Supper Club

Jubilee Supper Club: End of Summer Greek Feast

Full plate. much?
Full plate. much?

Normally, each supper club has a theme. Last supper club’s theme was just complete fabulousness, but we’ve done everything from “Living Color” to a Hawaiian Luau. I spent a magical summer studying Ancient Greek Art & Archaeology abroad in Greece in 2004, and I fell desperately in love with the food, terrain, and culture. I yearned for a night that would reconjure the flavors and the mood of a warm, summer night on the coast of the Aegean. So, a few weekends ago, my husband and I hosted an informal, buffet-style Greek dinner party for our lovely friends in Jubilee Supper Club. 

I had originally planned to host a seated dinner on our bone china, but thirteen of us meant that my six-seater dining table wouldn’t cut the mustard; I decided to go with the informal, family-style vibe and set all the food up at the dining table, with the chairs interspersed throughout the room for noshing and mingling. Our everyday china is one aptly called Parthenon, and its architectural-patterned rim complemented the theme quite well.

In the front room, I set up a meze platter to take the edge off of the guests’ appetites. Meze means a little “taste” or “snack”: these consisted of hummus, tabbouli, olives, roasted red peppers, artichokes, tzatsiki, and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), accompanied by triangles of warmed, soft pita bread. I prepared the tzatsiki myself, but the rest of the meze I purchased, mostly from our local Middle Eastern deli, the Food Pak. Amy also brought their ready-made feta dip, which is pungent and salty and purely divine.

Olives, roasted peppers, hummus, tzatsiki, tabbouli, grape leaves
Olives, roasted peppers, hummus, tzatsiki, tabbouli, grape leaves round out a meze platter

Tzatsiki is pretty much my favorite condiment. It makes sense, because apart, the ingredients are among my favorites: cucumber, garlic, greek yogurt, and lemon juice. Together, they meld into sharp, tart, creamy, smooth loveliness. Serve this on a meze platter with pita, with a sliced leg of lamb, with kabobs, or drizzled inside a chicken or lamb pita.

Tzatsiki Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a medium cucumber
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel and halve cucumber. Scoop out seeds.
  2. Grate the cucumber into a bowl using the large holes of a box grater.
  3. Put the Greek yogurt into a bowl.
  4. Add cucumber and garlic and lemon juice.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate tightly covered for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Spanikopita

 

Although many are used to seeing individual triangles of spanakopita, a spinach and feta puff pastry, Elizabeth and John brilliantly transformed this into a large-scale offering (recipe from Georgie Cakes). The spinach filling was tender and the puff pastry crisp, buttery, and yielded with a shattering crackle.

Spinach Pie (Spanikopita)

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  • Prep Time: 1h
  • Cook Time: 1h
  • Total Time: 2h

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz package phyllo dough
  • 3 10 oz package of fresh spinach (clean & chopped)
  • 2 bunches of scallions
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped dill
  • 1 8 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 8 oz large-curd cottage cheese
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread phyllo dough out on a dry work surface. Be sure to completely cover with the phyllo dough with a towel to keep from drying out. Take two sticks of butter and melt, then let cool.
  2. Chop and clean spinach, then strain with cheese cloth until all liquid is drained. Finely chop the onion and dill into small pieces. Place spinach, onions, dill, feta, cottage cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper into large mixing bowl and set aside. Beat eggs lightly then add to mixture combining all ingredients well.
  3. Layer 15 sheets of phyllo dough, brushing each sheet separately with melted butter.
  4. Spread the entire spinach mixture into the pan until phyllo dough is completely covered. Fold the overlapping phyllo layers inward on top of spinach and brush with butter.
  5. Use 10 to 12 sheets of phyllo for top layer, brushing each sheet with butter. Cut the top layer of the phyllo dough into desired square pieces; be sure not to cut through to the bottom phyllo dough layer.
  6. This dish needs no cover, place the pan in the oven and let bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until phyllo dough has a light brown color. Let cool uncovered for 1 hour prior to serving.
Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Eggplant, and Tomato
Orzo Salad with Zucchini, Eggplant, and Tomato

Orzo is one of my favorite pasta shapes. Druhan and Patrick’s side salad of fresh summer vegetables with a tangy vinaigrette was a perfect addition to the buffet. Druhan notes that the zucchini could easily be substituted for cucumber (even though she avoids it like the plague) and olives would be a nice addition.

