Last Saturday Supper Club February – OPA!!!

March 9, 2014

ImageAnother hit dinner party!  Aside from all the good food and drink, I found out:

Tracey SexyTracey was a “Food Stylist” in a previous life!  And a damn good one at that.

TimTim used to hang out in Greek town, Detroit, and drink Retsina wine and shout OPA! every time anyone lit a match.  LOL!

Jonathan and TraceyJonathan is a baklava loving Super Hero.  His secret power is “saving the day” before I even know anything needs saving!

Laura 2Laura and I burned our Weight Watcher point cards in the flaming saganaki – OPA!

Last Saturday January 015Chip FebruaryIf Angel didn’t keep Chip in line, he might get a job at the National Enquirer!  I’ll be your steno, Chip – OPA!

David is the best “morning after” wing man a girl could ever want.

And finally, Black Buca (Sambuca, Greek Liquer) should be drunk in moderation, if at all.  Ouch, my head still hurts!

saganakia I served Saganaki, the flaming Greek cheese, as an appetizer.  It was served with warm bread.  I made homemade French bread using the food processor method – no kneading.  I love that recipe!  I don’t usually serve appetizers at a dinner party, but how can you have a Greek dinner party without Saganaki??  OPA!!

Jonathan

While I was serving up the Cosmos, Martinis and Wine, the cheese was frying in the super hot pan on the stove.  La La, blab blab, oops, the cheese was getting a little over-melty.  Have no fear, Jonathan is here!  He swooped in behind me and effortlessly flipped all the cheeses and then helped me light it up – OPA!  Now, here is a man you want at every dinner party.

I had trouble finding the right kind of cheese and ended up ordering it from a Greek deli in Wisconsin, Parthenon Foods.  My research showed that three different kinds of cheese could be used.  Halloumi is a mild salty Cypriot cheese made from a blend of sheep and goat’s milk.  Raw, it is a little rubbery and sort of spongy.  Melted, it held it’s shape, but was still gooey enough to dip bread into.

The second most popular cheese is Kasseri, an ancient Greek cheese that is semi-hard, salty and made mostly from sheep’s milk.  This cheese made the best saganaki.  It fried easily and melted perfectly.  Not too melty, just enough to sink a warm hunk of bread into it and pull up some gorgeous stretchy, gooey cheese.  And really delicious.

The third cheese was Kefalotyri.  This Greek cheese is hard, made of sheep’s milk and it is aged.  It’s flavor is quite salty and very sharp.  A bit crumbly, but it still melted nicely.  This cheese is the best tasting without melting.  I would serve this cheese again, raw on a cheese platter.

Avgolemono SoupFor the soup course, I served a classic Greek soup, Avgolemono.  It is a lemony chicken and rice soup, thickened with egg yolks and served with dill.  I love this soup so much, I think I could eat it every day.  It is very easy to make, and despite it’s rich look and taste, it is actually quite light in fat and calories.

 

Sausage and OctopusI was a little nervous about the third course, grilled sausages and octopus – OPA!!  I wasn’t sure how my guests would react to the grilled octopus.  Apparently, my guests all have sophisticated palates.

No one looked the least bit squeamish, no one ran from the room screaming, and everyone tried it.  I served it on 2 platters, family style.  I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to pass on anything they may not have wanted to try.  As you can see from the gorgeous platter, it looked very appetizing.

Tracey SexyMy friend Tracey claimed to have been a “food stylist” in a former life, so she arranged this beautiful platter of goodies.  Very impressive, Tracey!

My friend and neighbor, Tim is quite the grill master and smoke aficionado, so he helped me with the octo-sausage grilling.  Great job, Tim, thanks!

Rack Of LambFor the entree course, I served my famous rack of lamb.  Easiest recipe ever, just make sure your oven is clean, because they cook at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.  If your oven isn’t sparkling, you are definitely going to get smoke in the house.

