Stella Kopulos, a native of Greece and a resident of the District for 36 of her 72 years, is the author of one of the first accurately written Greek cookbooks.
In 1966, she and Dorothy Jones published "Adventures in Greek Cookery," making it easy for Americans to cook some of the exciting, but seemingly complicated dishes from that nation.
Just about that time Greek cooking began to catch on here - all those wonderful pastries - both sweet and savory - wrapped in phyllo, the paper-thin dough; avgolemono , the Greek lemon soup; pastichio , macaroni and meat in custard or kourambiethies , powdered sugar crescent cookies.
Now Mrs. Kopulos, who is no longer able to travel to collect recipes, has turned to the mails. Through them she has put together a somewhat more esoteric, though eminently eatable collection of foods from several of the small islands found off the mainland.
"There are 2,000 Greek islands," Mrs. Kopulos explained one noontime over a lunch of fish, leek balls and chicken-stuffed rolls. "Only 20 of them are inhabited and I have gotten recipes from seven of them."
She has written some fascinating introductory material about each of the seven, three of which harbor colonies of Jews. She discovered Jews have been living on the island of Chalkis for 1,500 years.
They were brought there as Roman slaves. They speak Greek but, according to Mrs. Kopulos, keep their own traditions. Her recipe for leek balls comes from Chalkis.
The introductory material about the islands reads like a tempting travel guide. Each of them is unique; their culinary contributions to the heritage of Greece is only part of their charm. Take Hydra. "At one time over 30,000 people inhabited this famous island.
"Today Hydra has a population of 2,500 and is a tourist haven. There are no extremes in climate for most of the year. There are no automobiles . . . The streets are unpaved and are far too narrow for conveyances. Everyone walks or rides a donkey."
Well, the next best thing to going to Greece is eating its food. Stella Kopulos' recipes are worth trying. From the Island of Mytelene: BAKED FISH (Makes 4 servings) 2 pounds of fresh fish steaks or fillets (flounder, rock or sole) 1/4 cup olive, or vegetable, oil 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup dry white wine 1 medium onion, chopped 3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped 5 bay leaves 1/2 green pepper, chopped 2 large tomatoes, sliced Salt and pepper
Wash and dry fish and cut into serving pieces. Pour 1 tablespoon oil in bottom of a baking dish and arrange fish. Pour remainder of oil over fish. Sprinkle with lemon juice adding onion, green pepper and bay leaves. Pour wine over fish and cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Place in refrigerator to marinate overnight.
Remove from refrigerator allowing fish to come to room temperature before placing in oven (about 1 hour). Uncover and place sliced tomatoes on top of fish. Salt and pepper to taste. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Remove from oven. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving. LEEK BALLS (40 to 42 balls) 2 large bunches of leeks (approximately 7 cups, chopped) 1 cup chopped walnuts 4 tablespoons flour Vegetable oil for frying Lemon juice 3 eggs 1/2 teaspoon baking powder Salt and pepper to taste
Cut leeks in small pieces. Cook, covered, in 1 cup water until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cool. When cool, press to remove all water. Blend in blender until pureed, add nuts, and reblend. Put in bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Heat oil to 375 degrees in deep container. Add mixture by heaping teaspoons and cook until light brown. Drain on paper toweling. Sprinkle with lemon juice, service with wine and cheese. FONTICA (Makes 4 1/2 to 5 dozen) 3 cups flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup vegetable shortening 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup lemon juice 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind 1/4 cup water 1 tablespoon vanilla
Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda, set aside. Combine shortening and sugar; beat well. Add juice, rind, water and vanilla, continuing to beat. Add 1 cup flour, beat 2 minutes.
Add remainding flour, working by hand until dough is pliable. Break off and roll into 1-inch balls, place on greased cookie sheet. Flatten gently with bottom of a glass covered with a damp cloth.
Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees cool, then dip in warm syrup and sprinkle with topping. Syrup 1 cup sugar 2 thin slices lemon 3 whole cloves 1/2 cup water 1 cinnamon stick 1 tablespoon rum (optional) 6 tablespoons honey
Combine all ingredients except honey and rum in small sauce pan. Simmer gently 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in honey, add rum if desired. Topping 1/2 cup finely ground walnuts 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon Combine and sprinkle on top.
From Thessalonike Island: CHICKEN WITH EGGPLANT (4 servings) 2 1/2 pounds eggplant 4 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, chopped 3 pound frying chicken, quartered 1/2 cup dry white wine 1 can (16 ounces) tomatoes Salt and pepper 3 tablespoons grated cheese (Kefaloteri or Parmesan) 1 egg Oil for trying
To prepare eggplant, peel off purple skin and cut into 1/2-inch thick round slices. Pour salt over all the slices and allow to stand while preparing chicken. In a heavy saucepan heat oil adding onions and garlic to saute until soft. Add chicken and brown on both sides. Pour wine over browned chicken and cover; cook for about 10-minuted.
Add tomatoes to chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup hot water, cover, and cook for 30 to 35-minutes.
Wash the eggplant. Dry on paper towels. Beat egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Dip each eggplant slice in egg and fry in heavy saucepan beginning with 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook over low flame and do not crowd slices while frying. When brown on both sides remove to paper towel to drain. Add oil as needed to fry eggplant. Remove chicken from saucepan and add eggplant in layers. Place chicken on top of eggplant. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. If necessary, add 1/4 cup hot water to insure adequate sauce for cooking time. When done sprinkle grated cheese over all. Allow to stand for 10 minutes.