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Published: Tuesday, 3/23/2010

An Easter feast: Award-winning local cookbook is a guide to Greek-flavored menu

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

The recipes for today's Food pages were chosen to emphasize the title of a locally produced cookbook that has received national recognition.

Credit and accolades for Olives, Feta, Phyllo, and More! go to the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral community. Toledoans have known for decades that incredible baked goods and ethnic specialties come from the kitchens of Holy Trinity members.

Now the Toledo recipe secrets are out all over the country.

The 515-page cookbook was named the third- place winner in the Tabasco Community Cookbook national competition, and a second printing is under-

way. Announcements and sample cookbooks are being mailed to the 700 other Greek churches in the United States, many of which hold festivals.

Contest judges noted that the book is "intelligent, informative, handsome, and well done."

What they may not have known is that beyond those heart-warming compliments, a year's work by many people is represented between the covers in each line of the 500 recipes.

And now that Easter is approaching, the cookbook is timely too. Its recipe for Roast Leg of Lamb is traditional holiday fare. This year the Eastern Orthodox Pascha (Easter) and Western Christianity's Easter both fall on April 4.

A cookbook like Olives, Feta, Phyllo, and More! has been needed for several years, perhaps since the first cooking demonstration at the annual Greek-American Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Irene Kaufman, who served on the steering committee with Kathy Chaka and Yanula Stathulis, recalls numerous requests from festival and bake sale fans for a cookbook.

"Your food is wonderful, but there is no cookbook," Ms. Kaufman recalls being told through the years.

The Rev. Aristotle W. Damaskos, cathedral dean, gave the idea his blessing, and letters were sent to the 400 cathedral families with a request for their favorite recipes.

In the meantime, 10 committees were appointed to accomplish the many tasks and decisions that had to be made, beginning with checking publishers' pricing.

Which was more challenging, editing the recipes or writing the index? It was a toss-up, with each demanding many hours and apologies for early mistakes that have since been corrected.

Ms. Kaufman, former caterer and culinary instructor who prepared the suggested Easter menu foods in today's photograph, is particularly proud of the book because it was a community effort.

"It was a major community effort. Not one of the several organizations in the parish was responsible, but everyone had a part," she said. Ms. Kaufman was also instrumental in Art Fare, the 2001 publication of the Toledo Museum of Art.

Mary Dedes, treasurer and business chairman, sees the book as a record of history and of Greek-American culture in this region. In addition to a treasure of recipes both classic and contemporary, the foreword includes a listing of the several sponsors of the publication. When they say all proceeds go to the church, they mean all. Because of the extensive sponsorship, there is no debt.

Recipes for foods that are favored at the Greek-American Festival and in Middle Eastern restaurants in the area are included for home cooks to try. They include hummus, greek salads, spinach pie, and stuffed grape leaves.

Lamb is the favored meat in Greek families and the cookbook collection proves it. Of the nine choices, from lamb chops to shanks, the roast leg of lamb is the traditional choice for the Easter feast.

The classics blend harmoniously with 21st century foods that include three-bean salad, baked beans, salmon chowder, and surprise, surprise, beer can chicken. The "more" in the title covers the gamut from Artichoke Soup to Zucchini Pie. Busy cooks will be pleased to fine a quick method to make avgolemono, the popular Greek chicken rice soup.

Committee members explain there is more than one version of some recipes in the book because nobody wanted to choose which one to publish.

For example, three rice puddings were donated by three different people. Each recipe carries the name of person who contributed it and most have tender explanations of where the recipe is from.

Browsing through the chapters, readers find all-American basics such as oatmeal raisin cookies and mint brownies sharing space in the dessert chapter with classic Greek desserts made with phyllo, yogurt cake, and honey balls that sell fast at bake sales.

It is not surprising that the book is heavy with salads and vegetables in keeping with the longtime dietary habits of people of Greek descent.

The committees obviously want people who buy their book and use it successfully. Graphics show how to handle phyllo dough and grape leaves. Buying guides for olives, olive oil, feta and other cheeses, and phyllo bring the novice cook into the Greek kitchen. Menu packages ease the host's plans for special occasions, from a New Year's lunch to a pocket bread picnic.

The book is $25, plus $5 for shipping. It is available at the Holy Trinity office (call 419-243-9189) and Kitchen Tools and Skills in Perrysburg. Aprons with the cookbook cover logo are $12. Books also will be available at the Daughters of Penelope bake sale at the Holy Trinity Education Building on Palm Sunday on March 28.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com.



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