I happen have plenty of experience with rolling dolmathes. As a child, I would take leaves from my father’s fig tree, make a simple mud-mixture of dirt and water and roll dolmathes in my back yard play kitchen. This grown-up version of dolmathes tastes much better than my mud dolmathes… trust me. :)
In a previous post, I mentioned that I always have stocked in my refrigerator and cupboard the necessary ingredients for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, including the irreplaceable Ion Chocolate. In addition, I always have baklava in my freezer. Yup- freezer. First of all, frozen baklava is Delicious with a capital D. Second, it is actually an amazingly delicious ingredient.
Recently, I asked for my husband’s input regarding a “Greek-ified” Father’s Day recipe to write about. Father’s Day seems to be about BBQ and all the fixings. I knew I didn’t want to tamper with the BBQ tradition (mainly because backyard BBQ isn’t an option right now under my current living conditions!) but I was stumped as to what recipe I could contribute to the occasion.
Pastitsio (pahs-TEET-see-o) is a well-known Greek meal. Some refer to it as “the Greek lasagna” and just like lasagna, a large pan of this delicious pasta based favorite goes a long way. But this dish can be tricky; creating a nice thick layer of béchamel sauce on the top of layers of noodles and spiced seasoned meat is an art and when it doesn’t go your way, it can be a disappointing disaster. Trust me, I’ve prepared many of them (disappointing disasters, that is.). Sometimes I feel like I am praying and wishing for the béchamel to levitate atop the layers… but that never seems to work for me.
Off a highway in Antirrio, Greece, there is a small rest stop that boasts they have the best and largest selection of “pita” or “pie” (and I’m not referring to a New York pie, a.k.a. pizza, or a dessert pie such as apple – I’m talking savory pies made with handmade filo dough!). I’ve frequented this particular rest stop, and can confirm their boast is justified. On any given day they serve up about 20 different pitas – cheese, spinach, leek, sausage, egg, grilled peppers… you get the picture.
The basic and official butter cookie of Greece is called “Koulourakia” (prounced Koo-loo-RA-keya). There are many different variations to the basic butter cookie. This particular recipe is a family one dating back to the 1950’s. My Yiayia Salidas ran a catering business in Jamaica Plain Massachusetts and this is the recipe she used for her clients. This secret recipe also became her in-law’s (my maternal grandmother’s) go-to recipe, my mom’s and now mine.
I’ve been privileged to eat some of the most delicious stuffed tomatoes and peppers during my travels through Greece. One of my most memorable meals was Yemista (YEM-e-staa), at a friend’s grandmother’s house in the village of Itea where at the age of 18, my closest friends and I enjoyed spending a summer. Yiayia Amelia made enough to feed a Spartan army although there were only five of us at the lunch table. How did we end up with just 3 stuffed peppers and 1 stuffed tomato left at the end of our lunch? We ate more than our share, that’s how. It’s hard to pass up on extreme deliciousness.
I have to admit, as a child I was not a fan of Baklava. Although my mother makes the best, I preferred other Greek sweets over this one. As I grew older, however, I began to acquire a taste for this buttery, syrupy, sophisticated treat in all forms and variations- walnuts, almonds, even cashews. It especially tastes great frozen, which incidentally inspired my Cinnamon Honey Baklava Ice Cream (coming soon!)- but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.