It’s All Greek to Me

There are certain puns that I literally cannot resist. 1) Just for the halibut. I think I say it every time I have halibut. 2) When in Rome. When I was in Rome, I got a lot of use out of that guy. 3) It’s all Greek to me. When I was in Greece, same as #2. This post is not about my humor, which you obviously know is much better than that. I had my first mini dinner party in my new digs on Friday night with my friends Nelle and Alyson, the same 2 lovely ladies I had dinner with for my Friday Night Plans post. Choosing a menu was the first step, the pressure was on for an outstanding meal (Nelle has her own food blog and is an amazing cook). For inspiration, I headed on over to the Barefoot Contessa’s website, which actually has a whole bunch of suggested dinner menus. Of course it does, Ina is a pro. I thought her Greek menu sounded springy and perfect and I love me some lamb. Sold.

The menu:  Roasted Leg of Lamb, Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, Tzatziki and pita and baklava for dessert. The pita and baklava I bought at this fantastic little Greek restaurant in Magnolia, Niko’s Gyros.

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WP_20140411_014  Baklava

Roasted Leg of Lamb

Note – Ina grills her lamb in this recipe. I am not a confident griller, I did mine in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 2 pints plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil,
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 3/4 cup fresh whole rosemary leaves (2 large bunches)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (5-pound) butterflied leg of lamb – Note – I used a 3lb butterflied leg for the 3 of us and was able to send them home with leftovers, plus had some for myself

Directions

  1. Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a large non-reactive bowl. Add the lamb, making sure it is covered with marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, overnight or for up to 3 days. Note – I marinated on Wednesday for dinner on Friday.
  2. Bring the lamb to room temperature, about one hour. Preheat oven to 425º. Scrape the marinade off the lamb, wipe the meat with paper towels, and season it generously with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until the temperature is 120 to 125 degrees for rare.
  3. Remove the lamb to a cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Then slice and serve.

An amazingly fortuitous event occurred with the lamb. I couldn’t find my meat thermometer, it got lost somewhere in the move. The girls alerted me to the sweetest feature of my new Wolf oven, temp probe. The oven comes with a thermometer that plugs into the inside of the oven and you can cook your meat and set the oven to let you know when the meat gets to the desired internal temperature. Um, this was like Christmas. And I’m Jewish. Amazingness.

The lamb came out perfectly.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound orzo or rice-shaped pasta

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:

  • 4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
  • 1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted
  • 3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
  4. For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.

Tzatziki

Ingredients

  • 1 pint plain yogurt (whole milk or low fat)
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined sieve and set it over a bowl. Grate the cucumber and toss it with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt; place it in another sieve, and set it over another bowl. Place both bowls in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours so the yogurt and cucumber can drain.

Transfer the thickened yogurt to a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as you can and add the cucumber to the yogurt. Mix in the sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. You can serve it immediately, but I prefer to allow the tzatziki to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature with warmed pita.

This was a perfect Friday night. Great company, great food (if I do say so myself) and some wine was partaken as well. To all of you celebrating Easter, this would be a lovely menu for your dinner.

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