Eat­ing, Laugh­ing, Lov­ing GO­ING GREEK

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - FOOD EATING IN - Writ­ten by PAULA ROY Pho­tog­ra­phy by MARK HOLLERON

The phrase “Greek food” is prac­ti­cally syn­ony­mous with hos­pi­tal­ity. As the vi­va­cious Bakopou­los sis­ters, au­thors of the mul­ti­ple award-winning cook­book Three Sis­ters Around

the Greek Ta­ble, pro­claim, “en­ter­tain­ing, Greek-style, should make your guests feel truly wel­come and show them how de­lighted you are to cook for them.”

Gath­ered in youngest sis­ter Sa­man­tha’s leafy, wel­com­ing Manor Park back yard, Betty and Eleni join her in ex­plain­ing that tra­di­tional Greek din­ners are not for­mal af­fairs. “ There is usu­ally more of a graz­ing ap­proach, with plat­ters of food ap­pear­ing con­stantly for hours. Guests will of­ten ar­rive midafter­noon and the nib­bling be­gins right away, with din­ner served at 6 or 7 p.m. and last­ing for five or six hours. By the time dessert ap­pears around mid­night, you’re hun­gry again. If a Greek din­ner has gone well, by the end, ev­ery­one is danc­ing!”

Greek food can be de­scribed as sea­sonal and sim­ple. “It’s re­fresh­ing and light on the palate,” say the sis­ters, who are cur­rently work­ing on a sec­ond book of tra­di­tional, easy-to-pre­pare dishes. “It’s not fussy or overly sauced – more like good, hon­est peas­ant food.” A typ­i­cal Greek meal will not fea­ture a lot of starch; veg­eta­bles are much more prom­i­nent. In fact, the fa­mous Mediter­ranean Diet should ac­tu­ally be called the Greek Diet, given that the study which spawned in­ter­est in the healthy life­style was ac­tu­ally con­ducted on the Greek isle of Crete.

“Greek food is not very labour in­ten­sive as each dish typ­i­cally has a sim­ple list of in­gre­di­ents,” they add. “You can feed a lot of peo­ple quite in­ex­pen­sively and many dishes can be pre­pared ahead of time. Our cook­book in­cludes make-ahead in­struc­tions and a few short­cuts as well. It’s truly not a cui­sine to be afraid of ei­ther mak­ing or eat­ing.”

Good qual­ity in­gre­di­ents are es­sen­tial to Greek cook­ing be­cause most recipes are de­signed to let just a few sim­ple el­e­ments shine. This in­cludes lots of fresh herbs and Greek olive oil, which has a very dis­tinct but­tery flavour. Look for oils from Kala­mata or Crete for top qual­ity, and buy bunches of dried oregano which has a much more pleas­ing and pro­nounced flavour than pack­aged leaves.

The hall­mark of a true Greek meal is a greater abun­dance of food than most Cana­di­ans are prob­a­bly ac­cus­tomed to. “If you are serv­ing chicken breasts, for ex­am­ple, plan on two per per­son. You want to make your guests feel com­fort­able hav­ing more and it is the host­ess’ job to con­tin­u­ally urge peo­ple to re­fill their plates.”

The graz­ing be­gins with a gen­er­ous se­lec­tion of mezedes or ap­pe­tiz­ers. These can be pre­sented one at a time over sev­eral hours. “You should bring out food right away to ac­com­pany drinks. Start with a lit­tle ouzo, served in a high­ball glass with ice. Be­cause of its high su­gar con­tent, ouzo is meant to be served with food and sipped in mod­er­a­tion.” Sug­ges­tions for ap­pe­tiz­ers in­clude pars­ley and mint meat­balls with tzatziki, mar­i­nated olives, shrimp and ouzo, ke­falo­tyri cheese and feta with sliced bread, and spanako­pita bites.

For the main course, it’s com­mon to present all the re­main­ing dishes on large plat­ters, placed in the cen­tre of the ta­ble and passed among guests. A typ­i­cal meal would in­clude two sal­ads, sev­eral veg­etable dishes such as mous­saka and grilled or stuffed veg­eta­bles, two meat dishes, a fish or seafood dish and a pasti­sio (baked penne with béchamel). The tzatziki, mar­i­nated olives, cheeses and bread would also stay on the

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