Dolmades, grape leaves stuffed with a seasoned mixture of rice, meat and herbs; Grecian meatballs, made with mint used as a seasoning; lamb stew prepared with plenty of ground black pepper, oregano, tomato sauce and paste and vegetables; and koulourakia, buttery twisted cookies, are some of the specialties that can be found at the 26th-annual Grecian Food Festival to be held Tuesday through June 15.
Every seasoned cook and helper from the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church at 300 S. Fourth St., Steubenville, starts getting busy with preparations in February, as no one can prepare all the delicious foods in a few days.
Pana Mastros, wife of one of the festival coordinators, Paul Mastros, said the festival got its beginnings with tables set out downtown for Steubenville Day and had been located at different venues until they decided since the food was prepared at the church, that is where it should be held.
TASTEBUD TEMPTING — The 26th-annual Grecian Food Festival will be tempting tastebuds starting Tuesday and continuing through June 15. Preparations for the many kinds of Greek foods have been in the works for months. Making dolmades are Don Kronstein and Irene Petrides, who have been putting many hours in the kitchen since the very start of the festival.
-- Esther McCoy
"Now we have the intimacy of our little street that is closed off to traffic so people can sit in the open. We are thankful for the city administration for helping us in this way," she said.
The Rev. Nicholas Halkias had never seen a festival of such magnitude when he came to the church as pastor several years back. "I have never seen people work together more beautifully. By the grace of God it happens. It is the biggest event for the Jefferson County community and is well attended," he said.
Irene Petrides, who has been with the festival since its beginning, is queen of the dolmades. She has been making them since the festival's beginning.
She explained that the grape leaves are purchased in 20-pound buckets, washed to remove the salt, then the stems are removed and the leaves blanched in boiling water before adding the meat ingredients and rolling them up neatly.
At least 15 buckets of the grape leaves are used to make the more than 16,000 dolmades that fly off the warming tables like hot cakes. "Last year, we ran out on the last day of the festival," she said.
Don Kronstein has become an expert in making the stuffed lemon scented grape leaves and rolling them neatly..." just like you would a cabbage roll," he said.
At one time, ground lamb was used as the filling, but the committee uses ground beef in their Greek specialty. The men mix the ground beef with the rice, spices and other ingredients, with Irene supervising, of course.
There is plenty of socializing as volunteers from the church, their out-of-town families and friends put together many of the foods ready to be baked, cooked, deep fried, steamed or prepared in any other way to be served for the four-day event, extended by one day this year so patrons can enjoy the food prepared in the Greek fashion.
Here is the recipe for dolmades or dolmathes as printed in the 24th-annual souvenir album.
Dolmades or Dolmathes, Stuffed Grape Leaves
1 pound ground meat
3 onions, minced
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup rice, rinsed, Irene uses Uncle Bens
1/2 bunch parsley
2 tablespoons dill weed
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Small jar grape leaves
2 tablespoons mint, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown onions, parsley, meat, dill and salt and pepper. Add lemon juice, tomato sauce and rice; cook for about 15 minutes. Roll each leaf with a teaspoon of filling. First, layer a couple of loose leaves on the bottom of the pan before adding the dolmades. Be sure to place them close together so they will not move in the pot. When finished, put another loose layer of leaves on top and a plate to hold them in place. Pour 1 cup water, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil on top and cook on medium heat for about an hour or until done.
Grecian meatballs, keftedes, have a fresh lilt of chopped mint leaves in their ingredients. They can be fried, baked or cooked in a sauce. This recipe makes 36 small meatballs.
2 slices white bread
1 pound ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup bread crumbs, seasoned
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/2 tablespoon mint
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons butter for frying
Flour, for frying
Trim and discard crust from the bread. Place bread in a mixing bowl and moisten with a small amount of water. Gently squeeze bread to drain excess water. Add meat, egg, onion, oregano, garlic, mint, salt, pepper and parsley. Mix well with the hands. Shape into tiny balls about 1-inch thick. For fried keftedes, coat with flour, heat butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet and fry the meatballs over medium heat, turning one time. Drain on paper towels. For baked keftedes, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Angela Mastros sent along a recipe for a tasty pastry that is filled with nuts and covered in a spicy, lemon syrup.
It is a word I cannot pronounce - Apidakia - but called Stuffed Pears for those who cannot let the letters roll off their tongue.
Apidakia (Stuffed Pears)
1/2 pound margarine
3/4 cup orange juice
4 teaspoons baking powder
5 pounds flour, approximate
1 1/2 cups Crisco or any other shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
Large can nuts, chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Orange juice to moisten
4 cups sugar
3-4 lemon slices
4 cups water
5 whole cloves
Cinnamon to taste
Cream margarine, Crisco and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Mix in extract and oil; beat well. Stir in baking powder and enough flour to make a soft, malleable dough. Mix filling ingredients. Take a small ball of dough and flatten in the palm of your hand. With thumb, make an indentation. Put small amount of nut mixture in the indentation. Start from the bottom of the palm and turn dough up and fold in each of the sides. Turn over onto cookie sheet. Gently shape stem on narrow end. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Make syrup by bringing ingredients to a boil over medium heat to thicken. Allow to cool but keep warm. Remove cloves from syrup and dunk cookies in syrup for a few seconds. Roll in chopped nuts. Be sure to keep syrup warm while soaking cookies.
The Koulourakia, twisted cookies, would be fun to make if there wasn't such an immediate need to get them done and on to another pastry. They are rolled into a rope and braided. The baked cookies can be sprinkled with sesame seed after brushing lightly with beaten egg.
Koulourakia (Greek Twist Cookies)
1 stick butter
1/2 pound Crisco or other shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 ounces milk
2 ounces orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 cups flour, sifted
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Sesame seeds, optional
Cream butter and Crisco with sugar in electric mixer. Beat in 2 eggs and milk, orange juice and vanilla. Remove from mixer and add flour which has been mixed with the baking powder and soda. Knead slightly until dough is smooth and workable but not sticky. Pinch off small pieces the size of a walnut. Roll between hands to a 4-inch length, then twist into a braid. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Beat one egg, brush lightly over each cookie. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes seven dozen.
(McCoy can be contacted at email@example.com.)