Greek Spinach Side DishI served the lamb with a spinach side dish I invented a while back.  I love Greek spanikopita, the little Greek pastries filled with spinach and feta cheese.  So I make the filling and bake it in a casserole dish, skip the fussy, fattening phyllo dough! It was the perfect compliment to the rich lamb.

Grilled Red PeppersI also served grilled sweet red bell peppers, dressed in olive oil, lemon and dill, served over white rice.  I make these grilled peppers all the time.  They are easy to make and look gorgeous on the plate.

 

 

BaklavaOh my Lord, the dessert I served, that baklava, I really think it was the best I’ve ever tasted.  I used a recipe from Mario Batali.  One package phyllo dough, 4 sticks of butter, 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of honey and pistachio nuts and walnuts.  It makes for a beautiful presentation.  Everyone loved it.  I sent most of it home with my guests.

There were  a few hiccups hosting this dinner, but nothing worth writing about.  My advice to anyone hosting a dinner party, is to relax, let your guests help, and serve everything with a big smile and pretend it all turned out perfectly.  Generally, your guests will not notice the missteps.  And, even if they do, the good company will make up for it.  Enjoy yourselves and be fearless in the kitchen!

Baklava 2


Opa! Best Moussaka Ever!

April 14, 2013

I love the flavor profiles in Greek food.  Lemon, garlic, oregano, dill and mint.  I love the sharp tang of the various sheep’s milk cheese used in Greek cooking.  I frequently make a side dish of chopped spinach, fresh dill and mint with a smattering of good quality feta cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon.  My guests always seem to love it.  It’s a big step up from ordinary cooked spinach.  The flavors are bright and fresh and it is a snap to put together.

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Lamb Based Moussaka and Spinach with Dill, Mint and Feta Cheese

What could I make to go with that spinach?  After flipping through a few magazines and then a couple of cookbooks, I came up with Moussaka – OPA!!  Okay, I know you’re only supposed to shout, Opa! when the flaming saganaki cheese arrives at your table in a Greek restaurant, but I can’t help myself.  I like to shout Opa! when any Greek food comes to my table.  Actually, I like to shout, Opa! whenever the mood strikes me.

After reading five or six different recipes, I came up with my own variation.  I don’t eat any wheat or gluten, and the typical creamy cheese topping on Moussaka begins with a flour and butter roux.  So, I needed a variation on the standard topping.  I ended up using a blend of ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt, an egg, soft goat cheese and a handful of grated pecorino romano.  The combination of the goat cheese and the pecorino romano, which is a sheep’s milk cheese, gave me that tangy zing I was looking for.  The combination of the ricotta and the yogurt mimicked the roux beautifully.

The meat sauce in Moussaka is what will make or break this classic Greek dish.  It is a blend of lamb, onion, garlic, tomatoes, red wine and a very aromatic blend of spices; cinnamon, allspice, clove and bay leaf. Wow, I had forgotten how delicious this dish can be until the meat sauce came together.  Just a few pinches of this unusual spice combo makes this dish other-worldly!

Traditional Moussaka, also known as Greek lasagna, is a multi-layered affair.  It’s fussy and time consuming to make.  I took the easy route and I don’t think the final dish suffered at all.  As a matter of fact, I think the final dish was a nice improvement over the original.  The traditional Moussaka calls for thinly sliced fried eggplant, layered with a lamb based meat sauce and thinly sliced potatoes, all topped off with the rich creamy cheese sauce.

I peeled and diced the eggplant and roasted it on a cookie sheet in the oven with a little spritz of olive oil.  I parboiled the potatoes, then gave them a large dice.  I mixed the diced eggplant, potatoes and meat sauce together and put the whole thing into a casserole dish.  I topped it off with my version of the cheese sauce and baked it.  It looked beautiful, made a great presentation at the table and the taste and textures were heavenly!

Give this super simple, amazing menu a try!  Finish it off with my baklava cups for dessert!  For the recipes, click on the links below:


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