The Food Column: Slaving away for the Slavic Food Fest

By Rebecca Sodergren

Nineteen freezers line the social hall and back rooms of Monroeville's Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church in preparation for the annual Slavic Food Festival from 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Festival chairperson Connie Beatty says she orders freezers like other people order pizzas.

That's because every item on the Slavic Festival menu is made from scratch, which means there's a lot of advance cooking and freezing going on.

Six weeks before the festival, the food crew -- mainly retired women -- begins cooking and baking three days a week. Holubki (stuffed cabbage) is assembled and flash-frozen in advance. Pierogies are made and frozen, then steamed on festival days. Ms. Beatty has already filled three freezers just with three kinds of cookies -- nut horns, apricot horns and lady locks. On a recent Saturday, she had a crew of two people who filled a total of 1,066 lady locks in one day. Her nut-horn recipe calls for 50 cups of flour, 10 pounds of butter and 10 cups of sour cream.

Father Joseph Raptosh contributes some dishes -- including a three-cheese macaroni and cheese -- with recipes so top-secret he insists on preparing them himself; he won't even pass the recipes to the baking committee. The church's baklava recipe is one Father Raptosh learned in Greece; now the church prepares 18 industrial-size pans of it for each festival.

Friday, the featured entrees are lump crab-on-haddock and fried cod sandwiches, the popular dishes that also show up at the church's Lenten fish fries.

Although most of the festival food prep falls to the women of the church, the men will take over preparation of Saturday's featured entree. The men will roast three whole pigs for 24 hours, then wrap them in blankets ("pigs in a blanket," Ms. Beatty quipped) to retain heat. They'll pull the meat off the bones for pulled-pork sandwiches.

The menu also includes a roasted half-chicken dinner (Saturday only), spanakopita (spinach pie), rice pilaf, stuffed grape leaves, nut rolls, cheese pockets, fresh fruit and creme pies, Hungarian tortes (see recipe), cakes, cheesecakes, strudels and more.

"Holubki, haluski, pierogies ..." Ms. Beatty ticks off the items. "You don't have to be Slavic to love those. They're practically Pittsburgh."

Other activities at the festival include Eastern European music and dance performances, a Chinese auction, bingo and games of chance. For takeout orders, call 412-372-9415.

More festivals

If the Slavic Festival doesn't fill you up enough (as if that were possible), check out these festivals, too:

Pig Out: Every other month, Marty's Market in the Strip District will offer a different culture's preparation of a whole hog with side dishes, drink and live music. This month's offering, presented in conjunction with Reyna Foods, celebrates the Yucutan Peninsula with pork tacos, corn tortillas, pickled onion, cilantro, rice, beans and margarita mix (BYO tequila) for $10; some individual items are also available. 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Marty's; tickets available at the door. martysmarket.com.

Taste of Beechview: Produce, food and beverages from Crested Duck Charcuterie, BREW on Broadway, Slice on Broadway, Casa Rasta, Tupelo Honey Teas, Chef Adam Manculish, IGA Market, Tienda La JimEnez, food trucks and urban and regional farmers. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Free admission and live music; fee for food tastings. facebook.com/crestedduck.

Popsicle Pop-Up Party: The brand hits the ACB's Cap Classic Baseball Tournament at Monroeville Community Park from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with samples of Popsicle treats, games and giveaways.

2013 Food and Wine Classic: Food and wines from around the Pittsburgh North region. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center in Ross. $65; register ahead at thechamberinc.com.

Stroll the Strip: Stroll -- or ride a double-decker bus -- through the Strip District next Thursday, June 27, and enjoy tastings and surprises at about 20 host locations. Check in at Wholey's, In the Kitchen, Society for Contemporary Craft or the Pittsburgh Public Market (at its new location at 2401 Penn Ave.) for a wristband and map. Pre-event appetizers begin at 4:30 p.m. at Wholey's; the stroll itself runs from 5 to 8:30 p.m., and there's an after-party at Cruze Bar, 1600 Smallman St. $55 (ages 21 and up only). neighborsinthestrip.com/strollthestrip.

