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Cookbook Watch

Santa Barbara Greek

July 28, 1999|BARBARA HANSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Foreign cuisines that arrive in the United States inevitably adapt to local ingredients. Although retaining that important taste of home, they acquire new flavors, and preparation often becomes easier, thanks to American shortcuts.

This is what has happened in the Greek community of Santa Barbara. Cooks there have incorporated sun-dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, avocados and other nontraditional foods into classical dishes. Moussaka might turn up with brown rice instead of meat. Pasta salad takes on Greek seasonings. And Bisquick speeds up the making of fried pastries called loukoumathes and one version of the nut cake karithopita.

These innovations appear along with conventional dishes in "The Greek Feast Santa Barbara Style" (Olympus Press; $14.95). The book contains more than 200 recipes from the congregation of the St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church. It is out just in time for the 26th annual Santa Barbara Greek Festival Saturday and Sunday. Recipes for popular festival dishes such as yogurt cake, baklava and the syrup-soaked cookies called melomakarona are included.

The book was a project of the St. Barbara Philoptochos Society, a parish organization. More than 15 years ago, the church produced an earlier cookbook. In addition to new dishes, the current book updates some of the older recipes.

"Cooks today are a little less anxious to pour a lot of butter in things," says Vivian Pahos, who led in collecting recipes.

The Santa Barbara Greek community numbers about 280 families from all parts of Greece. Regional specialties include seafood dishes from the islands, meatballs from Smyrna, cheese rolls from Crete and recipes from the north, where corn is a staple. One of these is a spinach pie that replaces filo dough with a cornmeal paste that is either mixed with the spinach or layered separately.

Boxed inserts scattered throughout the book explain customs and cooking procedures, such as how to cure olives, preserve grape leaves, dye Greek Easter eggs and roast a whole lamb on a spit. The grape leaf box suggests decorating stuffed grape leaves with nasturtium flowers as well as experimenting with the plant's leaves as wrappers.

The cookbook will be on sale at the Greek festival, which takes place Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Santa Barbara's Oak Park. To reach the park, take the 101 Freeway north and exit at Pueblo Street. Follow the signs. The event will include food, pastries, arts, crafts and dancing. Admission is free.

The cookbook can also be ordered by mail. The $17.95 price includes $3 for shipping. Make checks payable to the St. Barbara Philoptochos Society and send to the society at St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, 1205 San Antonio Creek Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93111.

Taramole

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Classic Greek taramosalata plus avocado equals taramole. Tarama is available at Greek delis.

2 cups cubed bread, crusts removed, from day-old French or Italian bread

1 (5-ounce) jar tarama (fish roe)

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

1 large avocado

* Soak bread in water, then squeeze gently with your hands; it will still be very damp.

* Place tarama in blender and blend at low speed until smooth and creamy. Add onion and bread and blend at high speed until light and creamy. Add olive oil and lemon juice and blend at low speed until well mixed.

* Pit avocado and mash flesh. Add 1 cup tarama mixture and mix well. Serve as dip or spread.

1 1/2 cups. Each tablespoon: 108 calories; 110 sodium; 6 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 3 grams carbohydrates; 1 grams protein; 0.18 gram fiber.

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