Greek pastries and pusharatas bring Biloxi's ethnic heritage to the forefront at Christmastime.
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and the Slavonian Lodge Auxiliary are cooking up holiday favorites this year just as they have in the past. Both organizations schedule a one-day sale this month.
Holy Trinity has turned the pastry sale into an Ethnic Christmas Festival, "Under One Sky," from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, at the church, 255 Beauvoir Road. The pastry sale is on from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Slavonian Auxiliary will be frying pusharatas all night the day before its sale from 9 a.m. until noon Dec. 23 at the lodge on 159 Water St., Biloxi. Pusharatas remind one of citrus-glazed, puffy doughnut holes that are crispy on the outside and soft, sweet and citrusy on the inside.
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One longtime Coastian once said that pusharatas may seem simple to make, but it takes much practice to get them just right. The women of the lodge know how to do it right. Orders must be placed in advance by calling the lodge, 860-9599.
The bakers and workers of the Holy Trinity festival and sale have been in the kitchen for weeks preparing a host of pastries both sweet and savory, from the sweet Greek finekia, kourambiethes or wedding cookies and koulourakia or coffee cookies to spanakopita and tyropita to the Russian kolachki and cognac cake to vareniki, potato and potato/mushroom filled pierogies, Ukrainian rye bread and Georgian bread.
"This will be the first of this kind of festival on the Mississippi Gulf Coast where patrons can now enjoy traditional ethnic foods and pastries from Greece, Russia, Romania, the Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia," said George Yurchak, festival spokesman. "This is a joyous family event where visitors can experience the traditions of these cultures from culinary delights to dancing."
Entertainment will feature dancing from these coun
tries as well as Bulgaria. The Russian Kalinka Dancers, youths and adults, will dance from 2 to 3 p.m; Greek dancers, from 11 a.m. until noon; and Ukrainian, Romanian/Moldovan and Bulgarian dancers, from noon until 2 p.m. Kids' activities will be a bounce house, face painting, glitter tattooing and crafts.
The usual Greek pastries are again available in assorted gift boxes. Other Greek offerings include baklava, which is full of nuts and drenched in honey; diples, shredded phyllo rolled with nuts and honey; tsoureki or Greek bread, and ouzo cake.
New this year is Pastes Mickey, a chocolate draped cake with Mickey Mouse ears; baklava, caramel and peanut butter cheesecakes and galaktobureko, custard layered with phyllo pastry and butter, topped with delicate syrup.
On the Russian side, other items will be poppy seed rolls, nut roll pinwheels and other kolachki pastry with the lekvar or plum filling.
A market with favorite Greek, Russian, Romanian, Georgian and Ukrainian foods will be available. Some of these items are Greek kalamata black olives; Elaia 100 percent extra virgin olive oil; orzo, a Greek pasta; Greek feta cheese and a variety of other cheeses; Turkish delight candy and other Greek cookies and jellies; Russian candies; caviar; pickled tomatoes; kvas, Russian fermented soda; and seaweed salad, as well as other dry and canned goods from Romania, Georgia and the Ukraine.
If all these pastries and market goods are not enough, ethnic luncheon offerings await. The Russian items will feature Russian potato salad, stuffed Russian crepe or blini and vareniki pierogies. Greek goodies include gyros, souvlaki, dolmades and Greek salad. Romanian items will feature sarmale (stuffed cabbages), mititei (sausages), polenta and sauerkraut.
Moldova will have raffaelo (cheese pies) and Uzbekistan plov (lamb and rice pilaf). The favorite Ukraine borsch will be available. There will be Greek (Acropolis) and Russian ice creams (A Taste of Moscow).
Orders can be taken in advance by calling Yurchak at 228-831-5820 or email email@example.com or Holy Trinity's web page, www.holytrinitybiloxi.org/ and order online. Orders can be picked up at the church.
A Southern treat
Pralines are a holiday sweet sensation down South, and Rosie Grace-Lewis of Biloxi wants to make some, too. She lost her recipe and asked for readers' help. Some readers weighed in with recipes in the Dec. 2 column, while others have more recipes for her today.
Parker Denson of Saucier shares two recipes, one for Mississippi pralines and the other for a praline cake.
2 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2- 1/2 cups pecans
Cream sugar, milk, soda and corn syrup and boil 5 minutes, stirring often. Add butter and pecans, then stir 5 more minutes. Cool 1 minute. Beat until creamy. Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy.
-- Submitted by Parker Denson
1 box butter pecan cake mix
1 can coconut pecan frosting
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans
Mix all ingredients, except 1/2 cup pecans. Pour cake mixture over reserved 1/2 cup pecans that have been placed in the bottom of a Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.
-- Submitted by Parker Denson
"This was a recipe of my mother's, Jonnie Massey, for really good pralines, so I am passing this one along to you," Jackie Crawford said. "We have enjoyed these many times."
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 cup evaporated milk or cream
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup broken pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
Cook sugars, cream, corn syrup and salt to soft ball stage, 236 degrees. Remove from heat. Add butter and flavorings. Stir until syrup begins to thicken. Add broken pecans and drop from a spoon into cakes on wax paper, placed on a cookie sheet. Press pecan halves into the surface, working quickly as the cakes harden fast. When hardened, remove from wax paper with a spatula and wrap individually.
To make sherry pralines, use only 3/4 cup milk and1/4 cup sherry.
-- Recipe by Mrs. J.L. Massey Sr. and submitted by Jackie Crawford
Polly Council of Gulfport shares her favorite praline recipe.
"When this recipe was 'famous,' brown sugar came in 1-pound boxes," Council said. "I believe it now comes in a 2-pound plastic bag, so just half the bag. That should be 1 pound.
"I have never had this recipe fail, and I must have made it more than 100 times," she said. "I was never very successful at doubling the recipe. It turns back to sugar before you can dole it out. You can add a little milk, but I learned to do it one batch at a time."
3/4 stick of oleo
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 pound light brown sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped or broken
Bring to a boil and lower to medium. Cook 6 minutes, no stirring. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir until it thickens. Drop spoonfuls on wax paper placed over dish towels.
-- Submitted by Polly Council
Wanted: Another au gratin
"I have looked for years for the recipe for the Fisherman's Wharf crab meat au gratin," Kathy Polite said. "Do you know anyone that might have this delicious dish?"
Readers, do any of you have this recipe? Or a similar one? Please e-mail or mail it to me.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.