A few months ago, I was asked to cater a wedding rehearsal dinner, in which the bride and groom wanted a Greek themed dinner. After several weeks of planning, I came up with a menu that fit the bill. The Menu consisted of 2 courses of appetizers, 2 main courses and a dessert course. All of the dishes, separately, are relatively easy to prep, assemble and finish.Give them a try, you won't be disappointed!
The Menu consisted of:
|Tzatziki (cucumber, garlic and yogurt dip)|
Zucchini fritters served with Tzatziki (cucumber, garlic and yogurt dip)
1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.
Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well. Garnish with parsley (optional).
Serve immediately with fresh, warm or toasted pita bread, or cover and refrigerate.
For a spicier hummus, add a sliced red chile or a dash of cayenne pepper.
Aubergene – Greek Eggplant Dip
2 large eggplants
¼ teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 medium-sized cloves garlic, minced
½ cup quality olive oil
1 green pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tomato, seeded and finely chopped
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
Greek Zucchini Fritters – Kolokithokeftedes
6 cups zucchini coarsely grated
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
4 green onions including green parts, chopped
3 Tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1 large egg
1/2 cup flour
4 Tablespoons Panko bread crumbs
Wash zucchini. With skins on, grate them with the coarse side of a grater. Put the grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Let sit and drain for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
Remove the zucchini by the handful, squeezing to remove as much liquid as you can. Put it in a bowl with herbs, feta and green onions. Mix with a fork. Add the lightly beaten egg and stir. Add flour and bread crumbs. The mixture should be wet but not watery. Mix in a healthy dose of salt, I prefer coarse sea salt.
3 cups plain yogurt
1 hothouse cucumber, peeled and seeded (or 2 regular), finely grated
¼ teaspoon salt (to extract the water from the cucumber)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
3-4 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined sieve and set it over a bowl. Grate the cucumber and toss it with 1 tablespoon of salt; place it in another sieve, and set it over another bowl. Place both bowls in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours so the yogurt and cucumber can drain.
Dolmas - Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 cup olive oil PLUS
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
3 Green onions, including -green tops, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces Jar grape leaves
Several stems of fresh parsley
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup vegetable broth, or water, heated
Additional freshly squeezed lemon juice
Grated or minced lemon zest for garnish
Wash and drain rice. Heat 3 Tbsp of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onion and sauté until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the drained rice, 1/2 cup of the remaining olive oil, green onions, parsley, pine nuts, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Rinse the grape leaves under running cold water to removes as much brine as possible, pat dry, and stack on a plate. Place 1 leaf at a time, shiny side down, on a flat work surface. Cut off and discard the tough stem end. Spoon about 1 Tbsp of the rice mixture in the center near the base of the leaf. Fold the stem end over to cover the filling, fold both side inward lengthwise and then tightly roll leaf toward pointed tip end to form a compact packet. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
Pour about 2 Tbsp. of the remaining olive oil in the bottom of a large pot and strew with a layer of parsley stems to prevent grape leaves from sticking. Arrange the stuffed leaves, seam side down and almost touching, on top of the parsley, making as many layers as necessary.
Drizzle the remaining 5 Tbsp olive oil, the lemon juice, and 1/2 cup stock, broth, or water over the leaves. Top with a heat-resistant plate and weight with a heavy can to keep leaves from unwinding during cooking. Cover the pot, bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook until rice is tender, about 1 hour.
1 lb lean ground beef,
2 large eggplants,
2 large potatoes,
1 large (red) onion,
1 tablespoon of dried parsley or 3 sprigs of fresh parsley,
1 tablespoon of salt, pepper,
2 garlic clove,
4 large fresh ripe tomatoes or 1 medium can, pureed
½ cup of grated parmesan cheese or any other kind of hard salted cheese.
Start by chopping the onions the tomatoes, the parsley and the garlic finely. Sauté these ingredients for a few minutes in a pan and then add the meat and some salt and pepper. Bring the moussaka mix to a boil and then simmer it for about half an hour until the sauce is thick. Set it aside and let it cool down.
Slice the eggplants crosswise to create half inch thick circles and submerge them in a large mixing bowl with plenty of salt (2 tablespoons). Then let them sit for about half an hour. Drain wash the eggplants thoroughly with cold water. This process with salt water eliminates the bitterness of the eggplant.
Take a plain cooking sheet and sprinkle some olive oil onto it and place the eggplant slices on it. You might need more than one cooking sheet depending on how big your eggplants are. After you place them on the sheet sprinkle them again with some oil. Place the eggplant sheet or sheets in a preheated oven at 400F until they soften on both sides. You might have to turn them around midway.
