HUNTINGTON – For more than 30 years, St. George Greek Orthodox Church has been sharing its finest in traditional Greek pastries, foods, beverages, music, dance and heritage at its annual Greek Festival.
Open to anyone – whether Greek or not – the festival is Friday-Sunday, Sept. 22-24, at the church, 701 11th Ave. The fest runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The aroma of lambs roasting, pizza baking, grilled meatballs or cookies coming out of the oven helps draw crowds of 6,000 or more Huntingtonians and others to the community event. And, of course, repeat customers like to make the trip, whether it is from Beckley, West Virginia, Atlanta or other locations.
In 2016, a dozen lambs were roasted, according to George Hanna of Huntington, who has been volunteering at this annual festival for more than 30 years, along with his wife, Gloria, who helps every year with baking and cooking for the event. George Hanna has attended the church for approximately 37 years.
“Folks come from all over,” George Hanna said. “This is a big community event.”
While George’s favorite food is the gyro sandwich, a spiced meat on pita bread, he said, “The food is tremendous.”
Pastries are a big hit at the annual event and normally always sell out.
“Our pastries are always the center of attention, which we always sell out,” said Dottie Pavlis, who has helped with the baking for many years.
“The dinners are delicious, the baklava sundaes are a favorite, and the gift shop has unusual items,” Pavlis said.
Nancy Skirpan, a member of St. George for more than 50 years, is one of 20 or more volunteers baking for the event. In fact, she has helped make pastries for three decades and still looks forward to helping every year.
“We start in April,” Skirpan said. “We freeze them in the pan. Then about four days before the festival, we bake them, cut them and put syrup on them and put them in cups.”
Like many other attendees, Skirpan loves all the pastries, especially the wedding cookies and baklava.
Valerie Dickson, pastry chairwoman, agrees with Skirpan.
“Our festival is a fun community and family friendly event,” she said. “People come from all over the Tri-State area to enjoy the food, pastries, dancing and church tours.”
Greek dancers dressed in costume perform native dance steps at 6 p.m. Friday; 1, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. Sunday. Church tours are available at noon and 7 p.m. Friday; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Unique Grecian collectibles, T-shirts, cookbooks, religious items and more can be found in the gift shop.
These two recipes are taken from Diabetes Forecast:
ROASTED GREEK EGGPLANT WITH FETA
3 tablespoons marinara sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus zest of 1/2 small lemon, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 small (14-ounce) eggplants, each quartered lengthwise in wedges, stems removed
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon finely crumbled feta cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In small bowl, whisk together first five ingredients. Arrange eggplant wedges, skin side down, on unbleached parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Generously brush flesh of eggplant wedges with marinara mixture. Roast eggplant wedges until cooked through and soft, about 30 minutes. Transfer wedges to platter. Sprinkle with parsley, mint, feta and lemon zest, and serve.
1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning, spicy or regular
1/4 cup chopped parsley or mint
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
In small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.
This recipe was submitted by Bess Fotos for “Kali Orexi: Mediterranean Pleasures and Other Delights Cookbook” by the Ladies Philoptochos Society of St. George Greek Orthodox Church:
2 pounds lean ground beef
4 slices dry white toast, crumbled
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon salt, pepper and cumin
Mix beef, bread, onion, garlic, egg, sugar, spices and water. Shape mixture into 3-inch long finger-like rolls with moistened hands. Coat rolls lightly with flour. In deep skillet, heat 3/4-inch oil to 400 degrees. Brown rolls. Put on paper towels to drain. Add to tomato-wine sauce. Simmer 1 hour. Meat rolls may be broiled.
This entree was submitted by Susan Scouras for the cookbook:
(Baked Macaroni with Meat Filling)
2 pounds macaroni, cooked al dente and drained
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Brown meat with onion and parsley. Add garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir in tomato paste and simmer. Lightly butter 11- by 16- by 3-inch pan. Dust with Parmesan cheese or bread crumbs. Spread half macaroni into bottom of pan and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Spoon meat mixture on top. Top with remaining macaroni; sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese. Pour Bechamel sauce over all. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour.
Melt butter; stir in flour. Add milk and stir continuously until sauce thickens. Beat eggs. Add little hot milk mixture to eggs, beating continuously so as not to cook eggs. Continue until all milk mixture is blended with eggs.