Second only to sandals, our obsession at Laiik revolves around food and family. And when it comes to food, few do it better than the Greeks. Whether it’s a simple feta and tomato salad or roast lamb and potatoes, Greek food is about the undisguised pleasure of the highest quality ingredients; a handful of spices, lemon, olive oil and salt to enhance flavor; and slow, loving technique (wait, this is also how we make Laiiks!). So naturally, we Greek Americans love Thanksgiving: friends, family, and the gratitude of cooking with our amazing theies (aunts) and yiayia (granny).
For us, food isn’t just sustenance, it’s a cultural gift that brings people together. When we first began our summer sandal pop-ups, we needed to bring food into the experience in some way; to share the warmth and deliciousness of Greek food with our customers, passers-by, anyone. Our fondest memories with so many of you over the past two summers was sharing great conversation over Greek freddo espressos and amazing baked confections such as baklava, and melomakarouna. Those delicious treats were the creation of the incredible Katerina Georgalla, the pastry chef and food genius behind Mastiha Greek Bakery. Armed with her mouth-watering array of Greek pastries and baked goods, along with Greek herbs, olive oils and other goodies, Katerina first joined us for a special event at our Georgetown pop-up last year. And every Sunday this past summer in Dupont, we would feature her fresh pastries for everyone that came into the store. We wish every day was like Sunday :)
So with our favorite feasting holiday fast approaching, and with snapshots of Baklava Pumpkin Pie teasing us on Instagram, we decided to sit down with the energetic Katerina and find out "What's on your table for Greek Thanksgiving?”. (Yes, we did ask for her Baklava Pumpkin Pie recipe, and no, she wouldn’t give it to us. But, we know – and now you do too – where to get some).
Q: Your family comes from the island of Chios, which has a long culinary tradition, and uses ingredients and spices – like Mastiha – not readily found in the States. How did your family celebrate Thanksgiving and do the traditions of Chios appear in your – or your family’s - cooking? I don’t see Greeks putting cranberry sauce on their turkey? (Vissino, maybe?)
A: My mom has always hosted Thanksgiving and, for as long as I can remember, she has always planned a very traditional American meal based on what she remembers growing up in the Pittsburgh area. I'm a third generation Greek-American on my mom's side, and while many of our Greek food traditions hold strong to this day, Thanksgiving has always been a holiday where we keep the spanakopita off the table! However, she still makes (what we call) a Greek meat stuffing that was her Aunt Sylvia's recipe vs. a bread stuffing.
Q: How – and what – are you planning this year for Thanksgiving? Are you going to sneak lamb onto the menu?
A: In my adult years, I've always been in charge of a few items; scratch cranberry-orange sauce with brandy and honey, roasted seasonal vegetables and a rich herbed gravy using the turkey innards and neck meat. No lamb, but sometimes I’ll pick up extra turkey liver ("sikoti" in Greek) and sautée with white wine and onion for a little appetizer.
Q: We’ve been hearing more and more about your baklava pumpkin pie? How did you come up with that recipe and where can we get some?! Have you toyed around with Greek takes on Thanksgiving classics before?
A: This will be our fifth year making our Baklava Pumpkin Pie. It’s so delicious. We start making the phyllo pie shells every week starting in September and freeze until the big bake off!
The pie shells have a layer of walnut cinnamon baklava built in below, then when it’s time to prepare thanksgiving orders, we fill with a scratch pumpkin filling, bake fully and then drizzle our honey syrup once they are pulled from the oven. The result is a light flaky crust, crisp nutty base and creamy pumpkin filling.
Q: What is the most popular Mastiha bakery confection during Thanksgiving?
A: Definitely our pies. Customers also love ordering our savory appetizer size spanakopita and tiropita phyllo triangles and baklava is a popular item from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
Q: Would you share a tried-and-true Greekified Thanksgiving recipe with our readers that they can try at home?
Oh yeah, Greek Stuffing!
(Editors’ note – or actually, an interruption from Niko and Helene: When we saw this recipe we noticed it looked eerily identical to our own family’s mystery traditional Greek stuffing. How could this be? Did Theia Sylvia in Pittsburgh somehow communicate with Yiayia Maria in DC? Were they from the same place in Greece? We asked our mother, keeper of the Stuffing Flame since Yiayia passed the baton. Nope, no Theia Sylvia. Our mom claimed that Yiayia concocted it years ago, probably in consultation with Theia Potoula. A dead end, none of this was making sense. So we googled “Greek Thanksgiving Stuffing” and went down a few rabbit holes. While the provenance is still unconfirmed, sources – including Greek Chef Dianne Kochilas – claim that in some households this particular stuffing is called “Polítiki” stuffing, meaning, Constantinople-style stuffing, a reference to the Greek cuisine particular to the long-time Greek residents of Istanbul (nee Constantinople). That’s about all we know for now, but thank you Theia Sylvia, Theia Potoula, and Yiayia Maria for making this stuffing such a revelation! So simple to make, you will love this with a healthy amount of Turkey gravy on top! Enjoy!)
Good for a medium sized bird, 15-20lbs
2 lb ground beef
2 white onion, minced approx 1/4 inch
1 stalk celery, minced approx 1/4 inch
1/2 cup pine nut
1/2 cup chestnuts, raw & chopped
1/2 cup golden raisin
Greek olive oil
In a heavy bottom pan, drizzle a little olive oil and brown meat with onion and celery. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Turn off heat and fold in pine nuts, chestnuts and raisins.
Stuff turkey with mixture. If there is extra stuffing, let it spill into the roasting pan to capture the flavor from the turkey while baking.
Once turkey is ready, scoop and serve stuffing in its own bowl. Delicious on its own or with gravy!
If you don't already know Katerina, you can find her delicious Greek pastries and baked goods at all the best farmers' markets in and around D.C. or directly from her bakery in Kensington.