Clean the potatoes and wash them well. Slice them in round slices and fry them with very little oil on a non-stick pan. Let them cool down.
Use some olive oil to brush a Pyrex dish with oil and place the sliced slightly fried potatoes crosswise. This will be the base for the moussaka. Over the potatoes arrange one layer of baked eggplant slices and then add the meat mix or sauce by spreading it over the eggplant slices. Sprinkle the moussaka with some parmesan cheese, then add another and final layer of baked eggplant slices.
The dish is now ready for the Greek béchamel sauce. Add and bake at 370F until our moussaka becomes golden/brown.
Béchamel Sauce for Moussaka
3 cups of milk,
3 tablespoons of butter,
7 teaspoons of flour,
4 Cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 Red Onion
½ Cup Kalamata Olives, halved
12 oz Feta, crumbled
½ Cup Olive Oil
½ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
¼ cup dried oregano
Salt and Pepper
Peel cucumbers in strip fashion. Cut cucumbers in half and deseed. Cut them in quarters and slice. Place in large bowl. Quarter tomatoes, add to bowl. Slice onion into thin strips, and to bowl. Add feta and olives
Mix dressing and allow to rest, so the dried oregano to reconstitute.
½ Cup olive oil, for sautéing
1 pkg. filo dough
1 large onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds spinach, thawed and drained (squeezed to removed excess water)
½ cup fresh dill weed, chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup olive oil, for layering the filo
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9x9 inch square baking pan.
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute onion, green onions and garlic, until soft and lightly browned. Stir in spinach, dill and parsley, and continue to saute until spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
1 ½ cup butter
Filo dough (2 packages)
4 cups nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup water
Zest of a lemon or vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brandy
Preheat oven to 300°. Combine almonds, bread crumbs, 1/2 cup sugar, and ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Unwrap filo and trim to fit an 11'' x 15'' x 2'' baking pan. Cover filo sheets with a damp dish towel.
Butter pan. Place 1 sheet of filo in pan; brush with butter. Lay a second sheet of filo over first sheet, brush with butter, then evenly sprinkle with 2 tbsp. almond mixture. Spread a sheet of filo out on a clean work surface, brush with butter, then transfer, buttered side up, to pan (nuts make it difficult to butter filo in the pan). Evenly sprinkle with nut mixture. Set aside two sheets of filo for the top, then continue alternating almond mixture with single buttered sheets of filo. Use reserved filo sheets, separated only by butter, to cover baklava.
Brush top with butter. Arrange pan so short side faces you. Cut across baklava with a serrated knife at about 2'' intervals. You should have 8 equal strips. Sprinkle top with water, cover with 2 sheets of parchment paper, and bake until golden, about 1 1/2 hours.
Heat remaining sugar, lemon, honey, and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 15 minutes, cool, and discard cinnamon stick.
For the filling:
4 cups milk
½ cup fine semolina
2 egg yolks
½ cup superfine sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and hot
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, melted (for brushing)
1 lb. phyllo pastry sheets
For the syrup:
1 ½ cup sugar
2 inch piece of lemon rind
2 inch piece of orange rind
1 tbsp. lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Make the Filling: In a large saucepan, heat the milk over medium high heat until just boiling. Add the semolina and stir with a whisk. Lower the heat to medium low.
Using a whisk, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. Ladle a cup of the warmed milk into the egg mixture to temper and then add the egg yolk mixture to the pot.
Continue to cook over medium low heat until the cream starts to thicken, stirring continuously.
When the custard has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and the butter. Set aside.
Unwrap the Filo: Carefully remove the Filo roll from the plastic sleeve. Most packages come in 12 x 18 inch sheets when opened fully. Using a scissor or sharp knife, cut the sheets in half to make two stacks of 9x12 inch sheets. To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and a damp paper towel while working with the other.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Assemble the Galaktoboureko: Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom and sides of a 9 x 12 rectangular pan. You will use approximately half the filo sheets for the bottom of the pastry. Begin by layering sheets one by one in the bottom of the pan, making sure to brush each one thoroughly with melted butter.
When you have almost layered half the sheets, drape two sheets of filo so that they extend half in the pan and half out of the pan horizontally. Add the custard in an even layer on top of the sheets, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Fold the filo sheet flaps in over the custard layer. Add the remaining sheets on top, brushing each sheet with melted butter.
Before baking, score the top layer of filo (making sure not to puncture the filling layer) to enable easier cutting of pieces later. I place the pan in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to harden the top layers and then use a serrated knife.
Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the filo turns a deep golden color.
While the Galaktoboureko is baking, prepare the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and add the lemon peel and orange peel. Boil over medium high heat for approximately 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the lemon and orange peel and stir in the lemon juice. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.