To celebrate our recent nuptials, which took place on the first day of spring in New Orleans, my family threw us a party last weekend. The weather was surprisingly cool and comfortable for a July evening, and my mom created an amazing spread of mini sandwiches, gourmet cheeses, colorful fruit plates, fresh veggies, an array of dips and crackers, chilled shrimp, and some yummy Greek delicacies. Part of my family is Greek, so no family gathering is complete without at least the requisite feta and Kalamata olives. Of course, you have to get there before my brother and sister if you want any olives.
Along with a platter of slippery dark olives and startlingly white cubes of feta, my mom put out some lemony dolmathes, and my yia yia (grandmother) made my three favorites of her many specialties: tyropita, kourambiethes, and melomakarona. Tyropita is essentially a feta pie made with phyllo dough, and I adore the combination of buttery, flaky crust and creamy, salty cheese. You may be familiar with spanakopita, which is the same dish with spinach.
When Cap and I were in Greece a few years ago, we ate so much feta that every evening we’d say we couldn’t possibly eat any more the rest of the trip, but the very next morning there we were scarfing down hot tyropita from a nearby bakery. Admittedly, I’ve never made it myself. The many layers of phyllo dough intimidate me, so I haven’t cooked with it much. Also, I’m afraid to see just how much butter and cheese is involved. But Thursday for Dinner, a video blog made by a Greek family wanting to preserve beloved family recipes, has a good step-by-step video, and Eva, the chef, has a little bit of a Greek accent, which makes me smile. Actually, it looks pretty easy. I’ll have to try it when I need some comfort food on a gray day.
Kourambiethes, also known as Greek wedding cookies, are divine, and my yia yia makes the best. My mom said she even brought a dish of them down to a local Greek restaurant after being disappointed in theirs. I’m sure they were impressed and resolved to alter their recipe because her cookies are irresistible. They are butter cookies covered in powdered sugar, often with ouzo or brandy and rose or orange water.
But. Even better than kourambiethes are her melomakarona, honey-soaked spice cookies that practically melt in your mouth. They are popular at Christmas. I don’t know my yia yia’s cookie recipes, and I wouldn’t give them away if I did, so you’ll have to make do with with Thursday for Dinner for kourambiethes and Kopiaste, another Greek cooking blog, for melomakarona with pecans (you’ll have to Americanize the measurements) or search for others that suit you. Kali oreksi!
Possibly the best part of the festivities was when it started to drizzle just before dusk and we raced outside to stare in awe at a full double rainbow. You can’t see the second, fainter one in the photos, but it was there. I don’t believe I’d ever seen a full rainbow before. I think it was a good omen.