US Greek Festivals

May Day is celebrated in Greece in two ways. It’s a traditional celebration of spring with picnics and family outings. Also it’s a commemorated with militant labor marches.

During my last visit to Athens I experienced a bit of both. On my way to a large park in the north of the city I walked along streets closed to traffic including buses, passing crowds of people headed toward Syntagma, which faces the Parliament.

I spent the afternoon sharing food and drink with mainly young people in a shaded area. A majority of them were Greek, others were from Turkey, Bulgaria, Germany. Perhaps three-dozen of us socializing and enjoying the good weather. A temporary respite for those who still faced a jobless future after completing their education.

In the United States there are many Greek festivals sponsored by Orthodox Churches from late spring to early fall. Below are some I’ve found:

9 – 12 May 2012 • Annunciation • 32 East Ross Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA

11 – 12 May 2012 • Annunciation • 573 N. Highland Street, Memphis, TN

17 – 20 May 2012 • St. Sophia • 440 Whitehall Road, Albany, NY

17 – 20 May 2012 • St. George • 1200 Klockner Road, Trenton, NJ

18 – 20 May 2012 • Nativity of the Theotokos • 1236 Spotswood Furnace Road, Fredericksburg, VA

18 – 20 May 2012 • Annunciation • 1100 Napa Valley Road, Little Rock, AR

18 – 20 May 2012 • Sts. Constantine & Helen • 265 W. Third Street, Mansfield, OH

18 – 20 May 2012 • Ascension Cathedral • 4700 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland, CA

18 – 20 May 2012 • Prophet Elias • 223 Church Street, Santa Cruz, CA

25 – 27 May 2012 • Church of the Nativity • 1110 Highland Drive, Novato, CA

31 May – 3 June 2012 • Sts. Constantine & Helen • 60 Traverse Road, Newport News, VA

31 May – 3 June 2012 • Holy Trinity • 250 Gallows Hill Road, Westfield, NJ

1 – 3 June 2012 • St. Nicholas • 3109 Scio Church Road, Ann Arbor, MI

1 – 3 June 2012 • St. Nicholas • 1260 Davis Street, San Jose, CA

2 – 3 June 2012 • St. Andrews • Mission Plaza, Downtown, San Louis Obispo, CA

Dance! Eat! Enjoy!

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

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James Beard Finalists

The 2012 finalists for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best New Restaurant include: Altura, Seattle (Italian); Bistronomic, Chicago (French); Fiola, Washington, DC (Italian); Isa, New York City (Mediterranean); Petite Jacqueline, Portland, ME (French); Pistou, Burlington, VT (American/French); Tertulia (Spanish); and Zeppoli, Collingwood, NJ (Italian).

Three of the nominees for Outstanding Chef are: Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, Chicago (Italian); Frank Ruta of Plena, Washington, DC (Italian); and Nancy Silverton of Pizzeria Mozza, Los Angeles (Italian).

Outstanding Restaurant finalists include: August, New Orleans (French); Balthazar, New York City (French); Patina, Los Angeles (French); Picasso at Bellagio, Los Vegas (French); and Vetri, Philadelphia (Italian).

And for Outstanding Restaurateur: Frank Bonanno of Bonanno Concepts, Denver (Italian); Richard and Larry D’Amico of D’Amico & Partners, Minneapolis (Italian); and Piero Selvaggio of Valentino Group, Santa Monica (Italian).

Piero Selvaggio

I enjoyed both the food and ambiance of Valentino Restaurant during a trip to Southern California perhaps twenty years ago. Selvaggio, who was born in Modica, Sicily, has been in the restaurant business for over forty years and is already the recipient of many prestigious awards.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Spaghetti With Nettles

I shop for organic produce at the Ferry Plaza Famers Market in San Francisco every Saturday morning and buy stinging nettles when they’re available. I caution anyone handling them that they need to either use tongs or wear rubber gloves because the green in its raw state irritates the skin. I like to eat stinging nettles with pasta.

The ingredients needed for the two-serving recipe that follows are: about ½ pound fresh stinging nettles, 6 ounces dry spaghetti, ½ cup raw or toasted pecans, ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, 6 olives, 2 cloves garlic or one stalk green garlic when in season, 1 ounce canned anchovies, olive oil, a large cooking pot, a colander, kitchen shears, a serving bowl or platter, a garlic press, and a kitchen timer.

This dish doesn’t take long to prepare and is best served immediately. I start by putting everything I need on the kitchen counter. I fill the pot with cold water and light the burner to heat it. I weigh the spaghetti so it’s ready. I put the colander in the sink and begin dumping the stinging nettles into it in batches and using the shears to cut it into smaller pieces so it doesn’t form clumps when it’s cooked.

Whenever the water reaches the boiling point, I slide in the spaghetti, setting the timer for ten minutes from the water resumes boiling. I make sure to stir the spaghetti once softens to separate the strands. It takes more than ten minutes for it to become al dente but the timer gives me a bit of advance warning to keep an eye on it while I complete the preparations below.

I break the pecans into pieces in the serving bowl, add the crumbled feta, remove any pits from the olives and cut into small pieces before also adding them. I clean the garlic and push through a garlic press or slice the green garlic and add to the other ingredients. I chop up the anchovies as fine as I can and add them along with the olive oil they’re packed in plus a bit more olive oil.

Just before the spaghetti is done I turn off the burner, add the stinging nettles to the pot and press down any that aren’t submerged. They take about a minute to cook. I return the colander to the sink where I drain both the pasta and greens. Once all the water is removed, I add the cooked spaghetti and nettles to the bowl and mix well before serving.

image & text copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved

Welcome!

For many people the Mediterranean lies at the center of imagination. In previous centuries it was a port of embarkation for adventurers seeking treasure abroad. My own ancestors were among those who abandoned poverty and turmoil in their homeland hoping to make a better life for themselves and their children in a foreign land.

Today it offers bright, warm days for the travelers of Northern Europe. And economic opportunity for refugees from Africa, the Balkans or the Middle East. It remains a vibrant crossroad for numerous cultures and peoples. Constantly transformed.

Mediterranean Focus will primarily cover art, books, cinema, food, and music not only within or from the region but will also trace the area’s influence in other parts of the world.

I am most familiar with Greece, Italy, France and Turkey but will make a conscious effort to broaden the scope of reporting. Also I welcome comments, suggestions and other input from readers.

copyright © 2012 by N. A. Diaman, all rights reserved