Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Greek Potatoes - A Recipe Fairytale.

    Long, long ago a recipe from Suzie's Greek restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It was a lovely recipe. It was an enchanted recipe. The potato casserole included zucchini, onion, tomatoes, olive oil, oregano & feta along with the potatoes.  It sounded lighter and healthier than a typical gratin - no cream, butter or flour - magical!  I made it, the fam loved it (!) and I promptly lost the recipe. What to do?!  

    The quest to recreate it began.  No toe of frog or eye of newt went into the pot, but pinches of this and touches of that were added along the way...lemon zest and juice, oregano...more earthly ingredients than mystic ones for this concoction.  The result was bewitching.  The family was happy.  The end of the story?  Not quite.  
    Back in those dark ages - before Food Network - the only cooking shows to be found were on PBS - locally, WQED in Pittsburgh. One Saturday morning in 1998 while I was watching Chris Fennimore on the "WQED Cooks" show, he asked viewers to submit recipes for an upcoming show called "P is for Potatoes."   Did I have a recipe for him! The recreated, all new Greek Potatoes sounded like just the fair recipe Mr. Fennimore sought.  So I sent the recipe to the kingdome of WQED to see if it was worthy.  

    Lo and behold, not long after the recipe was submitted, my phone rang...who was on the other end of that line? Chris Fennimore himself. The king of the WQED cooking show asked me to appear and actually make the dish on camera! You KNOW I said YES! I told you it was an enchanted recipe. And so, I went to the land of WQED studios.  

    What an experience! I thought I'd be nervous, but the entire kingdom of WQED made me and the other guest cooks feel quite comfortable.  Once I was in place with all my ingredients spread before me and the red light of the camera went on, we chatted and cooked together while telling stories and laughing...what a good time!  Honestly, it was just like being in my very own, very humble kitchen.

    The bonus of the appearance was seeing my recipe in print in the "P is for Potatoes" cookbook...but there was an even bigger thrill to come.  Greek Potatoes made it to the WQED Best of the Best cookbook!  It was a happily-ever-after experience.

    You'd think that was the end of the story.  In fact, I did too.   After all these years, there is a little epilogue to the fairytale. Chris Fennimore, a.k.a King of WQED cooking shows, will be one of the judges for the Savor Pittsburgh Culinary Competition at Southside Works for the benefit of Magee-Women's Research Institute & Foundation. Little ol' commoner me will be one of the judges, too. 

    I can hardly wait for September 6th to stand side by side with Mr. Fennimore (and Rick Sebak, too!) as part of the judging crew who get to taste over 20 recipes prepared by the best chefs of the best restaurants in Pittsburgh to determine the fairest dish in all the land. And they most certainly lived very happily ever after.    

    If you'd like to enjoy an enchanting evening of fine food and great entertainment - all for a very good cause - follow this link for more info and to purchase tickets:   http://www.savorpgh.com In the meantime, here's the recipe that started it all. 

    Greek Potatoes

    • 4 baking potatoes, washed, dried, unpeeled & sliced
    • 1 small zucchini, sliced
    • 1 small yellow squash, sliced
    • 1 medium onion, sliced
    • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
    • salt (Crazy Salt) to taste
    • freshly ground pepper, to taste
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 red ripe tomatoes, sliced (can use diced, canned tomatoes if necessary in winter)
    • 4 ounces feta cheese
    • oregano

    Mix potatoes and the rest of the veggies in a large bowl. Toss with zest, juice, Crazy salt, oregano, pepper and olive oil. 

    Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour the potato mixture into the dish and top with tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle again with oregano and drizzle with a touch more olive oil.  

    Cover loosely with foil and bake at 375 for 1 hour.  Uncover and continue baking until and bubbly and nicely melded together.  If the cheese starts to brown, cover with the foil again - loosely.

    Serves 4-6
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