Greek Food - and a '67 Mustang
Apr. 3, 2009 7:47 am
Updated: Apr. 18, 2009 9:25 am
I would watch them as they walked into the kitchen classroom. They were excited, looking forward to some good Greek food. They’d look around for the teacher, and soon enough, they’d realize that it was me. They looked puzzled. They looked disappointed! I’m sure that they were expecting someone who looked, well, Greek. What they found was a strawberry blond with freckles and decidedly non-Greek features.
I’d always start my Greek cooking classes with the same story. No, I’m not Greek. I’m German, Irish, and Italian. I grew up making red sauce and gnocchi. I learned to cook Greek food, well…. because of a ’67 Mustang.
When I met my husband, he was a student, living with his parents. He drove - you guessed it - a ’67 Mustang. He loved that car, even though it wasn’t in the best shape. He spent most weekends underneath the chassis, trying to put together what was falling apart. I was a dutiful girlfriend in the beginning. I sat on a crate in the driveway and – just watched him. I was in love!
Well…. love, yes, but after a while I got bored. I soon realized that every Saturday, while my boyfriend was working on his car, his Greek mother was in the kitchen…..cooking! It didn’t take long for me to move from my crate in the driveway to a seat at the kitchen table. I was in heaven. I watched while she cooked - and boy did she cook! Dolmathes, avgolemono soup, spanakopita, lamb and lots more. She didn’t stick to just Greek cuisine either. Some days she was turning out blintzes, pies, or homestyle turkey-noodle salad. Other days brought soups, stuffed zucchini, or perfectly roasted beef. This wonderful woman took me under her wing, shared her recipes, and inspired me to cook. It’s now over 25 years later. I miss her, but think of her often, especially when I’m in my kitchen, cooking. (or when I see an old Mustang on the road…)
Here is her favorite dolmathes recipe. I used it in many of my Greek classes. It is based on a recipe from Columbus Foods, the Greek store in Des Plaines, IL.
Makes approximately 17
1 pound ground lamb
1 cup long grain white rice (uncooked)
2 tablespoons dried mint flakes
1 teaspoon salt
3 green onions,chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chicken broth
1 jar grape leaves, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
additional water for steamer if needed
Mix lamb, rice, mint, salt, green onions, parsley, olive oil, and 1/2 cup chicken broth in a large bowl. Place grape leaf, stem toward you, on a cutting board. Snip off stem end. Roll small amount into a chubby meatball. Place in center of grape leaf. Fold sides over and roll from bottom to top. Do not roll too tightly – the rice needs room to expand.
Stack dolmathes in stock pot fitted with a steamer basket. Place a heat proof salad plate upside down on top of dolmathes. Pour 1 cup chicken broth into pot. Steam dolmathes, covered on medium-low heat, until meat and rice are cooked through (approx. 1 hour), adding water to pot if it runs dry.
1 cup chicken broth
2 beaten eggs
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
salt (about ½ t depending on saltiness of chicken broth)
1 teaspoon butter
In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup chicken stock to simmer.
Whisk eggs and lemon juice together until combined and slightly frothy. Add cornstarch and whisk smooth.
Whisking constantly, add lemon/egg mixture to simmering broth in a thin stream. Continue to whisk until thickened and light yellow color – do not boil. Whisk in 1 t butter. Season to taste with salt. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
Serve sauce with dolmathes. I like to serve them with plain yogurt as well.