Talley and I have not prepared a lot of Greek food, but our neighbor Pam has and every year she and my aunt Jenni host a big greek dinner at the houseboat next door. This year they made souvlaki (meat and veggies grilled on sticks – I am not at all sure what the difference is between that and a kabob), grape-leaf dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), a big feta and cucumber and pepper and grape salad, a delicious eggplant dip, loaves of olive filled bread, and for dessert, bougatsa, which is a phyllo pastry with cream filling. All of this was washed down with many bottles of Retsina, the traditional, resinous wine from Greece. They were generous enough to share the recipes for the bread and the bougatsa, which we will, with their leave, share with the entire world, or the fraction of the world who looks at this blog at any rate.
1½ cups fine semolina
1½ generous cup sugar
6 cups whole milk
Grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup butter, melted
½ pound phyllo pastry
Beat the semonlina, sugar, and eggs until frothy. Transfer the mixture to a pan and add the milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil several times until it thickens. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Melt butter and arrange phyllo on a counter with wax paper and a damp cloth over it when not in use to keep it from drying out. In a large tart pan, place a piece of phyllo and brush with butter. Continue to layer phyllo, varying its position so all edges of the pan are covered. You should use about half the phyllo. Pour the milk filling into the tart pan. Layer the remaining phyllo on top. Fold edges of phyllo into a nice edge, brushing on melted butter as needed to keep it flexible.
Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and crispy. Allow the bougatsa to cool slightly, then sprinkle it with powdered sugar. Sprinkle ground cinnamon over the top of the sugar.
Bougatsa is best eaten warm.
Henry Island bread with olives
This is my aunt Jenni’s bread. She named it Henry Island bread because that is where it was first created and made.
5 cup bread flour
2 tsp salt
½ tsp yeast
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup oil packed olives, coarsely chopped
directions: Mix together flour, salt, yeast and water and knead until firm (10 minutes by hand or in a Kitchenaid). Seal into a bowl with plastic wrap and let rise overnight – up to 18 hours. The next day, turn dough out and knead again into boule or long boutard shape. At this point, mix in the chopped olives. Let rise for 1 and a half hours. During the last half hour of rising, preheat the oven to 425˚F. Slice the top of bread with a sharp knife and spray with water. Bake 30-40 minutes.