A few months back, Ron Burr Jr., of Spokane, called The Spokesman-Review food editor and asked about a recipe he thought the paper had published.
He was after the recipe for Beef Kapama, a cinnamon-scented beef stew served each year at the Spokane Greek Festival, sponsored by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. A quick dive into the paper’s archive didn’t reveal the recipe, so I went to the source.
Irene Supica, wife of the Rev. Stephen Supica, is keeper of the church’s kapama recipe. She learned it from a previous presvytera – that’s the title given to the priest’s wife – named Frances Velis.
Beef Kapama, pronounced ka-pa-MA, is what Supica calls traditional Greek food. Often, she said, it’s served as the main course at pre-Lenten carnivals. “You get to eat meat before you give up meat,” she said.
The church has served the beef braised in red sauce for a dozen or so years and accompanies it with orzo pasta drenched in browned butter and topped with grated myzithra cheese.
The festival volunteers make the kapama in large quantities, starting with 1,800 pounds of beef, she said. The church kitchen’s nine ovens will be full at festival time. The kapama is made fresh each day of the festival, which is scheduled this year for Sept. 27, 28 and 29. The master recipe starts with 50 pounds of beef, but Supica has scaled it back for more family-friendly portions.
As it’s August and people don’t want their ovens going full blast for five hours, she said this is a great dish to make in the Crock-Pot. Supica suggests cutting back on the water and deglazing the pan used to brown the meat to reclaim every bit of flavor. She also said that instead of orzo, which is a rice-shaped pasta, the meat and sauce are great served with spaghetti
In testing the recipe at home, I went the slow-cooker route with great success. I cut the amount of water in half, threw everything in the pot and let it bubble away all day. Supica’s instructions for the orzo boiled down to using “a lot” of butter. I translated that into a tablespoon per serving of pasta. Feel free to use more if your arteries can handle it.
The resulting dish is hearty and quite kid-friendly. My 3-year-old cleaned her plate – a feat she normally reserves for Cheerios and toast. It also holds up well in the refrigerator. When I warmed it up for lunch the next day, it seemed that the cinnamon flavor had intensified.
As for side dishes, I suggest a nice tossed green salad with feta cheese, kalamata olives and a vinaigrette, in keeping with our Greek theme. Simple sautéed zucchini will round out the meal nicely.
3 1/2 to 4 pounds beef chuck roast, cut into 2- two 3-inch chunks
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
2 (15-ounce) cans water
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (6-ounce) can red wine
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot. Add the meat and cook until browned. Mix all other ingredients and pour over beef. Bake, covered, in 350 degree oven for 5 hours or until meat is fork tender.
Crock-Pot variation: Use only one 15-ounce can of water. Brown beef and place in the crock of a large slow-cooker. Use a couple of tablespoons of the water to deglaze the pan and add the juices to the slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over beef. Cover and cook for 1 hour on high, then turn to low and cook for 7 to 8 hours, until the meat is fork tender.
Yield: 8 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving: 549 calories, 37 grams fat (16 grams saturated, 61 percent fat calories), 39 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrate, 135 milligrams cholesterol, 1.8 grams dietary fiber, 736 milligrams sodium.
Orzo and Brown Butter
1 pound orzo pasta
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces myzithra cheese, grated
Cook orzo in salted, boiling water according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and add butter. Swirl pan occasionally and cook until foam subsides and butter turns golden brown and gives off a nutty aroma, about 5 minutes.
Drain pasta well and turn out in a bowl. Pour butter over pasta, toss to coat and sprinkle with cheese.
Yield: 8 servings
Approximate nutrition per serving: 344 calories, 14 grams fat (8.7 grams saturated, 38 percent fat calories), 10 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrate, 36 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram dietary fiber, 137 milligrams sodium.