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!
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!!
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.
For 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.
I 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.
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!
For 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.
I 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.
I 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.
Oh 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!