned her BS in agricultural education and communication from the University of Florida and a degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She is the former food editor for Taste of the South and Southern Cast Iron Magazines. Anna's recipes have been showcased on the covers of magazines such as Food & Wine, Real Simple, and Southern Living. She is a member of Les Dames d'Escoffier Birmingham chapter.
For these shortcakes, macerated fresh berries and homemade whipped cream—flavored with vanilla and lemon zest—are served atop a buttery, tender split cornmeal biscuit for a summery dessert. Stacking and patting down the dough as opposed to kneading it helps you avoid overworking the dough, and also encourages even lamination. The addition of cornmeal in the dough adds great texture and flavor to the biscuits. You can make them earlier in the day and then warm them back up when you're ready to serve.
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This summery cobbler is spicy, sweet, and tart with a delicate lavender aroma. Fresh nectarines are the star of the filling — skin-on ones are ideal, but you can also make this dessert with thawed frozen peaches. As you make the biscuit dough, take care not to overwork it, which will make them tough and chewy. Gently folding the dough over onto itself will help create flaky, buttery layers. Serve the finished cobbler with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. Stash any leftovers in the refrigerator and enjoy reheated or at room temperature.
Baking up flaky and buttery in a few short minutes, frozen puff pastry is the secret to simple morning pastries. This sweet, easy breakfast pastry comes together without much planning (just thaw some puff pastry the night before). Be sure to leave the 1-inch border around the edges of the filling to prevent the sweet jam and tangy Meyer lemon–flecked cream cheese from escaping during baking. The tart dried blueberries aren't just a pretty topping; they help balance the sweetness of this nostalgic breakfast treat. While the cream cheese filling and assembly are essential, feel free to play with your choice of fruit preserve in place of the blueberry preserves, or try adding a few chocolate chips if the occasion calls for it. 
For this sheet pan dinner, baby potatoes, red onion, and spring onions get a head start in a hot oven, before they are joined by a side of salmon, slathered with mustard and drizzled with toasted garlic oil, which cooks alongside the vegetables for a seamless final presentation. Sommelier Erin Miller, of Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, California, who provided the inspiration for this dish, notes that it tastes even better when served with a great wine. She recommends a glass of Hirsch Vineyards Raschen Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, noting, "The bright acidity of the Hirsch Pinot Noir is a perfect foil for the fresh, fatty fish and flavors of garlic and lemon."
Fresh pea shoots, parsley, and dill make a verdant pesto balanced with salty ricotta salata cheese and nutty roasted sunflower seed kernels. The bright sauce clings beautifully to ruffled mafaldine pasta, but any textured pasta shape will work well. Sommelier Raquel Stevens of Leeward in Portland, Maine, provided the inspiration for this dish. She loves to pair it with Colle Trotta Q500 Passerina, a complex white wine from Abruzzo made from the Passerina grape. "The bright green pea shoots and salty sheep's milk cheese are balanced beautifully by the Colle Trotta Passerina's notes of ripe peach and wildflower honey," she says.
Dipping warm corn tortillas in freshly made red chile sauce infuses each rolled enchilada with the smoky-sweet flavor of New Mexico chiles. The hearty cumin scented beef-and-cheese filling stands up well to the bold sauce; for a quicker vegetarian version, fill the tortillas with 1 ounce of melty cheese, like queso Oaxaca or Monterey Jack. Sommelier Liz Martinez of the Daxton Hotel in Detroit, who provided the inspiration for this dish, suggests pairing red chile enchiladas with a Syrah, such as Cattleya The Initiation Syrah. "A super fruity red wine with darker flavors works as a cooling agent for the red spice," she says. "With its brooding fruit and floral aromatics, Syrah is a great match."
Peach-Blueberry Pie
Rating: Unrated
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The flavors in this pie scream summer, but don't let cold weather keep you from baking it; thawed frozen fruit works beautifully here. The tart lemon zest and juice in the filling balance the sweetness of the fruit, in contrast with the crunchy turbinado sugar on top of the geometric pieces of pie crust.
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Searing sweet Italian sausage in a dry skillet renders the fat, resulting in a deliciously crispy sausage. Tender bell peppers add a welcome vegetal sweetness to this one-pan dinner while they cook down in a blend of savory chicken broth and tangy vinegar perfect for sopping up with crusty bread. Sausage, peppers, and onions is a great dinner to pair with a red wine, says sommelier Theo Lieberman of Pasquale Jones in New York City, who provided the inspiration for this recipe. To go with the sausage, peppers, and onions, he says, "I've been digging Forlorn Hope's Queen of the Sierra red—I like it chilled. It's easy to drink and lends itself to all kinds of food."
This hearty Creole jambalaya is smoky, aromatic, and just a little bit spicy. Rendered fat from a combination of andouille sausage, bacon, and smoked sausage serves as the base, and the dish keeps building from there. Take the time to cook each element of the jambalaya to add browned, caramelized flavor. Make sure to save the shells when peeling and deveining the shrimp, as they'll be used for a homemade shrimp stock that goes in towards the end.
Peach-Blueberry Pie
Rating: Unrated
New!
The flavors in this pie scream summer, but don't let cold weather keep you from baking it; thawed frozen fruit works beautifully here. The tart lemon zest and juice in the filling balance the sweetness of the fruit, in contrast with the crunchy turbinado sugar on top of the geometric pieces of pie crust.
Searing sweet Italian sausage in a dry skillet renders the fat, resulting in a deliciously crispy sausage. Tender bell peppers add a welcome vegetal sweetness to this one-pan dinner while they cook down in a blend of savory chicken broth and tangy vinegar perfect for sopping up with crusty bread. Sausage, peppers, and onions is a great dinner to pair with a red wine, says sommelier Theo Lieberman of Pasquale Jones in New York City, who provided the inspiration for this recipe. To go with the sausage, peppers, and onions, he says, "I've been digging Forlorn Hope's Queen of the Sierra red—I like it chilled. It's easy to drink and lends itself to all kinds of food."
This hearty Creole jambalaya is smoky, aromatic, and just a little bit spicy. Rendered fat from a combination of andouille sausage, bacon, and smoked sausage serves as the base, and the dish keeps building from there. Take the time to cook each element of the jambalaya to add browned, caramelized flavor. Make sure to save the shells when peeling and deveining the shrimp, as they'll be used for a homemade shrimp stock that goes in towards the end.
Haroset
Rating: Unrated
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Haroset, a condiment made with fruits and nuts, is traditionally served with matzoh during the Passover Seder to represent the mortar enslaved Jews used to build the pyramids. Though the ingredients vary depending on the region from which it evolved, it can be made with dried fruit, nuts, and seeds, as well as fresh fruit like apples and pomegranate seeds, plus a little sweet wine and honey. This version is inspired by Ashkenazi traditions and made with fresh apples, walnuts, sweet wine, honey, and cinnamon. Leftovers would be delicious mixed into your morning yogurt.
Plum Pudding
Rating: Unrated
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This dessert is not pudding in the American sense of the word, but in the British sense—meaning dessert. The bright orange zest, warm spices, and dried fruit in this rich, moist, dense steamed cake bring all of the holiday feels to the table. The hard sauce that accompanies it is basically brandy butter. When you dollop it on top, it slowly melts into the warm cake, infusing the pudding with the richness of the butter, the sweetness of the sugar, and the warmth from the brandy. Serve this with a cup of tea or a glass of brandy or sherry.
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This ragù stands apart from most with the addition of fennel seeds, ground allspice, and habanero hot sauce. Like most great braises, it tastes even better after a day or two in the fridge, making it a great do-ahead dish for entertaining. Be sure to look for meaty short ribs; they can sometimes be skimpy, consisting of mostly bones. The ragù is topped with gremolata for a bright, fresh finish. Traditional gremolata is made with parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, but here the lemon is swapped out with orange zest, a nice match for the fennel and habanero in the ragù.
One of the best ways to ensure pork chops don't come out dry and leathery is to use the sous vide method of cooking. It guarantees the pork will come out juicy and tender. These pork chops are seasoned with crushed fennel and coriander seeds, and finished in a hot skillet with butter, sage, garlic, and shallot. Spooning the flavorful butter over the chop as it sears in the skillet infuses the meat with the flavored butter.
Gibson Martinis
Rating: Unrated
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The Gibson—a variation on a Martini made with a splash of pickled onion juice and garnished with a pickled pearl onion—doesn't get enough love, but we're here to change that. The key to a great Gibson is to make your own pickled onions; the flavor and texture of homemade just can't be beat, and you will also have extra to add to your next cheese board, salad, or sandwich. We might call for adding just one onion to each martini, but don't let that stop you from sneaking in a few more into your glass.
