his is the book that everyone has thought about writing based on their mother’s or their grandma’s out-of-this-world recipes but has not yet written. I did it for all of us out there who simply don’t have the time, the energy, the patience, the wherewithal, nor the skills to take on such a passion project. This cookbook is a gift to all of you. I also did it for my mama’s legacy.
Call me selfish, but I want someone to pick up this cookbook—say 500 years from now—and make her recipes, which I know will stand the test of time. Her meals are magical. Delicious. Palatable. Full of life. My 88-year-old mother lives for kitchen-table visits from hungry strangers from all walks of life just for the pleasure of stuffing their bellies with her exceptional fare until they can’t eat any more.
So for one year, I braved a series of intense hands-on cooking demos with my Greek mama to capture an oral history of her gastronomical treasure trove. And the result is My Big Fat Greek Cookbook. With that in mind, I present to you four simple, mouth-watering meals. Remember, this is just a taste of my mother’s cooking prowess . . . You’ll just have to pick up the cookbook to find out how it all ends. With eighteen dessert recipes, of course.
Mama chooses to bake kolokythopita with pumpkin and not zucchini, as is the norm. My guess is she “Americanized” this meal to integrate into her new homeland, perhaps during Thanksgiving season. Whatever the case—be it family or non-Greek friends—whoever eats at her place gobbles up the kolokythopita like there’s no tomorrow! The raisins are the pièce de résistance, adding a sweet, chewy aftertaste.
Recipe: Pumpkin Pie (Kolokythopita)
Prep: 1 h 20 min
Bake: 1 h
Ready in: 2 h 20 min
For the pie crust:
1/2 pound (1/4 kilogram) softened Crisco (all-vegetable shortening)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
For the filling:
13 cups freshly shredded pumpkin
1 cup freshly chopped onion (1/4-inch bits)
1 cup raisins
1 cup uncooked Italian-style rice
1/4cup ground dry spearmint
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
1. In a large mixing bowl, mix by hand the all-vegetable shortening, flour, salt, and warm water; start with 1½ cups water, adding additional increments of ¼ cup at a time, if required. Continue kneading the pie dough by hand (about 10 minutes). Then, cover the dough with wrap so it doesn’t dry up. Allow it to stand for 30 minutes; this will allow it to slightly rise and thicken.
2. Combine all the filling ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix by hand.
3. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
4. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin; use flour to avoid sticking. Shape out two (2) crusts: one to line the baking dish, and one for the top-crust. Grease a round 15-inch baking dish, and carefully position in the bottom crust. Drizzle some olive and vegetable oils onto the bottom crust, spreading out evenly. Add in the filling and lay out equally. Fold over the overlapping crust ends, then cover the pie with the top-crust. Lather a touch of both oils on top. Pre-cut the pie, taking care not to reach the bottom; this will allow the pie to breathe and bake evenly. Finally, drizzle water on top so the pie crust softens.
5. Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown. Allow the pie to completely cool before serving.