Tag Archives: St. Demetrios Greek Festival

Greek Fish Roe Dip, Taramasalata

It’s time everyone, time for the 2018 Saint Demetrios Greek Festival in Fort Lauderdale.  It’s this weekend February 8th through the 11th.  The sun is shining, there’s a stiff breeze and the huge, white tents are up.  The kitchen’s a veritable hive of activity; our ladies group, Philoptochos, is in charge of the mouth-watering baked goods.  You know….all those little butter cookies calling out to you and no one else, telling you how perfect they are dunked in a hot cup of coffee with steamed milk for breakfast?  Or how about the butter and nut cookies resting on a thick pillow of powdered sugar?  I’m partial to the spice cookie that has been quickly dipped in a honey and orange syrup called melomakarona, redolent with cinnamon and cloves.  Ugh!  It’s a dieter’s nightmare.  But I tell myself it’s once a year and IT’S FOR THE CHURCH.  Thinking of all these ladies, most of them grandmothers and great-grandmothers, mixing and rolling and baking all these sweets from days gone by makes me incredibly happy.  Also sharing the kitchen is a team of chefs who crank out hundreds of trays of the most delectable food ever.  They are known for their enormous, meat falling off the bone lamb shanks.  Having worked on the outside food lines for years, I can tell you folks drive down from the Palm Beaches and up from Miami to savor this lamb.  They often purchase two or three additional lamb dinners to take home.  I don’t blame them.  These shanks aren’t available in grocery stores so you can’t make them at home even if you wanted to.  Again, it’s a once a year treat.  For those who might not care for lamb, thick, fat wedges of moussaka or the Greek version of lasagna, pastitsio, are available, both oozing with warm cheese and creamy bechamel.  But let’s pretend you don’t want a full meal, (who am I trying to kid but I’ll try), all you have to do is step outside for authentic Greek grilled sausage with cheese flamed in brandy, gyro sandwiches stuffed with savory meat, lettuce, tomato and cold Greek yoghurt sauce, hand-held spinach and cheese pies wrapped in phyllo dough so crispy they shatter when you bite into them.  Want more?  There is a whole lamb roasting on a spit outside while being basted with garlic, oregano and olive oil.  Boom.  It gets no better.  And, because we’re all adults here, you can enjoy your delicacies with an assortment of beer and wine or an ice-cold bottle of water or soft drink.  We, who volunteer all weekend, will also drink our weight in Greek coffee, hot or iced and prepared right in front of you.  I can’t wait!  As you walk in from any direction the gorgeous perfume of grilled food and the strains of Greek music surround you.  The children of the church, some small and some not so small, dance the dances from the villages of Greece all in authentic costumes of the region.  They’ve practiced all year, all the intricate steps seared into their memory banks.  They dance with joy and abandon as the choreography is now second nature.  You’ll meet kids in their late teens through their twenties smiling at you while serving beer and wine, parking cars or clearing food trays, all parishioners and most of them alumni dancers having started at five or six old.  And you know what the beautiful part is?  They’re ALL still close, close friends.  They’ve passed the baton to the younger kids and accepted the baton handed them from older parishioners whose achy knees or backs no longer allow them the pleasure of standing all day and selling homemade rice pudding or pushing around a dolly with five or six cases of tomatoes or pork souvlaki.  No, these men have earned their spots on fold out chairs.  This is their time to flip worry beads while wearing black wool fishermen’s caps.  And ladies, sit right down and enjoy that frothy Nescafe frappe while gossiping with your best friend about how your loukoumades syrup is made.  God bless you all for tirelessly giving so many years to this church and festival!  There is so much more I haven’t touched on.  There are glorious tours of the church touching on and explaining a myriad of details and facts about the architecture and iconography.  There will be Greek food demonstrations…you might just see me preparing hummus or roasted eggplant dip.  I hope you come see us and taste life at the Greek table!

Greek Fish Roe Dip, Taramasalata

  • Servings: 2 to 2 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 ounces tarama (fish roe)
  • 8 slices white bread, stale and crusts removed
  • 3+ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, additional if needed
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup, half canola oil and half extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • bread for serving
  1. Place slices of bread in a bowl and cover with water.  Allow the bread to soak up the water then, using your hands, squeeze the water out.
  2. Using a food processor or blender, add the bread, fish roe and lemon juice.
  3. With the food processor or blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
  4. Taste for any flavor adjustments such as more lemon juice or olive oil.
  5. Continue blending until light and fluffy, 7-10 minutes.
  6. Serve with bread or transfer to container, cover and refrigerate.