Luxardo-Style Cherries
Rating: Unrated
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Move over maraschino cherries, there's a serious new upgrade in town—and with this recipe, you can save money by making your own instead of buying the pricey ones from the store. Cook a batch when cherries are in season, or any time of year; frozen cherries work well here. Be sure to cook the cherries for only 2 minutes; it's just enough to infuse them yet keep them firm and whole instead of turning them to jam. These cherries are the perfect garnish for your next Manhattan, a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or a cake. Or keep a few jars on-hand for an elegant hostess gift.
Air Fryer Brownies
Rating: Unrated
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With the help of an air fryer, these gooey, fudgy brownies—baked in ramekins and reminiscent of a molten chocolate cake—are less than an hour away. Adding espresso powder to the batter helps bring out the chocolate flavor, as does the crunchy sea salt garnish at the end. Serve them on their own, or with your favorite ice cream. Better yet, top them with berries, whipped cream, chopped nuts or caramel sauce to make a brownie sundae.
Chicken Diane
Rating: Unrated
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This Chicken Diane recipe is all about building layers of flavor as you cook. Searing chicken and then browning mushrooms in a skillet creates delicious browned bits on the bottom of the pan. When the liquids are added, those browned bits release their flavor, resulting in a rich, silky, savory sauce. Fresh lemon juice and parsley are mixed in at the end for brightness. Serve the finished dish with egg noodles and a salad.
Made to share, this Pull-Apart Rosemary-Garlic Bread is perfect for bakers of all skill levels. Pockets of grated Parmesan cheese, fresh rosemary, garlic, and plenty of butter infuse each layer, flavoring this loaf from the inside out. Just barely sweet, the nearly effortless homemade dough comes together in mere minutes in a stand mixer.
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Italian Easter Bread
Rating: Unrated
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Sweet dough scented with lemon and nutmeg is twisted into individual wreaths in these classic Italian Easter breads decorated with dyed eggs. The eggs are uncooked when the breads are assembled, and while the bread bakes, the eggs magically become fully-cooked. Traditionally, this bread is served along with a charcuterie board. There are so many kinds of sprinkles available now, so have fun decorating these pretty, delicious breads.
These buttery, nutty, salty shortbread cookies have enough structure to hold together when you pick them up, but when you take a bite, they are meltingly tender. The salt compliments the tanginess of the chocolate, and brings out the nuttiness from the tahini. Marbling the dough creates a striking pattern. Enjoy the cookies with a cup of coffee or tea—they would also make a lovely gift, packaged up in a nice box.
Spicy Squash Seed Sprinkle
Rating: Unrated
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Made from Squash Seed Flour and a balanced blend of smoky paprika, complexly savory garam masala, salt, and pepper, a dash of this seedy sprinkle adds a smoky flavor and pleasant crunch to popcorn, polenta, chicken, and salads. It's a great way to use up pumpkin or squash seeds.
Squash Seed Flour
Rating: Unrated
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This homemade alternative flour is a great way to use up leftover squash and pumpkin seeds. Dehydrating leftover squash and pumpkin seeds in the oven leaves them just dry enough to blitz them into a multipurpose, protein-rich flour meal that highlights their nutty, sweet, and lightly vegetal flavor. Stir it into the Spicy Squash Seed Sprinkle, or add to baked quick breads, cookies, or biscuits.
Strands of mild, lightly savory baked spaghetti squash get the quick-pickle treatment in a punchy brine packed with thyme, rosemary, garlic, and chile. The squash keeps its pleasant bite, resulting in a slaw-like crunch perfect for a cheeseboard or a roast pork sandwich. For the longest strands, cut the squash into rings and pull them apart by gently picking at the strands rather than scraping.
Japanese korokke are the basis for these cheesy squash fritters, which can be made with freshly steamed kabocha squash or canned pumpkin puree. A drier squash, kabocha has a sweet flavor and cooks down into a custardy texture that's still dry enough to fry into these crispy two-bite appetizers. Serve them with a shortcut dipping sauce, a blend of fresh garlic, bright yuzu juice, and silky Kewpie mayo.
In Vietnam, kabocha squash is simmered with pork to make a soup called canh bi do thit heo. This riff on that classic dish swaps in mild butternut, which holds its shape well and absorbs the rich flavors of the broth and pork while cooking quickly. Filled with tender ground pork marinated in fish sauce and sugar, this aromatic, brothy soup comes together in under an hour for a light and satisfying meal.