Saturday, April 25, 2015

Greece 2

Sometime in high school (maybe?), my friend Bill decided that we should all get together and make Greek food.  There may have been precedent for doing an ethnic food day, I don't know.  All I remember is that somehow I, who didn't know much more than boiling noodles and making frozen pizzas, was picking out a recipe called something like "Athena Pudding" to make from scratch.

The only thing I remember about the recipe is that there was orange zest in it.  I was really weirded out by putting the outside of my orange in a dish.  I didn't like the end result.  His mom said she did.  I am still suspicious.

Bill made some kind of meatballs and they were good.  I believe Amy may have made something too.  It was a long time ago.  But I guess the seeds of ethnic cooking were set?

This time I avoided the pudding and skipped the meatballs.  I decided to go all out with what I thought of as Greek: lamb.  Not only that, but lamb with a cucumber dip (tzatiki) and some spanakopita.  Bring on the food!

This was last spring, so there were still no babies and Kevin's dad was visiting to help build our deck.  In fact, I think this may have been right after we went down to Greektown in Detroit and got something slightly more authentic.
May be hard to tell, but that deck had been mostly torn down and was starting to be built back up.
The lamb recipe was from the Mark Bittman cookbook I've used before.  It was really simple - take a butterflied leg of lamb and rub it with fresh thyme, garlic, orange zest, salt, and pepper.  Grill.  I was much more comfortable with orange zest by this time.  Not with finding butterflied leg of lamb, however.  Turns out the stuff at Costco is pretty close, you just have to cut it a bit to make it lay flat.  Woo!
The other two recipes were much more complicated - they were both from my standard international cookbook.

The tzatiki needs you to strain some yogurt with some cheesecloth.  My understanding is this is basically how you make yogurt cheese.  It was supposed to lose about a third of its volume.  It unfortunately didn't seem to do much for me.
You also have to matchstick some cucumbers and then try to get all of the water out my pressing down on it with something heavy.  This was marginally more successful.

The Spanakopita Peloponniso needed me to buy some phyllo pastry.  It said I needed four sheets.  The packaging said it came with two packages...rolls...something or other in it.  I thought it seemed excessive to buy two boxes.  Turns out it was a good idea.  There are actually a LOT of sheets of dough in each "roll."  Yes, you may laugh at my ineptitude.

Anyway, first I had to wilt some spinach.  The less-happy greens got mixed with onion, leeks, and some other things like feta, spices, and egg.

Having cute help helps.
This is where the sheet thing comes into play.  You are supposed to brush the sheets with olive oil and then place some of the spinach mixture into it.  This is about the time that I realized my original understanding of sheets was incorrect.
THIS is what one sheet is.
Filling on the four sheets.
All rolled up (kinda), since that was the next step. 
While this baked, the boys grilled the lamb.  Unfortunately the grill was off of the deck because of the construction and I don't have any pictures.

With things getting cooked, I was able to finish the tzatiki.  The supposedly reduced yogurt and the dried cucumber got mixed with yogurt, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper.
The foods are cooked and mixed...let's eat!

Six months later, at Christmas, Kevin's dad would insist on making this lamb for Christmas dinner.  Yeah, that was the reaction it got.

The food overall was quite good.  The lamb was cooked the right amount, the tzatiki was a good dip and the spanikopita worked despite some of my missteps and horrible wrap job.  I really enjoy tzatiki and kinda want to incorporate it into other meals that I make.

Also, if you want to make some lamb, this was super easy.  It wasn't nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be.  It also wasn't as expensive to buy as one might think.  Good for special occasions.  Like Christmas.

Kevin insisted I include a picture to prove that the deck got done.  Here is one from Brendan's birthday.


Next time: Grenada