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Growing Up Greek

I grew up with greek cooking. My mother was Greek (Thessaloniki). She would make pita or otherwise known as Spinokopia (whatever)......It was a staple at our house. When the other kids on our block were eating meatloaf or pot roast, we'd be eating meatballs and chicken soup with lemon in it.

My curent spouse is not a fan of my mothers cooking. The mere mention of baklava will send him into a tizzy and he will head for the nearest slice of apple pie or some other American food.

As my mother grows older I miss her dishes and wish I had enjoyed her Greek food more. There is nothing like having a lamb on a spit and a bunch of Greeks around to celebrate an occasion.

If you were also the child of a Greek parent I would like to hear your views and know if you can identify with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."

Heidi

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  1. I can relate to you here. Both of my parents were first-generation Greek-Americans, and I grew up accordingly. My grand parents were from Crete and Chios. I have been learning to cook a lot of the family dishes my mom used to make when I was younger, and have been pretty happy with my iterations of them, for the most part. My wife doesn't really like Greek food, but she will eat it, and has a few favorites. My kids will try anything, but they are, after all, kids. They always want pizza-lol! Oh well, so did I when I was younger.

    For the first time (sadly) I am fasting for lent (strict fast), so my uncle's roasted lamb on Easter is going to taste great! It's good to hear from someone with a similar background!

    Here is a nice site which shows a good amount of simple greek recipes, in case you haven't come across it: http://greekfood.about.com. I find the recipes here are pretty traditional (at least for me), and are easy to make.

    4 Replies
    1. re: madgreek

      Good to hear from you MADGREEK, I enjoy Greek food and all that comes with it, generous hospitality, warm hugs, kisses on both cheeks and of course, breaking plates.

      I guess its okay to have had meatballs instead of hamburgers growing up....Pizza ia always good too!!! Enjoy the lamb!!

      1. re: Heidi Ho

        I don't know if any of you have been back home, but the food is modernizing. Athens has 2 restaurants in the top 100 in the world, beating out the Guy Savoy in Paris. Crete (madgreek) has 2 restaurants in the top 10 in Greece. Things are quite different and exciting.

        On another note, I am quite happy to see some representation on the American version of Iron Chef.

        But going back to the traditional fare, I don't believe anyone can dispute the whole lamb on the spit. Nothing quite like it. But you forgot to mention the kokoretsi. I make that every year. It is fantastic, and my wife and mother-in-law who are Italian love it too. I am wondering if it is the food or the loss of youth that we are lamenting.

        1. re: peter2

          Dear Peter,

          No, I have not been to Greece lately and am sure it is very sophisticated there now...I am also lamenting on lost youth and the memories of growing up Greek......Nice of you to write!!!!!!

          Here is a recipe for some Greek cookies that I love:

          Kourambiethes is a wonderful powder sugar-covered Greek cookie.

          INGREDIENTS:
          2 cups unsalted butter
          3/4 cup powdered sugar
          1 egg yolk
          1 jigger of Brandy
          4-1/2 cups (apprx.) flour
          whole cloves (optional)
          powdered sugar
          PREPARATION:
          Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and Brandy. Gradually only add enough flour to make a soft dough. Chill. Shape dough into crescents or 1-1/2 inch balls. (If using cloves, place one in each cookie before baking.) Place on ungreased sheets.
          Sugar Cookies

          A Cookie for your Heart
          Bake for 12-15 minutes. They won't be brown. Cool for 4 to 5 minutes and then sift powdered sugar over them.
          Thanks to Lila for contributing her recipe. She says that "for Easter I put them in pastel cupcake papers. You can substitute orange juice for brandy. If there is no brandy around rye whiskey will do."

          1. re: Heidi Ho

            If you wish to post recipes or discuss cooking, please start a new thread on the Home Cooking board, which you can find here: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/31. This board is for general food discussion only. Thank you.

    2. I'm sure your husband has many redeeming features, but he is a silly, silly man. I'm not Greek, not even a little bit (Eastern European Jewish), but even I know Greek food is delicious.

      2 Replies
      1. re: marcia2

        Oh Marcia, not even one ancestor from Salonica? There are strong reasons even Askenazi Jews are rediscovering Mediterranean, Sephardic cuisine. It is largely Biblical, after all.

        I'm sure the husband must be lovely, but if he has a sweet tooth, how can he not love Baklava etc?

        As for pizza, we copied it from the Greeks - Napoli is Neapolis - a Greek settlement. Pita and pizza are closely related. The big change in pizza came with the importation of foods from the America, in particular tomatoes, but also peppers. But the basic recipe is thoroughly Greek, and common to all Mediterranean flatbreads.

