Monday, May 26, 2014

THE PA MELTING POT - Part 9-2 - Southern Europeans - Calabria & the Grikos People

Below is the column I write for the Uniontown Herald-Standard newspaper which will appear on Thursday, May 29 2014.

Below the column you will find photos, video links, food links and more!!  Enjoy!!

The Melting Pot:  A look at the evolution of food in Southwestern PA.  Part 9 SOUTHERN Europeans Part 2 – CALABRIA AND THE GRIKO PEOPLE

The Italian populations of Allegheny and Fayette counties are 17% and 14% respectively. The main Italian groups who immigrated to western PA were from Sicily, Calabria, Abruzzi and Campagna. Overpopulation, political and natural disasters were the main reasons for immigration.

Calabrian cuisine: consists of salsicce (sausages) such as insaccati, capicolli, sopressate and njudà (dried sausage with black/hot pepper and fennel seeds). In addition, pork, goat meat and lamb are usually cooked in a sauce or on the grill.

Pasta includes multiple pastas and shapes with sauces of meat and tomato.  

Fish is served in coastal towns: prawns: shrimp, mackerel, calamari, octopus, swordfish, carpaccio and mustica (sardines).The sardines are preserved in terra cotta containers & the sauces are served with buttered bread.

Vegetables and home-preserved vegetables are also typical of Calabrian cuisine: peppers (black, hot and sweet) are used to flavor sun-dried tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini squash) and wild mushrooms and are conserved in olive oil. Stuffed eggplants and peppers are popular.

Three favorite cheeses are caciocavallo (stretched-curd cheese of sheep's or cow's milk in the shape of a gourd on a rope), buturri (small provolones with butter in the center) and smoked Ricotta.  

Wines such as Vibo, Rossano, Bivongi, Greco di Biance, Lamezia, Melissa, Pollino, Savuto and Ciro are musts when eating the food of Calabria.


It is impossible to talk about Calabria without mentioning the Grikos.

The Griko people are an ethnic Greek community of southern Italy located in Calabria and Apulia (Puglia) and are believed to be remnants of a once ancient and medieval Greek community.  Although most Greek inhabitants of southern Italy have become Italianized over the centuries the Griko community has been able to preserve their original Greek identity, heritage, language and distinct culture to a degree.

Griko cuisine is a blend of Italian and Greek cuisines:

The Griko people are traditionally producers of cereals, vegetables, olives and legumes. Local Griko cuisine does not differ greatly from the local Italian population, however there regional variations. Many typical Griko dishes are still in use among the people.

Breads include Pitta and Lestopitta. Also, there is Sceblasti (a hand-made bread), Aggute (Greek-Calabrian Easter bread decorated with painted hard boiled eggs, similar to the Greek Tsoureki).

Pastas and pasta dishes include Ciceri e ttria (tagliatelle served with chickpeas), Cranu stompatu (a wheat dish), Ricchiteddhe (pasta) Minchiarieddhi (long macaroni), sagne ncannulate (a wide tagliatelle and triddhi (irregular shaped pasta used in broth). 

Other dishes include Ricchiteddhe cu lle rape (orecchiette with turnips).
Hot Chili peppers are popular and they are usually stored dry, or preserved in in jars of oil, with the addition of slivers of garlic, mint, and capers.

Desserts/sweets include Mendulata te cranu (a dessert pastry filled with cream cheese, honey, sugar and vanilla), Le Cuddhure (Griko Easter cake) and Scardateddhi (Greek-Calabrian wedding sweets made from flour, honey and anise seeds, shaped like small doughnuts  and sprinkled with brown sugar).

Beverages are wines and Greek-based:  Retsina (Greek white or rosé wine flavored with pine resin), tsipouro (brandy made from Pomace - solid remains of grapes which are skins, pulp, seeds and stems) or ouzo (combination of pressed grapes, herbs, berries including aniseed, licorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel and hazelnut).

