Our Big Fat GREEK Sunday Family Dinner – OPA!!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

As it turned out, the only Sunday we could have our June Family Dinner was on the same weekend of our big seester and B.I.L.’s wedding anniversary party………..

The same event that we were slated to cook/bake the entire menu as well as prep the decor and floral arrangements.

No big deal right? Good thing we’re robots.

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

 

But our monthly Family Dinners have become a tradition and I was determined to still make it happen without having to add any extra stress.

An easy, low-key menu was a must…..especially if we could prepare things in advance.

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

Enter Ina Garten to save the day!

I happened to catch an old episode of hers on TV where she was fixing up a Greek/Mediterranean spread to enjoy at one of her friends’ fabulous new homes. Nearly everything was made in advance and she just carted it over to the house when it was dinner time.

PERFECT!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

And on another note, that woman has some pretty spectacular buddies in some amazing industries! Lighting specialists, florists, chefs, cheese makers,  vintners —I need to run in her crowd!!

But I digress….back to the food.

So with a loose Greek themed menu, we were off to the races.  For appetizers, we snacked on flaky, buttery, golden Spanakopita. I actually made them 2 weeks beforehand and stored them unbaked in an airtight container in the freezer. The day of our dinner as we sipped on chilled vino, I put them directly from the freezer into a preheated oven. 35 minutes later, our tummies were doing a happy dance.

 

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

As for the main menu, what’s easier than grilling? Especially if we can task the boys to do the grill work!

MAN LIKE FIRE. <insert curmudgeon caveman voice>

And since we were going Greek, we marinated chunks of lamb and chicken in Greek yogurt with tons of lemon juice, rosemary and garlic. The proteins bathed in the marinade overnight which I think helped to reduce any extra gaminess lamb is known to have as well as keep the meat tender.

Of course, the recipe is Ina’s and can be found here but I added about 1/4 cup of minced garlic to the recipe. No garlic?! Not me!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

We served the chicken and lamb with an easy cucumber and fresh dill tzatziki sauce.

 

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

And how could we have a Greek outdoor feast without Pita Bread? Pita is something that is surprisingly easy to make (despite my first apprehension) and also can be made in advance. We ended up grilling the Pita to warm them but I think next time it would be better to toast them lightly in the oven because they got a tad crunchy for my liking. The recipe I used can from The Kitchn  can be found here.

I’d also be doing a disservice to the sis if I didn’t talk about the light Greek Salad she whipped up with feta, cucumbers, olives, fresh dill, tomatoes and red onions –it was our MUCH needed veggies!

 

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

As for dessert, we kept things relatively light –especially since we all inhaled a TON of desserts at the anniversary party the night before. So we opted for a simple Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta and topped it with a fresh fig & berries compote.

The panna cotta was a cinch to make and had similar tart flavors to Vietnamese yogurt. As for the compote, it was nothing more than cooking the figs, strawberries, and raspberries down with about 1/2 cup white wine, sugar and a bit of vanilla.

Truth be told, I was surprised how much I did enjoy dessert considering it was a last minute addition to the plate but it was  yuuuummmmmyy!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

All in all, despite how crazy tired we were from the night before, Sunday Family Dinner was quite the success.

Lounging in the backyard, dangling our toes in the hot tub, sipping on vino, naps in the sun and good food with the family. The perfect way to spend a Sunday FUNday and nothing to it but a bit of work ahead of time.

Until next month - OPA!!!!!!!!!

June 2014 Sunday Family Dinner

 

Spanakopita….Phyllo Perfection.

Spanakopita

I’m pretty much under the belief that you can wrap anything in buttery, flaky phyllo dough and it would be delicious.

Meat, veggies, fruit….a leather shoe. Whatever you can grab.

Spanakopita

Now Spanakopita is on a whole different level. Suprisingly “simple” but utterly perfect. Crispy layers of phyllo stuffed with spinach, feta, onions, and spices…..Yum. I’ve even added mushrooms or sundried tomatoes to the party depending on my mood.

The key to working with phyllo is to cover the sheets with damp paper towels during assembly so that the sheets do not dry out or break. And you just can’t skimp out on the butter either. But why would you? :)

Formed as full-sized triangles as entrees or smaller bites for appetizers—-either way, your tummy will love you.

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Spanakopita

¼ Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Chopped Yellow Onions
3 Scallions, chopped
2 (10 ounce) Packages Frozen Chopped Spinach, defrosted
4 Eggs, lightly beaten
3 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Plain Dry Bread Crumbs
1 Teaspoon Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 Cups Feta Cheese, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons Toasted Pine Nuts
24 Sheets Frozen Phyllo Dough, defrosted
½ Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
Sea Salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the scallions and cook for another 2 minutes until the scallions are wilted but still green. Meanwhile, gently squeeze most of the water out of the spinach and place it in a large bowl.

When the onion and scallions are done, add them to the spinach. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 3 tbsp. breadcrumbs, the nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Gently fold in the feta and pine nuts.

Place one sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. Brush the sheet lightly with butter and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of bread crumbs. Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first, brush with butter, and sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs. (Use just enough bread crumbs so the layers of phyllo don’t stick together.) Pile 4 layers on top of each other this way brushing each with butter and sprinkling each with bread crumbs.

Cut the sheets of phyllo in thirds lengthwise. Place 1/3 cup spinach filling on the shorter end and roll the phyllo up diagonally as if folding a flag. They fold the triangle of phyllo over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding first diagonally and then straight until you reach the end of the sheet. The filling should be totally enclosed. Continue assembling phyllo layers and folding the filling until all of the filling (or all of the phyllo) is used.    Place on a sheet pan, seam sides down.   Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked salt, and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp.

From Ina Garten, Back to Basics

Refreshing Greek Salad…..Opa!

Greek Salad

It’s been unusually warm these past few weeks — not your typical fall weather at all. Not that I’m really complaining but it does make me turn to lighter dishes instead of slaving away in a hot kitchen.

The other day I picked up a bunch of produce at my weekly farmer’s market and decided to make a refreshing Greek Salad for lunch.

Greek Salad

The salad is full of bright flavors from the fresh veggies, feta and the olives. Delish! And the leftovers were the perfect accompaniment to the Spanakopita I made the next day.

Up next, flaky and buttery Spanakopita!

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Greek Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Cups Cucumbers, diced
2 Cups Grape Tomatoes, diced
2/3 Cup Kalamata Olives, pitted and chopped
½ Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cup Feta Cheese, cubed or crumbled
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, finely chopped
½ Cup Quality Olive Oil
¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Garlic Clove, finely minced
¼ Teaspoon Dried Oregano
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, garlic, and oregano. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat.