One of our dinner guests was of Greek descent and so goes the inspiration for this menu, Greek cuisine.
The dinner party was casual. More and more dinners seem to be more and more casual. It was ‘just easy’, as people used to say, to sit at the kitchen island on comfortable stools with the counter within easy reach and at the right height. And in my case, on the other side, I am literally within one or two steps from my stove, oven, fridge, dishwasher, etc. This makes it really easy to prepare and serve.
Casual is what we have been doing recently. We have been starting here with drinks and small bites and finishing with an appetizer in the kitchen area. Then I usually serve the main course on a platter family style, or on individual dinner plates, and we move to the dining table 10 or 15 feet away. Small spaces!
But, back to the Greek menu.
I have become more and more aware of people’s dining preferences lately, which seems to be based on their heritage or just the way they eat at home and from the meals that they serve to their dinner guests.
Some people are very adventurous and will try anything, me. But more often, I find that people tend to go back to their roots and prefer to eat the way that they did growing up. This seems to be the case once they start cooking for their own families.
So keeping this is mind, we started with three of my favorite small bites, all neutral, but with Greek influences. These included warm olives, followed by a new creation, Roasted Tomatoes and Corn with a Feta cheese spread. This bite was inspired by the ‘butter board’ sensation from TikTok, and to make three, I grilled brie on toast rounds and then sprinkled them with chopped walnuts and then drizzled all with honey.
The appetizer, Spicy Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup, was also in keeping with our guest’s prefences for spicy and even hot food. I am not a lover of dishes made with really hot peppers, but I like the taste of black pepper, and sometimes cayenne in small quantities. These flavors came together beautifully in a silky smooth soup with a fair amount of spice.
For the main course, I specifically set out to find a really good, traditional Greek recipe for lamb.
So, while I took a chance with my Greek menu, I could not see how I would go wrong with a recipe for lamb with lemon and oregano in the mix. I am so happy that I did as I now have a dish that I will make for the two of us as one of my standards.
The lamb dish I chose is called Lamb Kleftiko. I looked up ‘kleftiko’ and it means ‘stolen’. Apparently, during the Greek revolution in the 1880’s, Greek guerrillas would steal either a lamb or goat and would cook the meat over coals in a pit in the ground. To keep from being discovered by their enemy, they would cover over the hole and allow the dish to steam, or braise while they were out fighting for their cause. Hence, the cooking method and vessel. I made this in a large braising pot (in my oven) which has a tight fitting lid and cooked the lamb for almost 3 hours. You will be amazed at how easy this one pot recipe is, and I have to say, it is absolutely delicious.
The full menu with links to the recipes follow;
Warm Olives in Garlic, Olive Oil and Zested Orange
Butter Board Roasted Corn and Tomato on Feta Cheese Spread
Brie Tartine with Chopped Pecans and Honey
Spicy Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup
I think I struck a good balance as our guests really enjoyed the evening and the dinner. It just all tasted good and they enjoyed all of it, maybe it was a dinner that was closer to home.