Benefits

Omelet Run: 5K run/walk, "Little Scrambler" children's race and an omelet breakfast served up by Chef Joe Carei of Ellie Mae's and Caileigh's Catering. 9 a.m. Saturday at Uniontown High School's track. $25 registration fee benefits the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children and the Uniontown Cross Country Boosters. 724-439-2113.

PNC YMCA Wine Social: 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Perle, Market Square. $100 per person benefits the YMCA of Pittsburgh's Building Bridges Campaign. Reservations: ymcapgh.org.

The Great North Pour Beer Festival: Roasted pork, riblettes, bourbon-glazed chicken skewers, jalapeno cheddar cornbread, craft brews and live entertainment. 6 to 9 p.m. next Thursday, June 27, at Cabana Bar in Pine. $30 includes buffet and 12 beer samples. Proceeds benefit the Children's Hospital Free Care Fund. showclix.com/event/greatnorthpour.

Classes

The Benefits of Grass-fed Beef: Oliver Griswold of North Woods Ranch in Mars discusses the benefits of grass-fed cattle for consumers and the environment. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 26, at East End Food Co-op, Point Breeze. Free, but donations to Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture will be accepted. Reservations: 412-242-3598.

Beehive Bake Oven: Learn to make an entire meal in a historic beehive bake oven. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 29 at Depreciation Lands Museum, Hampton. $40; register ahead at 412-486-0563 or depreciationlandsmuseum.org.

Contests

Pillsbury Bake-Off Online Voting: As announced previously in this column, the Pillsbury Bake-Off has changed its format this year. Pillsbury is accepting recipe submissions in three categories, narrowing the pool to 60 semifinalists in each category, and then asking the American public to narrow that pool to 34 finalists who will compete at the Bake-Off this fall. Online voting for the "Simple Sweets and Starters" category is open through next Thursday, June 27. In this category, Pennsylvania has seven semifinalists -- the most semifinalists of any state; although none hails from the Pittsburgh region, Anna Zovko of Tampa, Fla., used to live in Clairton and Glassport. To vote, go to bakeoff.com. To enter the final category ("Quick Rise & Shine Breakfasts"), submit recipes starting July 4.



Hungarian torte

For nut filling

  • 4 cups ground walnuts

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 1/4 cup honey

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 4 egg whites

For fruit filling

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries (blackberries, red raspberries and blueberries)

  • 1/4 cup instant tapioca

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • 2-pound sleeve commercial red raspberry pastry filling

For dough

  • 3 cups flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter

  • 2 eggs yolks

  • Splash whole milk

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Powdered sugar

  • Choose nut or fruit filling.

For nut filling, mix all ingredients. If mixture is too thick to spread, add a splash of milk. Set bowl aside.

For fruit filling, stir together berries, tapioca, sugar and lemon juice and let stand for 15 minutes. Set bowl aside while preparing dough.

For dough, mix together the first 4 dough ingredients in mixing bowl.

Cut butter into tablespoon-size slices and add to dry ingredients. Mix on low speed using dough hook until the dough is pebbly.

Pour 2 egg yolks into measuring cup and fill with whole milk to make 1/2 cup liquid. Add vanilla to milk mixture.

Add milk mixture to dough, using dough hook to combine. Mix well until sides of mixing bowl are clean and dough is not sticky.

Divide dough into 3 balls and roll each ball into a rectangle to fit a 9-by-13-inch pan with at least a 2-inch margin to go up sides of pan (dough shrinks as it bakes).

To assemble torte: Layer 1 sheet of the dough in bottom of pan.

For nut torte, spread half of the nut filling on top of dough sheet. For fruit torte, spread dough sheet with half of the raspberry filling and top with half of the berries.

Repeat layers: another sheet of dough, the remainder of the filling, and then the final sheet of dough.

Prick top of finished torte to allow fruit mixture to bake without overflowing. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Sift powdered sugar over top layer while torte is still warm. Allow torte to cool completely before serving or freezing. Cut into squares. Makes a 9-by-13-inch torte.

-- Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church

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