Olive Oil Cake at the Greek Table

The 2018 Saint Demetrios  Greek Festival is upon us and I couldn’t be more excited.  I am one of the thousands who love this church’s festival because of it’s authenticity…baked goods and Greek dishes prepared from old family recipes which over the years have been converted to feed the hordes of festival goers.  Whether in Crete, the mainland or the islands, these festival dishes are the foods you find in the Greek home.  The Greek table is a marvel regardless of lean times or times of ease and plenty.  Every time I’ve been to Greece, I’ve discovered new foods or a completely new spin on an old dish.  Of course, we all know feta cheese; briny and tangy sitting atop a Greek salad wearing a green and gold crown of locally grown oregano or still salty but now creamy tucked between several buttery sheets of shatteringly crisp filo dough married with spinach and sliced spring onion having been baked to perfection.  How surprised I was when I was introduced to a typical appetizer, Feta Psiti, which is baked feta cheese topped with a good shower of hot pepper flakes and local oregano then doused with a liberal splash of fruity Greek olive oil!  I had never had anything like that here in the States.  My husband’s Greek family looked on with amusement as I dove in with abandon scooping up the melted cheese with torn off chunks of hot, crunchy bread.  At another family gathering around the table, I thought I had found my new favorite food when my husband’s cousin served me Koukia, a gorgeous, creamy dish made from yellow split peas which have cooked down to a smooth, firm dip.  Considered a salad, this dish is topped with Greek olive oil, chopped red onion, and a good dusting of oregano and I’m more than happy to call this dinner.  My husband’s cousin was thrilled to have presented me with this humble yet unexpected treasure.  The Greek table is like that.  Always gathering one in, never shutting one out.  “Come!  Have coffee at my house and we’ll talk.  I baked a cake”,  is heard so often all through Greece.  When you hear that, you ought to take them up on the offer for Greek coffee and baked goods are beyond delicious and the Greek table is where you’ll hear all the good village gossip.  The following Greek olive oil cake is a recipe found throughout the country of Greece.  Each recipe is slightly different…some add Greek yoghurt, liquors, orange or lemon but all are lovely and will bring you to the Greek table.

Dense, moist and velvety, this cake is an unlikely wonder touched with tones of orange, lemon, almond, and of course, green, fruity olive oil.  Olive oil cake is a classic throughout Greece and once you have a taste you’ll know why.  Somehow it works…all the flavors sing in perfect harmony.  It’s a rather substantial cake so don’t be alarmed at the large amount of olive oil called for nor the fact that the batter will be rather runny.  It will be gorgeous.  And it’s a great do-ahead as the flavor improves the following day.  Kali orexi!


Greek Olive Oil Cake

  • Servings: 12-14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin Greek olive oil, Trader Joe’s makes a decent one
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, I’ve used almond milk and the cake turned out fabulous
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange liquor
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 3/4 cup finely, finely chopped sliced almonds.  I use a mini-processor and pulse the nuts until they are small bits.


  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin Greek olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • zest of one lime
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Butter an 11-inch cake pan and set aside.
  2. Into a medium-sized bowl sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl mix well the eggs, sugar, olive oil, milk, lemon juice, liquor, lemon and orange zest and almond bits.  Mix well until there are no lumps of sugar and the olive oil is completely incorporated.
  4. Mix the dry mixture into the wet mixture until well blended, pour  into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  6. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert onto a plate.
  7. Allow to cool completely prior to icing the cake.  If the cake is to be served the following day, prepare and drizzle the glaze right before serving.


  1. Combine all ingredients except the lemon and lime zest in a small bowl and whisk until smooth
  2. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake.
  3. Sprinkle with lemon and lime zest and serve.




How to Get Your Greek On at the Saint Demetrios festival


One fast year has gone by since our last Greek festival and it’s looking like the 2014 St. Demetrios’ Greek festival is going to be bigger and better than ever!  I took a quick stroll this morning through the church grounds and was I impressed. It looks tight and well put together.  Many folk have worked long and hard on this event and I’m happy to report it paid off.  Let’s take a behind the scenes peek-see at what REALLY goes on!

The glorious dome!
The glorious dome!

It all begins in the church.  Under our magnificent dome tours are given to educate those interested on many different topics represented in the architecture of the church.  For many years I’ve caught snippets and bits of these tours while running from the kitchen to the food line or back but this I have deemed is the year I get to enjoy the entire presentation.  And you get to ask questions!

7 years of Greek school and I'm still stuck on the English side!
7 years of Greek school and I’m still stuck on the English side!

Signing in at the volunteer station was a breeze.  People are coming and going so there’s always someone you run into that you haven’t seen in a while.  Father John’s wife, Presbytera Abbey, seen left, is always ready to give of her time AND with a sincere smile on her face.  Anna, fluent in Greek, is a Greek school classmate of mine.  Her son, Dimitri, and my son James, which is Dimitri in Greek, danced together for many years.  Best of friends, they were on the altar together, traveled through Greece together and got in trouble together.  Anna and I will toast with a Metaxa to both of them later!

