Monday, April 18

It's all Greek to me -- a fun evening of food, wine and Greek cuisine

Greek Night
As I've mentioned before on Nest, bringing guests into our home  can be a stress-free and relaxing time if you prepare ahead  and enjoy the experience.  Especially in these times when we have access to detailed and tried and true recipes with a click of a computer key, making complicated recipes is easier than ever to pull together. I like to utilize the many resources in my neighborhood and will often make a homemade dish when hosting a dinner party, but pepper specialty store bought items into the mix.  Having good sources at your fingertips is crucial for the home cook to pull off entertaining with ease. 
Pot Luck Dinners are a throwback to another era but with many of us juggling busy lives, I think it's about time they come back into favor.  Not only is the host left without all the mess and work, but both host and guest can focus on one aspect of the evening and contribute something special to the occasion.
Our Culinary Club is a fun adventure as we investigate and learn something new about our surrounding neighborhoods as well as the cultural nuances that help make each dinner unique. What I love about Greek food is the clean freshness of the food. If I could break down the cuisine to five key ingredients it would be lemon, oregano, fresh seafood, feta and tomato. Of course there are many more items that define Greek food -- olives, parsley, spinach, lamb and philo dough come to mind.
The color blue seems synonymous with Greek cuisine, and I'm reminded of the crystal clear Grecian waters and spectacular skies. Our special Greek Night was a wonderful cerulean blue experience spent in a beautiful blue/green jewel box colored dining room, complete with flickering pale candles, blue, cream and green flowers and delicious food and spirits. Let's not forget the fabulous company and gracious host and hostess.  
First, a trip to Astoria, Queens
to taste some local made Greek food.
we walked along Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria, Queens and stopped in for  
an authentic Greek Sunday lunch.  Irene scooped up dandelion greens after reading about them being used in many Greek dishes.
Spring is a perfect time to start experimenting with Greek food because many of the ingredients can be found at most farm stands and markets:
photograph taken by Gabby Stephenson from last June's Round Swamp Farm market in East Hampton
Feta Cheese

Lemon photo from a recent trip we took to California - fresh off the vine!
 garden herbs, like oregano
Freshly caught seafood
Titan Food Shop is a large supermarket rather than a small specialty food shop.  It is one stop shopping for Greek food and ingredients.  In addition to freshly baked pita, Baklava and other pastries, they make Spanikopita daily as well.  In the back of the store there is a big selection of feta cheeses from sharp to low salt varieties.  There is also an olive bar, yogurts, and many Greek dips.  Another smaller shop we enjoyed was Greek Village on 3127 Ditmars Blvd.
After a fun afternoon of shopping, tasting and talking with local vendors, we stopped into a local restaurant for lunch.  Armed with our ingredients and inspired,
we left for home prepared to host our own Greek dinner. 
Four Greek dips with toasted pita
Chicken Souvlaki with cucumber, red onion, mixed greens and tzatziki sauce
Shrimp with Feta
Rice Pilaf
Greek Salad
Greek White Wine
 Tastings of Baklava
I poked around some of my favorite food blogs and have linked to several of them below. What is particularly interesting about trying a recipe from a blog, is you get the whole illustration and explanation of how to prepare the dish, as well as beautiful photography.  I love Ladyberd's Kitchen and came across their Chicken Souvlaki recipe. Because I was making it ahead of time and transporting to the party, I opted to saute the chicken rather than grill it to keep it as moist as possible.  I hoped to replicate Ladyberd's juicy chicken with the buttery yet tangy Tzatziki sauce, fresh pita, sliced onions, tomato and feta.
Chicken Souvlaki Recipe
I marinated the chicken several hours in advance.