        1. re: lagatta

          And the Greeks got pizza from the Phoenicians,. Food travels.
          Marco Polo

      2. I am an aussie, from Melbourne, which is the 2nd largest Greek city (population-wise) outseide Athens.

        Greek is a staple in the aussie diet.

        Now, I am luck enough to have a holiday home in a fabulous Greek enclave (27 families all from the same village in Samos), so we live "my Big Fat Greek Wedding" every weekend.

        These were the guys that built my out door wood-fired oven (My Big Fat Greek Oven, as it is known)..

        We're known as "The mad Skips with the oven" by the local Samos community

        Last weekend we were lucky enought to sample home made loukoumi (sp?) and "sweet soup"... made with barley and tahini and cinnamon and honey. We go visiting every Sunday morning... walk past all the Nick's and the Elena's houses, and never return home without some kataifi (sp?) or some kourambiethes.

        I have some marvelous recipes for fish and lamb from my neighbours, and the biggest complement I ever got from Elena was "you good girl. You ALMOST Greek!"!

        I am hoping for an invite to a Greek Easter luncheon. ;)

        1 Reply
        1. re: purple goddess

          Sounds like a marvellous existence there!!!!!!

        2. I grew up Greek. Also a child of first generation Greek-Americans. My mom's side is from Rhodes and my dad's side from Corinth.

          My husband had a grandfather from Kefalonia....but he didn't grow up Greek(he spent very little time with grandparents and the greek heritage wasn't part of his upbringing). He does however love Greek food.

          In our home greek influences mostly come out by way of grilled lamb, lots of fish(that rhoditi background you know), generous use of lemon, olive oil, oregano and cumin. Yogurt and feta are staples. Lots of citrus and olives always on hand. Oh and greens, lots and lots of greens.

          I'm not a big fan of many of the sweets myself...baklava particularly doesn't do a lot for me and when I do make it I prefer pistachio to walnut. I also like koulouria but only make them at Easter(getting ready to put some batches in the freezer this week in anticipation of the coming holiday). Melamacarona as well. Beyond that I pass on most sweets.

          I love pitas - particularly spanokopita. I love fassoulakia. I prefer yemista to dolmades when i'm cooking, only cuz I'm lazy and it's easier I guess. I do like dolmades, I just don't make them often.

          Easter has always been my favorite holiday...I'm sure it's due to my heritage. I admit I dont' fast like I used to...and probably should as the holiday hasn't been the same since I got out of the habit a few years ago.

          It's a bit early but do wish all the other Greeks a Kali Anastasi.

          1. why is it impossible to get taramaslata in American Greek restaurants? In England it's a staple appetizer.

            9 Replies
            1. re: smartie

              it can be found, what city are you in Smartie? my guess would be the quality of the roe.

              also to Heidi Ho, couldn't sauteed apple be an agreeable ingredient to baklava? flaky apple honey nuts, how can you go wrong?

              (I'm not Greek, but a big fan)

              what characterizes my Greek friends is that they RARELY eat Greek out. Home cooked ONLY in their books.

              1. re: hill food

                hill I am in South Fl. Never seen it here. Interestingly in the UK taramasalata can be bought at every supermarket ready made, they even all do their own brands it is so popular (and pretty good too).

                1. re: smartie

                  Try heading north to the Tarpon Springs area and you'll most likely find what you're looking for in either a greek deli or a greek restaurant. Big greek community there.

                  As mentioned by hill food, as a Greek I very rarely go out for Greek food but I have seen tarama in Greek restaurants when living in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago. Can't say I've seen it here in Phoenix but the Greek restaurants here for the most part aren't very good so a rare trip out for Greek food has become more like a Never trip out for Greek food.

                  I"ve also seen the Kronos brand at many Greek markets/delis/festivals over the years. Might want to look for that.

                  Alternatively it's very easy to make.

                  1. re: ziggylu

                    yeah I've only seen it (fresh) in delis here (DC)

              2. re: smartie

                If you're ever in St. Louis Missouri, try Michael's on Manchester. Go in, ask for Gus and he'll fix you up.

                1. re: Phaedrus

                  what cross street? Manchester can mean so many things...

                  1. re: hill food

                    A block west of McCausland on Manchester. Look for the green awnings on the north side of the street. You can park in the Big Lots.

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      thanks, tucking that away for the next trip home.

                      1. re: hill food

                        Glad to help. Try the lamb shanks too.