Monday, August 4, 2014

THE PA MELTING POT: 6- 1B Greek Influences on western PA Cuisines - Photos, recipe links and videos!!

A look at the evolution of food in southwestern Pennsylvania – MACEDONIANS:  Greek influence on the cuisines of Romania, Hungary and Italy. 6-1B

Since southwestern PA, northern W VA and southeastern Ohio area are so linked by Greek ethnicities, religions and customs, I thought I would talk about the influence of Greek cuisine on the cuisines of Italy, Romania and Hungary.  The Greek civilization began in the 8th to 6th centuries BC, flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea and provided the foundation of modern Western culture. Thus the cuisine of all those countries has been influenced by Greek cuisine.

I have chosen Italy, Romania and Hungary because of their large influences on the population of southwestern PA.  PAST NUMBERS BECAUSE THE US STOPPED ASKING FOR SPECIFIC NATIONALITIES IN THE 2010 CENSUS:
 ITALY:  Western PA’s Italian population is estimated at  15.4%/13.2% in Allegheny/Fayette counties respectively.  Pittsburgh has one of the largest Italian-American communities in the nation.  
ROMANIA:  There are estimated to be 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 Romanian-Americans in the US.  Pennsylvania claims approximately 150,000-300,000. An accurate account is unavailable. 
HUNGARY:  There are an estimated amout of Hungarians 1,700,000 in the US and 132,000-150,000 in Pennsylvania.  The triad of northern W VA, SW PA and SE Ohio contains a large Hungarian contingent.


Stuffed grape/cabbage leaves (Greek domades, Romanian and Hungarian dolma, and Italian cavolo tipieno) are very popular. They may be stuffed with vegetables, meats, rice, mint, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, dill, lemon, tomato paste, dried currants, pine nuts and other and served with egg-lemon or garlic-yogurt sauces. 

Vegetable stews/soups (Greek ellines stifado, Romanian ghiveci de legume, Hungarian zddseg leves and Italian ciambotta) can contain, of course, vegetables such as peas/green beans, basil, oregano, lemon, tomatoes and other. 

Cucumber-yoghurt soup/dip/sauce (Greek tzatziki, Romanian castrarveta supa, Hungarian citrom es tojas leves and Italian zuppa di uovo e limone) is served in warm weather and is made with cucumbers, yoghurt, mint, garlic, lemon, etc.

Stuffed peppers which have always been popular in PA (Greek gemistets piperies, Romanian ardei umplute, Hungarian toltott paprika and Italian peproni ripieni) are stuffed with vegetables including tomatoes, rice/orzo, beef or lamb and onion. 

Meatballs (Greek keftedes, Romanian chifleluto, Hungarian derult egbol tasirt and Italian polpette) are usually made of beef and/or lamb with mint, garlic, onion, oregano, lemon and other herbs/spices. (Greek meatballs are traditionally served with tzatziki, salata and pita or pasta.)

Shish kabobs (Greek, Romanian and Italian shish kebobs and Hungarian dogok sisteregtek kabobs) are usually made with lamb, beef or chicken and vegetables (onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peppers, etc.), marinated in a sauce and cooked on a grill (previously cooked over fires).

Crepes (Greek krep, Romanian crep/clatita, Hungarian crep palasinta and Italian crespo) are all-purpose flour/buckwheat flour based French pancakes with added egg, milk, butter, etc. and cooked on a griddle. Crepes can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   Savory crepes can include ham & cheese, seafood and vegetable fillings. Sweet crepes contain fruits, are covered with powdered sugar and can be drizzled with chocolate, etc.

Baklava (Greek/Hungarian baklava, Romanian baclavaua and Italian il baklava) is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey and held together with syrup or honey.