Preparing for a Greek feast

 

Love the fresh ingredients in Greek food

Along with the pregnancy, I’ve been driven by an urge to cook – a nesting instinct, maybe? Tonight Z and I are hosting a little dinner party. To assuage a recent craving, we’re going full Greek tonight. Maybe I’m just craving the warmth and sunshine of the Greek islands on this cold November day, but I decided to commit to roasting a leg of lamb – something I have never attempted before.

Not quite sure why it is I always try new recipes when having guests over. Perhaps a little masochism on my part, but I figure if it does turn out to be an amazing meal, it’s great to share, right? Besides, what’s a little food poisoning between friends, right?

The first new recipe I’m trying is for Kopanisti, a whipped feta dip. This is something I’ve had in restaurants before and am obsessed with, so I’m actually a little surprised I’ve never tried before. The recipe is very easy, and one I found on What’s Gaby Cooking. The only part that took any amount of time was roasting the peppers. I love roast peppers, don’t get me wrong, but their texture has always grossed me out. I think that comes from being offered a plate of them in a restaurant. One of the little suckers slipped right onto my plate like a tongue, and they’ve always freaked me out a little bit.

Kopanisti (Whipped Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Dip)

Ingredients

  • 10 oz feta
  • 2 roasted red bell pepper, skin peeled
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp Tabasco garlic red pepper sauce
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Add the feta, roasted red bell pepper, olive oil, garlic, Tabasco, and red pepper flakes to a food processor. Pulse for about 60 seconds and taste. Season with salt as needed.
  2. Serve with toasted pita chips or celery and enjoy!

This is how my Kopanisti turned out. Okay, not the most appetizing colour, but trust me on this one, the taste is divine.

The next recipe I tackled is the actual leg of lamb roast. This involved a trip to my local butchers, Second to None Meats in Mission. Normally, I can get a little bit squeamish at the butchers, but not this day. The sight, and even the smell, of the shop was a delight for me. Think Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, but instead it’s pregnant lady surrounded by raw meat. I should check to see if I’m getting enough iron.

The top choice for the meat was bone-out leg meat, which of course costs a fortune. When it comes to meat, though, Z is pretty stringent about quality, so I sucked it up and went for it. I was assured four pounds would be sufficient to feed eight (the six of us for dinner plus leftovers). I love the look of meat when it’s tied up with string and wrapped in paper.

The marinade I’m using is fairly simple, although I ended up finishing a bunch of staples we had in the house (honey and dijon). I love fresh lemon and rosemary, so I think this recipe is going to work for me.

The lamb recipe was an easy one:

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons prepared Dijon-style mustard

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon lemon zest

3 cloves garlic, minced

5 pounds whole leg of lamb

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Combine the marinade together, rub on the lamb and leave overnight. Roast for 20 minutes at 450, then another hour at 400. The results were pretty exceptional.

The Kopanisti dip was a huge success! Everyone was obsessed with it; the whole thing was gone before the hummus and tzatziki were even touched. One guest referred to it as “better than crack,” while another one stealthily stole the bowl, cleaning out every last mosel with her pita.

Lamb and potatoes ready to go into the oven for roasting

A fresh Greek salad, horiatiki, makes for a bright centrepiece on the table

The lamb ended up being the star of the main meal, although I think I left it in a few minutes too long. With the pregnancy, I certainly am a little more cautious about how well my meat is cooked, where before the bloodier the better. I don’t think anyone minded the lamb done medium, though, with a tinge of pink through the roast.

What made a big difference between a good meal and a great one, I think, is the good quality ingredients that went into it. The top-quality butcher’s leg roast was of course much tastier than a cheaper cut of meat from Costco. I also went to Calgary’s incomparable Kalamata deli in the Beltline area for other ingredients: kalamata olives imported from Greece, fresh sheep feta and soft, chewy pita (much better than the tasteless discs they sell at most supermarkets). Fresh handmade baklava from the deli completed the meal.

Yes, the evening devolved into a wine and vodka soaked gongshow, but I hope everyone who made it out will remember the delicious food as well.

Word of the day: 

Efficacious: capable of having the desired result or effect; effective as a means, measure or remedy.

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