Next came the menu. For some strange reason, I actually own this cookbook:
Seriously. I bought it 100 years ago (along with The Little Caribbean Cookbook) because apparently I thought miniature cookbooks with quasi-random cuisines were a good investment. But as it turns out, the purchase made 100 years ago finally came in handy and it was pretty easy to pull together the menu because 1) there was no way I was serving GOAT and 2) Fish Soup with Egg and Lemon Sauce sounds flat out Nah-Stee.
So the centerpiece of the meal was Moussaka. And if you want to know all about Moussaka, go visit Chop. Stir. Mix. where I guest posted on Monday in grand, painstaking detail about how to make it. Seriously y'all? I am going to start making Moussaka all the time because it is that flipping delicious.
Also on the menu were Keftethes which are fried minced meat balls. So y'all? I have a knack for meatballs. Seriously. And as soon as it gets cold enough you can be sure I will be busy in the kitchen whipping up a batch of my famous Chicken Meatballs Stroganoff. But until then, Rena Salaman's Keftethes are just the ticket:
Combine 1 lb. minced lamb, some breadcrumbs*, 1 medium onion thickly grated, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, a hefty sprinkle of dried parsley, and 1 egg in a mixing bowl.
*Ok. So Rena calls for 2 medium slices of crustless stale white bread soaked briefly in water and then squeezed dry. I had no bread - fresh or stale - so I just kept adding bread crumbs gradually until the mixture felt wet yet stiff. Oh dear - that sounded rather dirty...
Anyways, mix well and form into walnut-shaped balls. Roll in flour and fry in some sunflower oil until well browned. Now I confess, I fried 2 batches for about 7 - 8 minutes each and they were still rather pink on the inside so I stuck them in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. They were still a wee bit pink - but less so. I mean, it's lamb - not pork - you don't need to kill them. But I didn't want my guests to go home with some sort of illness either. Better safe than sorry.
I also made Tzatziki. I was originally going to buy it from a local establishment in town that leans towards Middle Eastern cuisine but I was traveling all week and so because I am slightly nuts, I thought that making it on my own would be easier than calling and talking to someone. Really. I know.
And y'all - I wish I could tell you exactly what I did because everyone LOVED my Tzatziki. In fact, Lilesaej (pronounced, for the record, lil-say-jay) said it was better than the local stuff. And oddly enough - I thought I RUINED it.
I started out using a simple recipe from Food and Wine: mix 1 cup Greek style whole milk yogurt, 1/2 European cucumber, seeded and finely diced, 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint and 1 clove of garlic mashed to a paste. However, I couldn't get the garlic mashed to a paste so I basically minced it as fine as I could. The whole business seemed kind of thick and so I checked with Rena and her version calls for some olive oil and a dash of white wine vinegar. Shocking as it may seem, I have NO white wine vinegar in my house but I did drizzle some olive oil into my mixture and then I seasoned with salt and pepper. And it still tasted off so I added more salt. And then OMG it was like Saltziki and I freaked. And then I doctored the shit out of it with epic amounts of fresh mint, lemon juice, olive oil and even more cucumber. And it still tasted off so I stuck it in the fridge and forgot about it. Amazingly though when I pulled it out a few hours later and Miss Mary dunked the first piece of pita - she said it tasted amazing. So yeah...giant save on that one.
In addition Miss Mary brought over some feta and olives, I heated up some frozen spanikopita from Trader Joes and The Actress brought baklava. Natch.
So you'd be surprised at how good Greek wines are. I mean - the basic table white was nothing to write home about but the Moschifilero was actually quite good. I won't discuss the Retsina which I did not want to include but Miss Mary said if you hosted a Greek wine tasting you have to include Retsina. So yeah. Drinking Retsina is like sticking your mouth on a pine tree and sucking out the sap - or so I imagine. It's nasty. We each had a tiny, tiny sip and then for the first time ever in my life, I poured the bottle out down the drain.
The reds were better - especially the Nemea which was everybody's favorite and at $12.99/bottle - totally affordable.
But the real winner of the evening was the Mavrodaphne. OMG y'all. This is a sweet red dessert wine akin to tawny port and it is fucking delicious. Especially when paired with baklava at which point the status gets elevated to simply orgasmic. Seriously - I would like to end every meal - including breakfast - with Mavrodaphne and baklava. Holy. Fucking. Hell.
My happy Greek table.
Moussaka. Can you taste how delicious through the screen?
KB and Miss Mary. Digging the toga and the wreath! We take our theme parties VERY seriously. Clearly.
Second best combo of the evening: Rougie and Lilsaej!
I look freakishly tall in this picture.
The Actress and her husband, Dr. Dolittle.
And if that ain't a night for the Gods and Goddesses of Mt. Olympus, I'll kiss your...