Sisters dish on Greek fare

When people order meals at a Greek restaurant, they commonly ask for souvlaki. But there’s more to Greek food than the popular pork dish.

Sisters Betty, Eleni and Samantha Bakopoulos, authors of the award-winning cookbook Three Sisters Around the Greek Table, recently held a cooking demonstration and book-signing at St. Barnabus Anglican Church on Danforth Avenue.

“Cooking traditional Greek meals and handling our food is a connection to our heritage,” Samantha said.

The sisters’ parents immigrated from the Peloponnesus region of Greece in the 1960s. Growing up, cooking was always a big part of their life. By combining traditional Greek recipes with their own creations, the Bakopoulus sisters spent one year completing their home-style cookbook, published last year.

“People think they know Greek food because they know souvlaki. Yes, we make it, but it’s rare,” Samantha said. “In our book we want to show people something simple to make, something we actually have every day.”

At the demonstration they cooked fassolatha, a popular soup made primarily of tomatoes and white beans. Spending their childhood close to the Danforth, the sisters consider the neighbourhood an ideal place to stock up on kitchen items. For many dishes, such as this soup, they emphasized that ingredients are easy to get.

“You can find almost everything in our book on the Danforth,” Samantha said. “In the little markets here there are a lot of seasonal foods and really good Greek products like goat cheese, olive oil.”

Three Sisters Around the Greek Table won the Gourmand Cookbook Award in 2009. So far, it’s sold 7,500 copies in Canada.

“We have so much more to say,” Betty said. “There definitely will be a second book.”

Riverdale Historical Society president Gerald Whyte, who organized the Nov. 30 event, said he intends to better present the community’s diversity.

“This is a very mixed-culture neighbourhood,” he said. “The content of the current culture and heritage changes over years. We try to cover every aspect of them.”

As a big fan of Greek cooking, Susan Tilon said she wants to share the experience of preparing the recipes with her family.

“They have a lot of healthy dishes (in the book),” she said. “I have one copy and I am going to get another one for my daughter as a Christmas gift.”

Besides recipes, the Bakopoulos sisters want to share their Hellenic family values with readers.

“It’s definitely a cookbook promoting family meals and everyday cooking,” Eleni said. “We want people to take a breath, to slow down, take some time for their family and enjoy the simple fresh food.”