chopped cucumber, thinly sliced red onion and greens
we arrived to sparkling Prosecco

waiting for the guests...
 Our hostess Melissa (and husband Barry below) finishing off last minute details in the kitchen -- bubbly in hand

host and guest enjoying the evening

 Frannie and Ron brought the delicious Greek dips and olives.
Dips are an important part of Greek cuisine from Hummus to Tzatziki.  They are a
perfect accompaniment to pita and vegetables as an appetizer or to add alongside grilled meat and fish. Here are simple to follow dip recipes: 
 A Mingling Of Taste's Greek Dip recipes

the ladies pose for a photograph
 We were ensconced in a jewel box dining room
 a shot of Ouzo

a good Greek salad is a combination of the freshest vegetables and a balanced, light dressing.  I've seen it made many different ways and with a combination of ingredients.  Chopped fresh herbs add that special something.  Gail and Brian's Greek Salad with the fresh lemon and olive oil dressing was perfect!
The Melange market (64th & First Avenue in New York City) sells many prepared foods such as Hummus, olives, Baklava and stuffed grape leaves.
I enjoy Jamie Oliver's recipe for Greek Salad as well because
he adds fresh dill, mint and oregano

photograph courtesy of Garden of Yum blog
Garden Of Yum's recipe for Spanikopa
Spanikopita is a staple in Greek cuisine --
each specialty market we stopped into makes a slightly different version. How wonderful that Garden of Yum provides a printable recipe -- how inclusive!
 fresh direct recipe shrimp and feta
another example of quick and easy recipes -
Our hosts Melissa and Barry prepared this delicious shrimp and feta dinner
rice pilaf
 Chicken Souvlaki

photograph courtesy from A Good Appetite blog
Baklava comes in many shapes and sizes, so we sampled several.
Diana and Enriques brought a mix of these honey sweet desserts from Poseidon Bakery in Hell's Kitchen.  If you are feeling ambitious, A Good Appetite blog's Sweet Potato Baklava recipe

Hosting the evening successfully!

stop back next week for
Spring Holiday inspirations...


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful Greek dinner! Yummy! And beautiful

Diana Bustamante

Anonymous said...

Hi Tamara, Leaving now to go over to those other blogs you mentioned. The recipes all look yummy. Thank You, Sarah Handler

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

It's so much fun to experience these evenings! Greece holds a special spot in my heart. I love Greek white wines and the cuisine is healthy + fresh! Another great dip is Taramasalata. It is sometimes referred to as 'poor man's caviar'... it's yummy! Your chicken looked divine. ox

Anonymous said...

Greek food is my favorite, it is so light and good for spring. best of luck with the blog, H.S.

Raina said...

Hi! Thank you for visiting my blog and for the link back. I am glad you liked the spanakopita. Looks like you had a wonderful time. Lots of delicious food:)

Roberta Kravette said...

Loved your Greek Inspired dinner! You have inspired me to try some of the recipes. I love Greek cuisine. Your table was gorgeous too. Looks like a very special evening.

Tamara Matthews-Stepehnson said...

Thanks for all your comments and I would love to see some of you start your own culinary club. Wouldn't that be fun if we could start a chat on twitter about culinary clubs? It's a great idea and fun way to learn and investigate food outside of our comfort level. Greek was fu -- next will be Mexican so break out the chilis....xo tamara

Art Style said...

I, too, love to poke around the markets in the boroughs. Have you been to Brighton Beach in Bklyn, sampled the Russian, Ukranian, Armenian flavors?

Have been, but not far into the various pockets. Maybe your club would enjoy?

Melanie said...

OMG, I am drooling all over my keyboard. What a wonderful day, night, AND dinner!! Thank you for sharing it all so generously! I am inspired to call some foody friends now....

Anonymous said...

I want to recreate this dinner for my Easter brunch. I will let you know how it comes together Tamara. The blue room is very alluring and does feel like a jewel box, cheers

quintessence said...

Looks like a wonderful evening. I love Greek food. Will have to check out your links!!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! I look forward to hearing more about your comments on the trends in entertaining and cooking. How true about the first signs of spring, the lovely crocus that springs out to say hello!