Even in this heat, as my refrigerator maintains a full stock of salad greens for crisp, cool, no-cook meals, I’ll turn the oven dial up for just one exception. Gemista, meaning “stuffed” or “full” in Greek, is a quintessential seasonal meal that requires fresh summer produce and some help from a hot oven.
Very recent memories of gemista (pronounced “yemista”) include three generations of women gutting garden zucchini, tomatoes and bell peppers in my grandmother’s kitchen and stuffing them with a mixture of rice, beef and dill. We then mix the stuffing with the guts, add a healthy drizzle of olive oil, replace the tops and bake them in the oven. Finding this dish on a food truck fills me with an inexplicable joybut also, I admit, a biased skepticism.
Gussy’s is run by Gus Megaloudis, known to Duke students as The Greek Devil. For almost four years, he’s been running a stand on Duke’s campus by that name, serving Greek yogurt with toppings, cold sandwich wraps, hummus and other grab-and-go items.
Born in the U.S. of Greek and Puerto Rican descent, Megaloudis lived in Greece for 17 years playing professional soccer in Athens and on the island of Crete. He rattles off his favorite foods and laments that health codes and permits don’t allow him to serve warm, made-to-order items off the cart. This truck, he says, is a dream finally coming to fruition. Gemista are a part of that.
“We want it to be homey,” Megaloudis says of the menu. “We’ll have a special of the weekpastitsio [a lasagna-type dish including a warm layer of béchamel sauce], dolmades [stuffed, rolled grape leaves], spanakopita [spinach pie made with phyllo dough]. Gemista, being that they’re my favorite, I’m going to have it on the truck every day.”
“We’ll be making them with and without meat,” he adds. “I’m just sticking with peppersorange, yellow and red peppers. You know, I’m not buying the cheap green ones. You’ll get a nice side of yogurt with it, the way we used to eat them in Greece.”
With the help of his wife and other family members, he’ll still maintain The Greek Devil stand. And he promises the truck will often be parked outside of Duke campus events. He bought the truck from the now-defunct Slippin’ Sliders, “so it was already that nice Greek blue color.”
Other standard menu items will include the typically mispronounced gyro (“yee-ro,” y’all), grilled chicken pita sandwiches, homemade hummus, falafel and Greek salads. When the weather cools down, expect warm soups such as avgolemono (frothy egg lemon), lentil and bean.
For dessert, Gussy’s will serve baklava and yogurt with honey. Wash it all down with a Greek frappe, an iced coffee drink so popular that a group of Duke doctoral students from Greece and Cyprus pressured Megaloudis to make it an off-menu item last semester. It fares perfectly for a pickup game of backgammon.
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