Thursday, June 3, 2010

Oompa! (Greek Night)

Sunday, April 25, 2010
Hosted by: Sarah & Brad
Theme: Greek Night

Alas, Sunday Bites was unable to make a field trip to Greece last month (this pic is from the archives), but we did experience some of the culinary delights of the Aegean. Brad and Erin were particularly excited for the evening's fare, having a great affinity for the history-laden country, and the meal did not disappoint!

We began with a simple and delicious hummus and pita appetizer, as well as sliced fresh cucumbers.

Our main course started with a colorful Greek salad composed of tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, and of course, feta. (The peppers and onions were omitted from our salad, with hearts of romaine added in)

Next, we enjoyed a traditional Spanokopita (spinach-feta pie), brought by Matt and Erin.

  • 1 pound frozen spinach
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 1 c crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 4 sheets filo pastry

Cook spinach according to package directions. Drain and chop.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square pan. In a skillet, heat oil, then add onion and garlic and cook until onion is soft. Add drained spinach; cook, stirring 2 more minutes. Let cool slightly. Stir in cilantro, nutmeg, and cheese. Add beaten egg and mix well. Season. In a small pan, melt butter. Brush one sheet of dough with butter. Lay it in pan, pressing well down into corners. Let excess dough hang over edges of pan.

Brush a second sheet of dough with butter and lay it in pan at right angles to first sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Spoon spinach mixture into pan. Fold excess dough over filling to cover. Leave dough in slight folds. Brush with melted butter. Bake in oven 40 minutes or until golden-brown and crisp. Cut into 9 squares. Serve hot, warm, or cold.

From "The Book of Greek Cooking" by Lesley Mackley

The piece de resistance had to be the lamb roast, brought to us by Sarah and Brad. It was tender, juicy, and perfect for our gyros!

  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 bunches fresh oregano, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for searing
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 butterflied leg of lamb, about 4 pounds

Finely chop up 1/2 of the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Mash the garlic and salt together with the flat-side of a knife into a paste. Add the oregano and continue to mash until incorporated. Put the garlic-oregano paste in a small bowl, add the lemon juice and 1 cup of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Slice the remaining garlic into thin slivers.

Put the lamb on a large platter, and trim any excess fat. Cut the lamb in 1/2 lengthwise so you have 2 large pieces. Make slits all over the meat with a sharp knife, and push the garlic slivers inside. Rub 1/2 of the garlic-oregano paste all over the lamb and season the meat with salt and pepper. Roll up each piece of lamb lengthwise and tie with butcher's twine to hold the roasts together. Put the lamb on a large platter and slather with the remaining garlic-oregano paste. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Wipe off the excess paste from the lamb so it won't burn in the oven. Place a large roasting pan over 2 burners on medium-high flame and coat with a fair amount of olive oil. Put the lamb roasts in the roasting pan and sear to form a nice brown crust on all sides. Transfer the pan (and lamb) to the oven and roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours; it should be pink in the center and the internal temperature reads 130 degrees F. Allow the lamb to stand 10 minutes to let the juices settle before and slicing.

We ended our night on a sweet note, enjoying homemade baklava, presented by Nicole and Jerel. It was unanimously agreed that it was far and away the BEST we ever had!

Overseeing the evening was our special guest, Ace. His looks of longing at the lamb were somewhat alleviated by the showering of affection he received throughout the night. I swear, he barked at one point, and it sounded like he was saying... "Oompa!"

Next month, we will be having a belated Cinco de Mayo celebration, as our taste-buds head south of the border to Mexico!