Our Food ‘n Flix movie for the month of February is a love story…as well it should be! Unfortunately, the title gives the whole plot resolution away, but the journey from introduction to wedding day… It takes a special man to be able to rise above the ups and downs of falling in love with a woman of a totally different culture! That’s where the real story line is though!! A heart-felt “Thank you!” to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for an excellent Valentine’s month selection and for being our hostess!
Their story begins in, of all places, the family restaurant… “The Dancing Zorbas.” Toula (female lead character and writer, played by Nia Vardalos) is serving coffee, and is about as mousy and reserved as any one woman who has allowed herself to be “managed” by family until the ripe age of 30, can be. Papa, played by Michael Constantine, is just as adamant that their family traditions be followed as was the Papa in Fiddler on the Roof! However, we quickly learn that it is Mama who is the great negotiator. She uses her skills to help Papa think of the solutions she knows are best, and leaves him to believe it was all his idea in the first place.
Then, there is the rest of the family…the aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, first-cousins, second cousins, grand-parents, in-laws, out-laws…you get the idea. There’s a never ending stream of family. Each as outspoken as the one before them, and the one after as well. Everyone hangs out at Zorba’s now and then, and Toula is stuck in the “dutiful daughter” role, with no hope of ever breaking out of the pattern…until she almost meets Ian Miller (played by John Corbett) in the restaurant. While the couple doesn’t officially meet at Toula’s restaurant, but rather, at her aunt’s travel agency, it’s a long, long time before Toula will let Ian get anywhere near her family!
Papa is adamant that his Toula, not marry anyone but a nice Greek boy. He doesn’t quite see the enchantment his daughter holds for this long-haired Anglo boy…who just happens to be a professor and who doesn’t care how eccentric Papa, or the rest of the family is!
My Big Fat Greek Wedding explores Greek culture in a light-hearted manner, all the while making careful and even sensitive notations of Orthodox Greek traditions. Although the use of Windex for any malady may not be Orthodox Greek tradition, it is Papa’s tradition, and he tells everyone he encounters.
Ian Miller also has a family… Totally White Ango-Saxton Protestant, WASP in other words. He comes from the right side of the tracks, and his straight-laced parents are so straight laced, they’re puzzled by Ian’s vegetarian ways…and the young lady he’s presented to them. It takes some careful preparation and planning, but eventually the day comes where the parents meet for the first time. While Toula is almost apoplectic with anxiety, Ian is as cool as the cucumber in the Tzatziki. All goes well enough…and then the traditional Ouzo is added to the mix! And following tradition, ouzo was served in shot glasses with mezethes, or small plates of food. Ouzo is known for its sneaky nature…and we see the idea illustrated by the Miller parents as they try to keep up with the Portokalos family ounce for ounce…of ouzo, not necessarily food. Oops. That’s okay, they’re better prepared for the wedding day when the Ouzo flows freely!
I may have to watch this a couple more times to see what food we actually see cross the screen. I know I heard reference to moussaka right off the bat…and there was that bundt cake…and the lamb on the spit… Somehow I don’t think my neighbors would understand if I put a lamb on a spit in my front yard. The horses definitely wouldn’t understand. That’s okay… I certainly got the gist of this great love story…Ian wasn’t worried about all the hoops he had to jump through…Toula was his prize, and the love of his life. It was just what needed to be done to spend the rest of his life with her. Who could ask for more?
I got captured by the traditions and history of this ancient cuisine. Mediterranean cuisine is one of the big three ancient cuisines that inspire or season all other cuisines. While there are a lot of similarities to Italian cuisine, the Greek islands have their own climate, their own ingredients, and their own ways.
I selected Lahanodolmathes, or Stuffed Cabbage Leaves. A quick and easy casserole dish that goes together fast, and then simmers quietly in the oven or stove top for an hour and a half or so. I imagine these would also work pretty well if they were cooked in a crock pot, and the sauce then made from the pot liquor on the stove.
Cabbage Rolls — Lahanodolmathes
Large head Cabbage, core removed
1 lb pork or 1/2 lb pork and beef combined (I used 1/2 lb mild Italian sausage)
1/2 cup uncooked Rice
1 chopped Onion
2 medium-sized, peeled and chopped Tomatoes
2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1/2 cup chopped Parsley
1 cup Butter
3 cups hot stock or water (the water from cooking the cabbage is handy)
1 1/2 tablespoon Flour
2 to 3 Eggs
1 juice Lemon
Place cabbage head in boiling salted water and boil for 8 minutes. Remove to bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Separate leaves.
While the cabbage is cooking, combine meat, rice, onion, tomatoes, salt, pepper, parsley and 1/2 cup butter.
Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in cup part of each cabbage leaf. Loosely fold over sides of each leaf; roll up.
Pack cabbage rolls tightly into a casserole. Pour on water, or stock and remaining butter. Bake, covered, in moderate oven (350°F) for about 1 1/2 hour, or cook over a low heat for about 1 to 1 1/2 hour, or until tender. Arrange cabbage rolls in deep serving dish.
Prepare Avgolemono sauce:
Mix flour with 1/4 cup cold water; add to pan juices, stirring. Simmer for 5 minutes. Beat eggs with 2 tablespoons water. Add gradually: hot sauce and lemon juice. Stir sauce in top of double boiler until it has slightly thickened. Keep heat very low and remove immediately when thickening starts. Pour over cabbage rolls. Serve hot. Serves 5.
We liked this dish well enough to try it a second time (the left-overs didn’t make it through the night), made a little closer to the actual recipe. I didn’t quite have enough cabbage to pull it off right the first time! Also, I found making it a second time, that the sauce isn’t that fragile if you have a good understanding of sauces and heat…and you cook over a gas flame that is immediately responsive. I found the sauce really didn’t thicken the way I wanted over the hot water…but that cooking the sauce (like a pudding) gently thickened the sauce quickly and easily.
I found this recipe by searching (Google) for Greek recipes. That was a lot of fun, but there really aren’t so many. Therefore, I’m the proud new owner of two Greek cookbooks…so typical of me! LOL! Capers and Olives just arrived a few days ago, and I love it! I can hardly wait to play with recipes! The Foods of the Greek Islands will be here a little later…sometime before March 6th according to Amazon. *Ü*
Thanks for being our hostess Deb! This was a great selection!! It really helped me push over and get into Greek cooking a lot more! I was pretty fragile about the cuisine after a struggle with a moussaka some time back. I’m still not so sure about moussaka, but there are dozens of other Greek recipes that have us decidedly excited! I love adding a whole new country to my list. The recipe trials are always so much fun!!