Recently my wife’s aunt Barbara was featured on a new online cooking show in her hometown of Queens, New York: Cooking with Granny. On the 11-minute video, she shows us how to make an authentic Greek octopus stew, and even shows us how to shop for just the right octopus at her local seafood market. Barbara was born on the Greek island of Paros and immigrated to New York as a young girl. Her eventual husband, John Aliprantis, was also a native of Paros, and a great fan of octopus stew. Barbara learned this recipe from her mother-in-law.
Pasta flora is a Greek jam tart that can be made with a variety of fruit jams, though our family favorite is apricot. My wife’s grandmother, a Greek native, passed this recipe on to us. Continue reading
I first made baklava at home in Fort Worth, during my high school years, using a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cookbook, one of the best volumes in my mother’s shelf of cookbooks. This was probably the recipe that got me started in cooking, as I discovered that with a little time and effort, I could make something with my own hands that could impress and delight people.
Many years later, when I traveled to Florida to meet my future wife’s Greek-American family for the first time, I brought them a pan of my tried-and-true homemade baklava. Yiayia Katty, the 87-year-old matriarch of the clan, was impressed. “It’s very good,” she said in her old-country accent. “But… there’s just one more thing.” She reminded me never to put hot syrup on hot baklava right out of the oven, which makes it soggy. Instead, let the syrup cool before pouring it onto the hot baklava, or alternatively, pour hot syrup onto cool baklava. And ideally, let the syrup soak in for several hours before serving.
My wife Irene comes from a long line and a large community of Greek cooks, and everyone has their favorite recipe for spanakopita. Almost every time I make it, I seem to change one or more ingredients or proportions to suit the mood of the day. But the version we keep coming back to over and over again is this one, adapted from a recipe that contributor Katy Stacey provided for the cookbook of the ladies’ Philoptochos society of the Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Andover, Massachusetts. I added a third layer of fillo in the middle and substituted butter in place of oil to brush the fillo sheets. I also used real Greek mizithra cheese. Continue reading