Demetri keeps pushing to upgrade the frying vessel. Vicky won’t give up the homely, no-name enameled metal pot she has used for at least 15 years, even though both of its plastic handles are no longer functional.
“The two of us are a little dangerous together in the kitchen,” Demetri says with a smile. “But we make a good team.”
Their preparation of a special dish demonstrates how seamless their combined efforts can be. “We wanted to make something you won’t be served in any restaurant,” Vicky says.
It’s called Pita, from her side of the family, but it would never be mistaken for plain pockets of bread. Although a thicker-than-baklava (No. 7) , store-bought filo dough can be used, Vicky makes her own, which drapes and wrinkles like raw silk. In between her delivery of a total of 13 layers, kept under moist wraps until she deposits them one at a time via a dowel into a 15-inch round pan, Demetri drizzles melted butter, cooked and oiled rigatoni, ribbons of frothy beaten eggs and crumbles of feta cheese.
When it emerges from a 350-degree oven more than an hour later, the layers have fused into a wide, glorious pan of crisped sunshine. Demetri waits until it cools a bit, then inverts it (no feat for the timid) and cuts it into baklava-style diamonds for serving.
It’s the last element of the savory lunch spread: grilled sausage and grill-rotisseried marinated souvlaki; grilled meatballs and fried meatball patties; cooked dandelion greens dressed with lemon juice and olive oil; a fresh cabbage salad; a freshly made Greek salad and a finer-chopped relish using salad ingredients; kalamata olives; the fries. Greek beer, Greek wine.
It’s not for show. Leftovers will be taken next door or down the street.
Pulling out all the stops, Demetri then reveals a bowl of yeasty batter for making loukoumades, the honeyed dumplings that are always a hit at their church’s annual festival in September. The boys acknowledge that this is indeed a treat.
Panayioti, nicknamed P.T., sighs. He has been looking at colleges out of town.
“My cousins who’ve experienced it already tell me I’ll be in food withdrawal,” P.T. says. “I can understand that.” He and his brother realize they enjoy a life envied among their friends. Especially those fries.
The 51st annual fall festival at Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church of Washington, D.C., will be held Sept. 16-18. See www.schgoc.org/events for details.