For recipes from 1700’s to 1960’s and modern day links versions please visit:


Calabria and Grikos people combined photos. 




























Calabrian folk music video

VIDEO (IN ITALIAN):  How to make sagne ncannulate:


Culture and food and more:

VIDEOS about the Griko people:

Griko actual Youtube video from site above so you can see on larger screen

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

THE PA MELTING POT: 5 - 3 SOUTHERN EUROPEANS : Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia

The Melting Pot:  A look at the evolution of food in Southwestern Pa.  Part 5 - 3 Eastern Europeans:  Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia

In this column I would like to talk about the cuisines of three countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) because of their proximity, their nomadic infusion and their worldly cuisines.  Before 1899, immigrants were not classified by ethnicity, but rather by country of birth, obscuring the ethnic origins of these immigrants.  All of the immigrants came from unstable countries like Turkey, Iran, Persia, Lebanon, the Russian empire, etc.  We do have the best numbers on the Armenian-Americans:  Estimates range from 800,000 to 1.5 million with large pockets in NY, MI, MA, PA, and CA.
Armenian cuisine:  Based on Arabic, Turkish and Greek cuisines.  
Appetizers include humus, baba ganoush (vegetarian dip/spread of roasted eggplants, tahini and garlic), tabouleh (salad of bulgur, tomatoes, parsley, mint, onion, olive oil, and lemon juice) and madzoon (yogurt). 

Main courses like pilaf (rice), imam bayildi (eggplant casserole), foule (beans), felafel (vegetable fritters), shish kebab (meat cut into cubes) and kufta (meatballs) are popular. 

Popular bakery and desserts are pita bread, baklawa (layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts, syrup or honey), halawi (date tarte), halvah (pastry) and mamoul (cookies filled with an orange nutty paste), lokhoom (pastry with lemon, pistachios and powdered sugar). Beverages are espresso or oghi (raisin brandy).
There are several Azerbaijani newspapers, 

organizations, etc. across North America. 

Azerbaijani Cuisine:  Based on Iranian, Persian, Turkish, Soviet Union and Russian cuisines.  
They use an abundance of fresh vegetables and greens. Fresh herbs including mint, coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leeks, chives, thyme, marjoram, green onions and watercress often accompany main dishes. Fish include sturgeon, salmon, sardines, grey mullet and caviar found in the Caspian Sea.  
For the main course there are over 30 kinds of soups and 40 different plov (rice) dishes. 

The second course included kebabs and shashlik made with beef or lamb or chicken or fish. Narsharab is a shashlik served with a tart pomegranate sauce. Dried fruits and walnuts are used in many dishes. Traditional condiments are salt, black pepper, sumac (spice made from berries with a lemon accent and often mixed with thyme and sesame seeds as tabletop condiment) and saffron.  Black tea is the national beverage.
Immigration from Soviet Georgia was virtually 
nonexistent until the collapse of the Soviet Union in

 1991, following which an estimated one-fifth of the 

country's population left the country.
Georgian cuisine:  Based on Georgian, mid-eastern, western Asian and European cuisines.  

The use of various herbs and spices is prevalent. Meat and vegetarian dishes are popular. A Georgian cultural feast (supra) is best observed with a huge assortment of dishes is prepared, always accompanied by large amounts of wine, and that can last for hours. In a Georgian feast, the role of the (toastmaster) is an important and honored position.  

A supra might have bread such as Lobiani (boiled bean bread), barbecued meat such as kartuli (chicken), Ojakhuri (pork), salads, Imeretian cheese (curd cheese made from cows’ milk with a slightly sour, salty taste), Lobio (kidney bean dish served with marinated vegetables) lots of fresh cooked vegetables, Tarragon and Rice Flaky Pastry, Churchkhela (sausage shaped candy), lots of wine, etc. 
Georgia exports wine to 48 countries.
                                                                                                            LINKS AND PHOTOS and VIDEOS BELOW PHOTOS                       






Armenian and Azerbaijani and Georgian links