Sign in, please!  And thanks for all your help!
Sign in, please! And thanks for all your help!

As you can well imagine the kitchen is a hive of activity.  Chicken is roasting, salads are prepped and onions are chopped for a myriad of dishes.  Mammoth lamb shanks are bathed in a thick tomato sauce perfumed with cinnamon, onion and parsley.  That same sauce will be drizzled over hot krytharaki, orzo, and with a little feta on top???  It’s just sublime.

I eat these beans called 'yigantes" all year long.  Creamy and oh so savory I could eat this whole pot!
I eat these beans called ‘yigantes” all year long. Creamy and oh so savory I could eat this whole pot!


We are blessed this year that the person who stepped up for kitchen duty is our Nicole.  She is staggeringly talented but always calm and collected in the midst of a huge amount of kitchen activity.  And she’s cute!  You can thank her for just about everything you eat with the exception of the pastries.

Chef Nicole.  Don't EVEN think about messing with her!
Chef Nicole. Don’t EVEN think about messing with her!

Wait wait!  Did I say pastries?  Why, yes.  Yes I did.  Our women’s group, Philoptochos, has worked tirelessly on the pastries and desserts for the festival.  All your dearest and best-loved sweets are here.  And these beautiful women have baked them.  In between mixing dough and tossing confectioner’s sugar they visit and catch up with each other.  It’s fantastic!  I was able to join them once when I wasn’t working and I had the time of my life.

Beer and pastries for all! (I wish.)
Beer and pastries for all! (I wish.)

These ladies are the best of friends.  They laugh together and cry together.  And they move mountains.  They will end up spending most of the weekend helping at the festival.

Loved by all!
Loved by all!

Now that we’ve bought our desserts let’s go outside for drinks and dinner!

Meze, Father?
Meze, Father?

Shall we start with an appetizer of flaming cheese and sausage, saganaki kai loukaniko?  I’ve found if you share it you have plenty of room for lamb shanks or an over the top stuffed gyro!  Or if you wish for something lighter go for some Greek meatballs, keftedes and a Greek salad studded with shards of feta.  Mmmmm…!

The czar of saganaki and loukaniko, Louie has been lighting Metaxa brandy to the delight of scores since the inception of the festival.  He makes a killer sandwich.  Watch your eyebrows.
The czar of saganaki and loukaniko, Louis has been lighting Metaxa brandy to the delight of scores since the inception of the festival. He makes a killer plate. Watch your eyebrows.

Everyone in the church is invited to help out for festival.  Every year we hear who’s coming back, from college kids to young married couples who know how important this festival is.  James is knee-deep in schoolwork, concentrating on his senior capstone project and won’t be able to come down this year.  But Louie’s grandson, Elias, is carrying on the tradition of working at the St. Demetrios festival.

Don't let Elias' good looks fool you!  He is a gifted and powerful speaker having won countless oratorical competitions nationwide representing Saint Demetrios.
Don’t let Elias’ good looks fool you! He is a gifted and powerful speaker having won countless oratorical competitions nationwide representing Saint Demetrios.  We’re so proud of him!

Did you think I forgot drinks?  And coffee?  Heck, no!  Stroll on over to the bar for some smooth, full Greek red wine or a cold Greek beer.


After all that you’ll need a coffee.  Greek coffee.  It’s thick and strong.  If you’re lucky maybe one of the pastry ladies will read your grounds for you.

The pot used to make Greek coffee is called a "briki".
The pot used to make Greek coffee is called a “briki”.
This is a great little cookie perfect for dunking in your coffee.  They're called "koulourakia" and I love them because they're not too sweet...Just loaded with butter!
This is a great little cookie perfect for dunking in your coffee. They’re called “koulourakia” and I love them because they’re not too sweet…just loaded with butter!

My last stop is always the church bookstore on the way out.  Larry has beautiful little icons, incense burners and incense which has been blessed.  There are prayer bracelets, theology books and cookbooks.  It’s a real treasure trove and I always walk to my car with bags loaded with goodies.


You know? Maybe I’ll just get another beer and sit over here and check out my new cookbook!


OPA at the Greek Festival!!!!

