Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yiayia Paraskevoutha's Squash Pita

There are many family recipes that can be both very special and bedevilling because they are hard to make "just like Yiayia did." Part of the problem is that there were no actual recipes, or else a few words written down that don't tell us much per se. So you either learn from the Master and/or keep working on it till you get it right...

One of those is Yiayia Paraskevoutha's Squash Pita -- made by my my father's mother (Pauline Xanttopulos -- also mother of Faith, Mary, and Gus) who brought it from her home town of Naoussa. It's a "horiatiki" (village) pita, because it doesn't use regular filo. It's basically two crusts made filo-ish by rolling very thin layers of dough together so it becomes flakey. The filling is basically peeled, cooked, strained and cooled yellow squash mixed with sugar, eggs, and milk. You could also call this pita, "Naousaiki" pita.

The person in my family who makes Yiayia's pita best, is my cousin Helen Edson -- daughter of my aunt Mary and uncle Jim. The pita she made for Thanksgiving was thicker than usual, but totally delicious!

I have never made it - but years ago when I lived in Greece and visited relatives in Naoussa regularly, I got a pita lesson from Aunt Alkinoy Lala. I wrote everything down, with the obligatory sketch of the strange-looking dough that rolls into a great crust. I need to learn how to make this pita and soon -- time is not on my side in terms of pulling the various recipes that kind of define our family to pass on to the next generation.

This February -- very soon! -- I am spending a few weeks in California. I hope that Helen, my brother, and I can get together to make this pita and share info, so that we we will all on the proverbial same page. This would be great!

See y'all soon, especially where they buy ouzo..


P.S. Gepsie's mother Gigi was not hurt in the earthquake, has returned from Haiti, and is back on track here in Miami!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Haiti, Pikliz & You!

Words can't describe the catastrophe in Haiti, or the pain being felt by my many Haitian friends here in South Florida. All that continues to be overwhelming. I hope every single person gives something to Haitian Relief. You can still text "Haiti" to 90999 to give $10 to the Red Cross, to be added to your cellphone bill. Please do it!

Gepsie, a good friend of mine who runs a Haitian social service agency, has an adorable mom named Gigi (Ghislene). Gigi is a master maker of pikliz -- Haitian spicy pickled vegetables, kind of a coleslaw with Scotch Bonnet peppers. She also left Friday before last for her annual 6-month stay in the Freres neighborhood of Port-Au-Prince. For 24 hours her whereabouts were unknown. Then came that blessed phone call. As soon as Gigi comes home, I am going over to hang out and get a pikliz lesson.

You never know what is going to happen next. Go to your Mom's or Aunt's or Sister's house tomorrow. Hang out, and get that cooking lesson you've been putting off. Keep the traditions and dreams alive!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spanos Memorial Service

Angela Spanos reports that yesterday they had a Memorial Service for Oly (3 years) and Harry (18 years) -- OMG, how time flies! I really miss Oly...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Happy New Year!

Been awhile since I accessed this blog myself, but rest assured that I am on a mission...trying to document family history through anecdotes and research. And I hope you will help by commenting and adding tidbits and photos whenever you can -- please!

Yesterday I spent time with my second cousin Elaine Sampanis (nee Johnson). You may know that that she is the current Supreme President of the Daughters of Penelope, and was in Florida for the Epiphany thing in Tarpon Springs and then down in Boca Raton. We hooked up for the day and reminisced over photos and Greek salad at my place -- all on one of the coldest days in Miami history, but probably not as cold as Ohio!

It was great to see her again. We looked at a very old photo of my papou and his sisters with various chidren. His sister Sophia was Elaine's grandmother and we remembered the great times we had visiting the Demakopoulos's (Sophia and Bill, former owners of the Palace Candy store) and Mellises (Foti and Evelyn, Elaine's aunt)in Santa Cruz. Those times are the very real reason for Skee-Ball app on my Ipod!

The other sister, we don't remember the name, died in a flu epidemic in SF during WWI. My Aunt Liberty thinks one her daughters -- Jenny? -- lived in Lodi. Anyone know who that is? How could I find this person?

OK, that's all for now. Let's keep this baby moving!