As my children graduated from both high school and then college, I experienced the sense of pride and accomplishment that all parents feel. You feel particularly relieved as well if you let your mind drift to those moments you doubted the day would ever come. The papers I proofread at midnight still remain word for word in my mind, and yet I loved every minute of it. As May arrives every year though I always have a group of special “children” who I taught as sixth graders preparing for the day of great excitement and feeling of freedom. Many of these students have special places in my heart.
One family I have taught celebrates the first of three graduations. I t seems like yesterday I first met this wonderful family. The dad and mom were helpful to me in teaching a class of ancient history since they had met while living in Iraq. With an archaeologist as a grandparent, we benefited from real artifacts and knowledge of the history of mankind.
I also was able to tap into some great family recipes. One grandparent now lives in Greece and the family has spent many a wonderful vacation along the coastlines of this beautiful place. Fresh fish needs to be accompanied by an equally fresh salad.
Greek Salad Araim
3 ripe tomatoes
1 medium cucumber
1 green pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Oregano to taste
1 cup black kalamata olives
½ cup feta cheese*, in chunks
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup cider vinegar
Cut tomatoes, cucumber, and green pepper into slices. Cut the onion in circles. Toss with salt and pepper and oregano. Add olives and feta and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar to taste. * The right feta cheese, soft from the barrel, is available from a Greek market and makes all the difference!
A great addition to this salad and use of the fabulous feta cheese you bought is a classic Greek spinach and cheese pie called Spanakopita. You can even make this ahead and keep in the refrigerator up to 24 hours before baking. It is good served hot or cold.
2 bunches of scallions, minced
3 eight-ounce boxes of frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
½ cup minced fresh parsley
½ t dried dill weed
8 eggs, beaten
1 lb. crumbled feta cheese
¼ t nutmeg
1 one-pound box phyllo dough
Non-stick oil spray
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Saute scallions in a little olive oil until tender and set aside. Combine spinach, parsley, dill, eggs, cheese, and nutmeg and add scallions. Mix this well and lightly salt.
Grease 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Line the dish with five sheets of phyllo, spraying each sheet with oil spray. Spread spinach mixture over the phyllo and top with remaining sheets, spraying between layers. Spray the top sheet. You can refrigerate at this point or bake for 45 minutes. Let rest before cutting into squares.
I hope you enjoy these dishes as much as I have. Food has a way of connecting flavors and memories and I treasure having taught this year’s fine graduates and wish them much success. Interestingly I still proofread lots of papers and enjoy every minute.
By Deborah Ann Neely