Greek food with help from the guys
Plaki, baked fish; loukaniko, sausage; souzoukakia, meatballs; pastitsio, a macaroni dish; moussaka, eggplant with a meat filling; spanakopita, spinach pie; or dolmades, stuffed grape leaves.
Whatever Greek food tempts your taste buds, it is available at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church during its Greek Festival that started Tuesday and continues through Saturday.
This is the longest running festival to date, and it will keep the well-seasoned volunteers and the newer cooks in the crowd busy throughout.
There is nightly entertainment with the Greek Dancers at 6 p.m. and the Greek Company Orchestra nightly at 8 p.m. The outdoor taverna is the place to enjoy the festivities in open-air evening comfort.
Paul Mastros, who has been behind the scenes in the kitchen for 13 years since his retirement, said much of his knowledge of food came from his mother and the same for many of the other men who provide many of the steps in processing the food that is cooked fresh.
“I would stick my nose in at times while still working, too, but today they put me at the counter cleaning carrots, taking strings from celery and cutting peppers. We don’t chop the onions in our kitchen but buy them in a bag all pre-chopped for cooking,” he said.
“The scraps from the vegetables – pieces too little to be used elsewhere – are put in the bottom of the roasters with the lamb that is to be roasted to give the juices a good flavor,” Mastros said, explaining that not much is wasted in the preparation of the wonderful meals.
Asked where he would rather be, in the kitchen or in the serving line during the festival meal hours, he said, “In the kitchen – that is where all my friends are. We all have a job that the old- timers taught us. We are now into the next generation of men who will soon take over. That is how the festival keeps going.”
“We have a great deal of pride in the product that we put out. About 85 percent of that served is fresh and handmade. That is where our pride comes in,” he smiled.
“There are two men who are in their 90s who still come to help – Pete Petrides and Lou Diniaco. Petrides, 96, has been in the food business for many years. He owned and operated the Wheel Restaurant at Sixth and Market streets for 25 years,” he said.
“Not only do city residents experience culture, the food serves as a binding activity for the community. It keeps us functioning as a unit past the religious aspect,” Mastros said.
Here are some recipes offered by the group, authentic Greek food that can be made at home after the festival is but a memory and from the Greek Cookbook that has been published with recipes from all the fine cooks over the years. Mastros said that the lamb meals go well.
5-6 pounds lamb
1/2 handful salt
1 handful pepper
1 handful garlic
1 handful oregano
5 onions, chopped
Cut lamb into medium-size pieces and boil for 10-15 minutes until tender. Dump out water and rinse off lamb. Trim fat off each piece. In large bowl, mix together salt, pepper, onion, oregano and garlic. Put lamb in a large baking pan and season. Braise the lamb in a 350 degree oven until brown. If needed, add chicken stock to keep lamb moist and from sticking to the pan. When lamb is brown, add the following:
1/2 of a large can of tomato sauce
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
Combination of chopped celery, carrots and potatoes
Chicken broth to cover
Cover lamb with tomato sauce and paste and cook for 35-45 minutes, until lamb is soft. In the meantime, boil diced vegetables. When lamb is done, dump vegetables in with sauce and cook for 10 minutes and turn off heat.
Enjoying great popularity as well are the Grecian Meatballs (Keftedes) that have a hint of mint.
2 slices white bread
1 pound ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup bread crumbs, seasoned
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/2 tablespoon mint
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
Trim and discard crust from the bread. Place bread in a mixing bowl and moisten with a small amount of water. Gently squeeze bread to drain excess water. Add meat, egg, onion, oregano, garlic, mint, salt, pepper and parsley. Mix well with the hands. Shape into tiny meat balls, about 1 inch thick.
For fried keftedes, coat with flour, heat olive oil and butter in a heavy skillet and fry over medium heat, turning one time. Drain on paper towels. For baked keftedes, place in a single file on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes 36 small meat balls.
Note: It does not mention it in the recipe, but a flavored tomato sauce could be added while baking or cooking over the top of the burner heat.
Baklava, a layered nut bar, is one of the most popular pastries sold at the festival, where Mastros said that the baked goods and gyros are the most popular sellers.
The bakers start in January making the pastries and keep them in tight-locked containers in the freezer until needed.
1 pound phyllo pastry sheets
1 1/2 cups melted butter
1 pound walnuts or almonds, chopped fine
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cloves
4 cups sugar
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lemon
Place one pastry sheet in well-buttered 9-by-13-inch baking pan and brush with butter. Place second pastry sheet on top of the first and butter again. Repeat until six layers of buttered pastry sheets have been built up. Mix nuts, bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Sprinkle top pastry sheet thick with walnut mixture and place two buttered pastry sheets over this. Repeat in the same manner until all ingredients have been used, ending up with six pastry sheets. Brush top with remaining butter and trim edges with sharp knife. Cut diagonal lines the length of the pan to make diamond-shaped pieces. Sprinkle with water. Bake in moderate oven for about 1 hour until golden. To prepare syrup, boil sugar, water ad lemon juice for 10 minutes. Pour hot syrup over cooked baklava. Allow to stand several hours before serving. Serves about 30.
These cookies practically melt in your mouth, and they make a lot. Freeze quantities in separate containers and enjoy some after the festival is over, and you are having a “koulourakia attack.”
Butter Twists (Koulourakia)
1 stick butter
1/2 pound shortening, the recipe states Crisco
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces milk
2 ounces orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 cups flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Cream butter and shortening with sugar in electric mixer. Beat in eggs. Add milk, orange juice and vanilla. Remove from mixer; add flour that has been mixed with baking powder and soda. Knead slightly until dough is smooth and workable but not sticky. Pinch off small pieces the size of a walnut. Roll between hands to a 4-inch length, bend into a horseshoe shape, cross over and twist the top portion of dough around twice. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Beat an egg and brush lightly over each cookie. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 7 dozen.
My daughter-in-law, Margaret McCoy, made this dip for Amber’s graduation party, and it was a hit. It is a combination of a layer of cream cheese, a layer of hummus and, a layer of chopped veggies and sprinkled with feta cheese.
Layered Greek Dip
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups prepared hummus
1 cup chopped peeled cucumber
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup sliced green onion
Pita chips or multi-grain tortilla chips
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, lemon juice, Italian seasoning and chopped garlic with electric mixer on medium until smooth and combined.
Spread evenly in a 9-inch deep pie pan. Evenly spread hummus on cream cheese layer. The next layer is the vegetables, then top with feta cheese and green onion. Cover and refrigerate for between 2 to 24 hours. Serve with chips or crackers.
This recipe is not from the tried-and-true Greek cooking book but is from the Dobra 2 Cookbook from the Weirton Senior “R” Club Chapter 58 and Federated Russian Orthodox Club.
It was submitted by Kay Rohal. With the wheat germ included, the cookies contain fiber.
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup oil
1 cup milk]
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 1/2 cups flour
1 jar sesame seeds
Mix the first seven ingredients with the hands like for pie crust. Take small pieces of dough and roll in hand and shape like a small cigar.
Put sesame seeds in small place. Roll and press cookie in one side of the cookie. Put on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes for soft cookies and 45 minutes for firm cookies.
(McCoy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)