Food & Drink

She has the passion, pedigree to head Greek fest

As a youngster, Sandra Scalos loved being in the kitchen with her dad, James. Instead of playing outside with other youngsters, she would rather pull a chair up at the stove and learn to make Greek specialties from her father's homeland.

Her mother, Imogene, is a Kentuckian, so Sandra Scalos is an accomplished Southern-Greek cook. And it seems only natural that she head up the committee that's putting on this year's Greek Festival.

Since the early 1980s, members of ­Panagia Pantovasilissa Greek Orthodox Church have invited the community to enjoy the food, music and dancing of Greece.

Weeks before the event, volunteers gather at the church on Tates Creek Road to prep and freeze the Greek specialties, and just before serving, they will heat dozens of pans of spanakopita (spinach pie), roast lamb, ­pastitsio (layers of pasta and meat, topped with a cream sauce), and Greek chicken to serve piping hot to the hundreds who show up just to eat.

New on the menu this year is a Cornish hen dinner, but many of the visitors will head immediately to the pastry stand.

It's the only place to get fresh, handmade Greek pastries: baklava (layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and ­sweetened with honey), kataife (cookies made with ­shredded wheat), kourambiethes (also known as ­wedding cookies), karidopita (walnut cake), ­finikia (walnut cookies) and koulouria (shaped butter cookies).

”Mostly people come to the festival to eat,“ Scalos said. ”And each year it gets bigger.“

Last year's attendance was 4,000. This year entertainment will include music by the ­Lazaros Glendi band, and there will be dancing and games and activities for children. A ­marketplace will feature Hellenic artwork, crafts, books and Byzantine crosses.

Proceeds support the Oleika ­Children's Hospital Transportation Program and the Greek Orthodox Church Building Fund.

Recipes

Pastitsio

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 cup butter

2 pounds lean ground beef

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried parsley

8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 stick cinnamon

1 pound elbow macaroni

1/2 cup melted butter

8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, or 11/2 cups grated kefalotiri or Romano cheese

Ground cinnamon

Cream sauce (recipe follows)

In large saucepan, sauté onion in 1/2 cup butter until tender. Crumble meat into the pan and brown. Drain off fat. Add salt, pepper, parsley, tomato sauce and cinnamon stick. Simmer for 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove cinnamon stick.

Cook macaroni in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes. Rinse, drain well, and mix with 1/2 cup melted butter. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons grated cheese on bottom of 14- by 11-inch baking pan. Spread half of macaroni on the bottom. Sprinkle with 2⁄3 cup grated cheese and lightly with ground cinnamon. Cover with meat mixture. Spread the remaining macaroni over the meat. Sprinkle with 2⁄3 cup grated cheese and lightly with ground cinnamon. Pour cream sauce over all. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until golden brown on top. To freeze, cook and cool completely. Wrap in aluminum foil. Thaw at room temperature and reheat at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Makes 15 servings.

Cream sauce

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups warm milk

5 egg yolks, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Melt butter in top of double boiler over hot water. Blend in flour with wire whisk. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly until slightly thickened. Slowly add egg yolks, and cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.

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