Sunday, October 08, 2006

Our Big Fat Greek Dinner

We were meant to work on Jay’s kitchen, but on the way back from Home Depot we were distracted by the Farmer’s Market. He still managed to get the frame done for one of the cabinets, but we also managed to make a pretty good Greek feast.

I didn’t make a lot of the Moussaka, because I wasn’t sure everyone would like it. I shouldn’t have worried—my dad liked it so much that he stole the last quarter of it, packed it up, and took it home!

  • Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

  • Moussaka

  • Tsatziki

  • Orzo Salad

  • Honey Minted Carrots

  • Green Beans with Tomato Sauce (Fasolaki)

  • Roast Beast

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms Recipe

  • 18 zucchini, acorn squash or pumpkin blossoms, stamen removed

Cheese Filling:
  • 3 ounces goat (feta) cheese

  • 3 ounces cream cheese

  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Beer Batter:
  • 1c flour

  • 1c beer

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • Vegetable oil for frying

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Grated Mizithra or Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley for garnish

Gently swish the squash blossoms in cold water to clean. Carefully twirl to remove most of the water, then drain thoroughly on paper towels. Set aside.

Mix together goat cheese, cream cheese, red pepper flakes, oregano, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Gently fill each blossom with about 2 teaspoons of the cheese filling. Refrigerate while making batter.

In a heavy skillet, heat 2 inches of oil to 375 F over medium heat.

Mix together flour, salt, pepper, and cumin. Beat egg and add the beer. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients while stirring. Add more beer as necessary to desired consistency. Refrigerate for an hour.

Carefully dip a stuffed blossom into the batter, covering the entire flower, and ease into the hot oil. Brown on one side, then turn to brown the other. Cook only a few at a time so they are not crowded. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining stuffed squash blossoms.

Sprinkle stuffed squash blossoms with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with a sprinkling of grated Mizithra or Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings


  • 1 lg aubergine/eggplant

  • 1 large onion, finely sliced

  • 1lb ground beef or lamb

  • 1 glass white wine (not retsina, but aretsinoto)

  • 16oz can of small diced tomatoes

  • teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • teaspoon ground allspice

  • salt and white pepper

  • 1 teaspoon oregano

  • 1c grated mizithra, parmesan, or kefalotiri cheese

  • some chopped parsley

  • 2 large russet potatoes, cut into 1/8” slices

  • Vegetable oil

Béchamel Sauce
  • 2-3 Tablespoons butter

  • 1/3c. flour

  • 1 pint warm milk

  • Salt, white pepper, and cumin

  • 2c. grated Mizithra or Parmesan cheese

  • 2 egg yolks

  • 1c. grated Mizithra, Parmesan, or kefalotiri cheese

Moussaka should be baked in the oven. Use a baking dish, either square or oblong, approximately 9”x9” or 11”x13”. You’ll need to cover the dish during the first part of the baking, for which you can either use a fitted lid or aluminum foil. If using foil, place toothpicks in the moussaka to prevent the foil from sticking to the cheese.

You may, if you wish, line the pan with the skin of the aubergine. Doing so is mostly aesthetic, but it does help to hold the moussaka together. In this case, you’ll need to carefully slice off the stem and leaves, without breaking the skin. Slice the aubergine in half lengthwise. Cover the bottom of a wide, flat-bottom pan with olive oil. When oil is hot, lay the aubergines in cut-side down and sear. Add 1c water to the pan, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer 20 minutes, until the flesh of the aubergine is tender. Remove from heat and let cool. When they can be handled, carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving the skin intact. Lay the skin inside of your baking dish, and set aside.

If you do not opt to use the skin, simply peel and dice the aubergine and add below.

Sautee the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil until translucent. Add the meat and sauté together, stirring, until all the lumps are broken down and the meat starts to change color. Pour in the wine, add tomatoes, the spices, the salt and pepper and the oregano. Stir in the aubergine. If you did not pre-cook the aubergine, you’ll need to simmer until it becomes tender. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time in case it sticks. Remove from heat and mix in 1c of the grated cheese and 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley.

Fry the potatoes in hot oil until slightly browned. You may deep fry, or pan fry in 2” oil, enough to cover the potato slices. Remove from oil and drain on paper.

Béchamel Sauce
Melt the butter and, away from the heat, gradually add the flour and stir to amalgamate. Return to the heat and gradually add the milk and seasoning, stirring continuously. Simmer for 9-10 minutes, stirring, until it has thickened considerably. Remove from heat, let it stand briefly, then add the cheese and the egg yolks. Stir to combine. Do not let the sauce boil after this. It should by now be a thick béchamel, to enable it to sit on top of the meat mixture and form a kind of crust.
To assemble, put half the meat in the bottom of the pan. Top with 1/3 of the béchamel. Cover with slices of potatoes. Repeat for the next layer. Cover the top layer of potatoes with the remaining béchamel, then top with the remaining cheese and the breadcrumbs.
Cover and bake in a pre-heated oven, at 350f degrees for 1 hour. In the last 15 minutes, uncover and bake until a golden crust is formed. Let it stand for 5 minutes before serving, in order to be able to cut it more easily. To serve, cut into square or oblong-shaped pieces. It should be quite dry by then and the pieces should ideally stay intact.

1 large English cucumber, grated and drained
A handful of fresh dill, chopped fine
A few cloves of garlic, crushed
2c plain yogurt
Olive oil

Grate the cucumber, then place in a strainer and press out the water. Combine with yogurt and garlic (you may use more or less garlic, to taste). Stir, then drizzle EVOO over the top.

Orzo Salad
1c orzo pasta, cooked, drained, and cooled
1/2c pepperoncini peppers, drained and sliced
1 sliced red bell pepper
1/2c kalamata olives, pitted
1/4c grated carrot
1/4c to 1/2c sliced onion
6 to 8 ounce crumbled feta
2 ounces Greek vinaigrette salad dressing

The vegetables should be sliced into thin strips. Mix together the above. You may add more or less dressing as you prefer.

Honey Minted Carrots
Baby carrots
1/4c white vinegar (rice or wine)
1/4c white wine
1/3c honey
1/4c chopped fresh mint
2 to 3 cloves crushed garlic

Place carrots in baking dish. Simmer together remaining ingredients, then pour over carrots. Cover and bake at 350f degrees for 45 minutes. Remove cover during last 15 minutes to allow liquid to evaporate and caramelize.

Green Beans with Tomato Sauce (Fasolaki)
Thin green beans
Onion, cut into thin strips
Tomato sauce
White wine
2 to 3 cloves crushed garlic
Olive oil
Cumin, cinnamon, white pepper, and salt

Sauté the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and sauté over low heat until garlic is tender but not browned. Deglaze with a 1/4c white wine.
Top and tail the beans, and cut the potatoes into strips. Add to pan and cover all of the vegetables with tomato sauce. Lightly season with spices, and stir to mix.
Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Roast Beast
This was Jay’s secret recipe, which is why I’m posting it on the internet.

1 Roast beast
1 large (32 oz) can Tomato Soup
1 whole fresh lemon
Seasonings: lots of oregano, crushed garlic, salt & pepper

Chop and blend the seasonings with a splash of EVOO to form a mushy paste, then massage into the roast. Place in deep roasting pan. Mix tomato soup with equal parts water. Add more crushed garlic. Slice the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice into the liquid mixture. Add in the empty rinds and pour around roast. Cover, and cook for a really long time, until roast is fall-y apart-y. When it’s all done, break the whole thing up into its sauce and serve it like that.

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