It was three years ago when I last helped host the St. Mary Medical Center Auxiliary annual charity "Touch of Elegance" luncheon at Avalon Manor.
I'm happy to return this year, along with my parents Chester and Peggy to once again host an afternoon of a wonderful menu, along with plenty of prizes and fun for this year's 14th annual luncheon on Sept. 14, and once again at the Avalon Manor.
There's always a money raffle and gift certificates offered as door prizes. Tables of 8 may be reserved. Best of all, just like my last time hosting in 2010, tickets are still just $25 and can be purchased at St. Mary Hospital Gift Shop in Hobart by calling (219) 945-4104 or call Mary Adams at (219) 942-3922 or Jan Raymond at (219) 942-1469. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Lunch at noon and my presentation with parents follows during the dessert course.
As for what I'll be talking about, it will be a mix of both stories from the farm, reflecting the nature of this weekly column, and stories from the famous, as a nod to my daily Off Beat entertainment column.
Since today's column is a "hats off" to Hobart theme looking forward to next month's St. Mary Medical Center Auxiliary Luncheon, I asked my Times reporter friend Deborah Laverty, who covers our Hobart news beat, to help me out with today's featured recipe.
"Phil, it was so good to talk to you today," Deb said.
"Below is a recipe similar to the Melomakarona you sampled when I brought them in to share from my mother-in-law, who makes them at both Christmas and Easter. This version I'm sharing is considered OK for Lent because butter is replaced by olive oil. By the way, I asked my daughter, Alexandra Arges, about her cookie making appointment with my mother-in-law, Ismini Arges, and she said it was to also make a different cookie, called Koulourakia."
Deb and her daughter told me they were "sworn to secrecy," and can't print this second recipe to share, since it was given to her by her Yia Yia (Greek for grandma). Like so many bakers, I'm told Greek-Americans like Deb's mother-in-law are super secretive when it comes to their wonderful cookie recipes.
"My mother-in-law is from a small village in Greece called Nestani and it is the home of a lot of great cooks and bakers," Deb said.
"A lot of her relatives from Nestani live in the Chicago area after immigrating to the U.S. And many own restaurants in Chicago including Opa Diana and Diana's in Greektown. My mother-in-law also makes her cookies for weddings, showers and always seems to have them available for any guests to her Munster home."
Melomakarona or Syrup-Soaked Greek Biscuits
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 lemon, juiced
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup brandy
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
5-6 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup ground walnuts
DIRECTIONS: To make syrup, combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 4 minutes or until syrup thickens slightly. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. To make cookies, in a large bowl, whip together the olive oil, sugar and honey. Dissolve the baking powder into the water and mix into the oil and sugar. Add orange juice, brandy, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix well. Gradually fold in 5 cups of the sifted flour. Knead, adding more flour if necessary, until a smooth dough forms. Lightly grease several cookie sheets and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Take a walnut- size piece of dough at a time and shape into small oblongs, mounding the top slightly. Bake on the greased cookie sheets for about 15 minutes, or until golden. Have the syrup ready and cool. When the melomakarona come out of the oven, steep them into the cool syrup. Remove with a slotted spoon, place on a platter or tray and sprinkle with ground walnuts. Makes 4 dozen.
Source: Deborah Laverty