My dad, Steve Perides, had an Italian butcher shop (he was 100% Greek) on Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie (Brooklyn) for over 25 years.I grew up working in that store from the age of 8 and serving the wonderful assortment of customers and characters that came into the shop. Let me tell you about Caramello.That wasnt his real name.Few people went by their real names in the neighborhood.He was Caramello because he liked to chew on those soft Kraft caramels.He had one in his mouth all the time and was only too happy to show it to you through a toothy grin.He was an old Italian guy with a hat, no matter the season, who walked up and down the street of stores like he was the Mayor of Rockaway Parkway.At least once a day he would come into the store and all the butchers would shout out, Hey, Caramello, whats up?Caramello never came more than two steps into the store.He would lean against the wall near the door, silently looking at the yelling butchers out of the corner of his eyes and then, always with a sneer on his face and wave of his arm, say the same thing, I no say nothin.He would spend another minute in the air-conditioning and disappear out the door, never to be seen again until the next day when all would be repeated.He has a permanent place in my heart and mind, and he no said nothing!
It would be a major omission if I had only a Greek fish dinner in this book.I grew to a significant size, out , not up, unfortunately, from the concentrated protein and portions that came from my dads store and from my moms cooking.We would each get a full ribeye or sirloin steak for dinner and there was always an extra one for the meat platter, just in case anyone was still hungry.So here you are, a Greek meal with a generous helping of meat and respect for those delicious ribeyes.Once again, stock up on the garlic and ouzo!
The Tzatziki you will have tonight is a classic Greek appetizer dip, and if you choose, it can be used as a condiment with the main meal.This appeared occasionally on my Aunt Stasas appetizer table but it did not burn into my soul until I sat in a taverna in the Plaka during a visit to Athens.The Tzatziki was served with simple slices of bread and pieces of cold cucumber.Maybe I was extra hungry that day, but it was instant love.When I came home a friend who had been in the taverna with me that day, begged me to make it for her party.So I did, and I almost killed everyone at the party.I had a slight miscue.I started by straining and draining regular plain yogurt like it said in the directions and wound up with only half the amount yogurt I had when I started.This was new to me, but it seems strained yogurt has been doing this for centuries.The recipe gave the amount of yogurt after straining.Only I didnt know this was important.That meant that the garlic I put in was twice as much as it should have been for the amount of yogurt I had.It turned into an unintended health food that burned everyones lips, tongues and sensibilities!When you strain your yogurt overnight to remove the excess liquid, it will reduce almost in half.Keep this in mind.The recipe for this dinner takes this into account with a lot of warnings, so you should be able to taste the rest of the meal.
The dessert, Galatoboureko is a creamy sensation found at Greek festivals and pastry shops, but not readily in restaurants or at our family gatherings.So it took until my middle age to finally experience this at the St. Thomas Greek Orthodox Church Festival in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.I immediately went home and foraged for this recipe in a 50+ year old cookbook my Greek grandma had given to my Italian mother (you know, for ideas).Mom never made it.She never was big on cookbooks or measuring cups.Well it took over 50 years for this beauty to make it to the table.You will be glad it is on your dinner party table.