What a time!  And what a place!  It’s festival time at St. Demetrios and after a huge amount of work organizing, baking, prepping and setting up, it’s time to party!  When I got to the church this afternoon, people were still working out the kinks.  All around I heard “does anybody know where I can find an extension cord?” or “we need another table over here, please” or my favorite “where’s Jim?  does anybody know where Jim is?”.  Slowly but surely it all smooths out to one good time.  I made my way through the big hall and stopped to visit with my favorite Philoptochos ladies.  They are amazing!  They bake unbelievably rich pastries for the festival year after year.  They knit blankets for babies in crisis and have pediatric cancer wards under their wings.  They tell jokes that will make you blush!  These are women from which you truly will learn.  They applaud your smallest triumph.  In conversation, I used the word “avrio”, the Greek word for “tomorrow”, and they immediately noticed and congratulated me.  Hard to believe, but I AM shy and I don’t enjoy someone laughing at me if I’m trying to expand my horizons!!  If ya ketch mah driff!!

Anyway, let me walk you through this mecca of sweet delights!  There were handmade Kourabiedes, hundreds of them, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, rolled in confectioner’s sugar, cookies.  Mmmm.  You just can’t have too many of those.  Diples.  Thin sheets of dough, rolled, deep-fried and tossed in sugar and cinnamon.  One cannot stop breaking off little pieces, working through the roll, until…oh, no!  There’s none left!

My favorite are the Koulourakia.  Butter cookies, not too sweet, perfect with a cup of coffee.  Or grab one on the fly, to tide you over until you have a chance to eat.

But James’ favorite?  (And everyone elses!)  Well, that would have to be the Loukoumades.  Think Greek donut holes but lighter, NEVER greasy, fried morsels of dough bathed in a syrup of Greek honey and orange juice then dressed with finely chopped walnuts.  Finally, after a shower of powdered sugar and cinnamon, they’re handed over to you steaming hot in a bowl with three or forks sticking out SO YOU CAN SHARE THEM WITH YOUR PAREA…YOUR FRIENDS???!!  Honey, it gets no better!!

I’ve helped at the festival for a few years now and I’m always struck by the love these people have for their church and each other.  At the booth where I was working, I was asked to go to the church office to have some admission signs printed.  I went and Susan, who works in the office said “sure, just give me five or ten minutes”.  The office leads into the church.  I wandered in and there was Father Spiro giving one of his scheduled church tours.  I quietly sat down and listened.  He was discussing the iconography, the architecture of the church, and the reasons the Virgin Mary is so revered in the Orthodox Church.  I was riveted.  And, I decided, tomorrow I’m leaving my booth to sit through an entire tour with Father Spiro.  The richness of it all leaves me hungry for more.  Did I mention the tours are free?  Oh, and ask any question you want.  My admission signs ready, I hurried back.  I passed so many friends!!  In this community, family is sacred, and guess what?  We’re all family!  Mothers watch out for other people’s children.  People who have worked all day, and worked hard, give up their seat for that person who might not be feeling that terrific.  Every once in a while you get a boy or girl, dripping with perspiration in a BOILED WOOL costume, fresh off the dance floor who wants a coke, a Nescafe frappe, or Baklava sundae.  Something to help them cool off.  And they’re short a dollar or two.  Time and time again I’ve seen adults dig into their own pockets, with a “Don’t worry, Niko.  Enjoy your ice cream!  You look good on the dance floor.  How’s your Mama and Daddy, Niko?  You give them my love!  Now, go have fun!  Ella!!”

I miss James when I’m there.  I see his friends and they give me such joy!  When you’re in college, sometimes you can make it back and sometimes you can’t.  But it’s all good!!  We all remember the kids who have left, they all come back at some point!  And they dance!  And dance!  It’s just fabulous!!  They know the words to all the songs, make faces at each other and laugh when someone makes a mistake!  They looked exceptionally good tonight, they had just won platinum at the annual Hellenic Dance Festival in Atlanta. There’s a word in Greek that really can’t be translated, “kefi”.  It’s a combination of happiness, good time, joy…I can’t explain it, but it’s a great thing and, at festival, everyone has it!! Later on, as I was leaving, I found my Jimmy and discovered he hadn’t eaten.  Since 7:30 this morning.  That’s not a good thing as Jimmy gets mean, REALLY MEAN, when he doesn’t eat!  How about some juicy, tender, roasted chicken with orzo, giant butter beans and a Greek salad?  Oh, hell yeah!  Poor thing.  He needed to eat!

With my man fed and happy, I made moves to head out.  And I saw something that just made me grin from ear to ear.  All grown up, Katelyn, Adam and Mikey, laughing and carrying on with the familiarity of children who had grown up together.  Which they had!  Together, year after year, serving on the altar, dancing at countless practices then at Festival, youth group car washes, church bake sales, the list goes on and on.  I remember one year James chose to miss a big dance at school because GOYA, Greek Orthodox Youth Association, had committed to sing Christmas carols at the VA hospital.  NOT a pretty place.  As I said, the kids always return.  And here they are, once again, giving back to their church.  Bravo, pedia!!