Greek Food - And A '67 Mustang - The Frazzled Pan - Cooking for Real Blog at - 86903

The Frazzled Pan - Cooking for Real

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…!  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.

Avgolemono Sauce

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.
Apr. 3, 2009 2:34 pm
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have had a jar of grape leaves for almost 6 months and was intimidated by the recipes I read. You make it sound easy and fun, so I will make ahead and have with our Easter Dinner of Lamb. I will get back to you after Easter and let you know the outcome of my efforts and what those who ate them had to say. Just wanted to thank you for following through with your promise and what a great story as to your introduction to Greek Cooking. Happy Easter to you and all your family!
Apr. 3, 2009 2:50 pm
I have a 56 T-bird that also takes a lot of TLC (&cussing). Whenever I get tired of it, I come in & cook instead. Great recipes - my boss is Greek & I may try one out on hom.
Apr. 3, 2009 2:51 pm
Fabulous! I've never made dolmathes, but this recipe sounds wonderful. I love your blog. :)
Apr. 3, 2009 3:02 pm
Hi Mary! I was hoping that you'd see this posting. I usually make lots of dolmathes at once (6 pounds of lamb). I gather my kids around the kitchen table - and we roll! You can easily make these in advance and reheat for dinner, just steam them until hot. Make the sauce at the last minute, though. It will curdle if reheated. I'm looking forward to hearing how your Easter dinner turns out! Good luck!
Apr. 18, 2009 9:25 am
What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing that.
Apr. 18, 2009 9:25 am
What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing that.
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Chicago, Illinois, USA
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Member Since
Aug. 2008

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Cooking Interests
Baking, Slow Cooking, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Healthy, Quick & Easy

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About Me
I recently returned to work full time and -- life's gotten pretty hectic. I have 2 really busy (and really hungry) teenage girls, a very active husband and an old yellow lab who really misses having me around the house. I love to cook and feel that sitting down to a meal with the family is really important. Unfortunately, I don't have the time or, frankly, the energy, to put a lot of work into meals every night. I'm determined to figure out how to get a delicious and healthy family dinner on the table with a minimum of fuss. As I figure it out, I'll post on my blog.
My favorite things to cook
I went to culinary school, taught cooking classes and read cookbooks for entertainment. Do we eat a gourmet meal every night? No way. Weeknight meals are quick and easy and, usually, nutritious. Weekends are when I have fun with my food. My weekend favorites: anything Greek, anything Italian, breads, soups and braises. I like trying new foods and techniques and love to have dinner parties.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Dolmathes (Greek rolled grape leaves) for birthdays, gnocci for Christmas Eve, pitzelle cookies with my Italian pitzelle iron, jack-o-lantern cake for Halloween and avgolemono soup for whoever is in need of comfort.
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