Orzo Salad with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomatoes

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  • Prep Time: 20m
  • Cook Time: 20m
  • Total Time: 40m

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 1 box orzo pasta
  • 2 medium zucchini, medium diced
  • 1 Japanese eggplant, medium diced
  • 1 pint multicolor heirloom cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound feta, crumbled

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white balsamic (important to use white for color)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 handful basil, chopped
  • 1 handful oregano, chopped

Instructions

  1. Set large pot of water to boil. When boiling, boil pasta according to package directions, drain, cool under running water and then set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan until shimmering and sauté zucchini, eggplant and garlic together until just tender. Salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Make dressing in a separate bowl or cup by whisking olive oil into white balsamic, and then adding remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a large serving bowl, combine zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, olive oil, and onion. Add dressing.
  5. Add feta and mix salad thoroughly.
  6. Garnish with chopped herbs, if desired.
Crispy, browned, delicious
Crispy, browned, delicious

I’m really not sure of any combination of flavors better than herbs and lemon, and those two things elevate the humble roasted potato to new heights.  Amy brought these lemon-scented potaoes (recipe from My Greek Dish), and they were perfectly fluffy and tender on the inside, lemony, herby and crunchy on the outside. She mentioned later, after cleaning out the dish, that it would be a good idea to serve this with extra pita to sop up the delicious herb-flavored olive oil. Yes, please.

Crispy Greek Potatoes with Lemon

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  • Prep Time: 5m
  • Cook Time: 40m
  • Total Time: 45m

Ingredients

  • 7 large New potatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 teaspoon semolina
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Cut the potatoes into wedges and place them on a large metal roasting pan. Into a bowl add the remaining ingredients (including the semolina) and mix; pour the semolina-lemon mixture over the potatoes and season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake for 40 minutes, until a nice golden crust has formed on the potatoes; turn them out of the oven, toss them a little bit to bring them upside down, sprinkle with a pinch of oregano and put back into the oven for another 30-40 minutes. If all of the liquid has been absorbed and the pan appears to be getting dry, add 1/4-1/2 of a cup hot water into the pan or some extra lemon mixture, before they have fully browned.

Zucchini Gratin

Elizabeth and Scott took on the green vegetable offering: a delicious zucchini, rice and cheese gratin (recipe from smitten kitchen). One can’t go wrong with grated zucchini, melded with creamy rice and sharp parmesan, burnished with a golden panko-crusted top. Scott and Elizabeth also were VIPs of the night; they were the ones who hunted and procured two bottles of ouzo* for the evening.

*A word about ouzo before we get into the recipe for that fabulous zucchini gratin. (By the way, aren’t you always sold when you hear the word “gratin?” Doesn’t it essentially mean “amazing bubbly cheesiness?”) Ouzo is my thing. I don’t actually enjoy the taste (I actually despise anise–weird, I know), but it brings me back to the summer nights on the coast of Gerakini, a coastal hamlet situated in the webbing between the first and second fingers of the Halkidiki peninsulas. Every evening after class, we would walk across the street from our beach resort to the little taverna, where we would knock back shots of ouzo, cry “Opa!” and generally revel in the amazement that we could earn college credit living it up in one of the most gorgeous places in the world. (I learned a lot about Ancient Greek Art and Archaology, as well, of course, Mom.)

I love to learn new languages, and I remember the moment that our server, who had his head down while filling glasses, automatically responded to my “yassou” (hello) in Greek. He looked up, his face lit up, and he gave me a high five. My Greek language skills are lost after years of non-use, but I will always treasure the small triumph of being treated like (or rather, sounding like) a local.

Zucchini, Rice and Cheese Gratin

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  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 1h 15m
  • Total Time: 1h 45m

Ingredients

  • Butter for dish
  • 2 1/2 pounds zucchini
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup plain, uncooked white rice
  • 1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, mashed or finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (optional)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Oil or butter a 2-quart baking dish.
  2. Wash zucchini and trim ends. Halve lengthwise, and coarsely grate. Place in a large bowl.
  3. In a large frying pan, cook the onions slowly in 3 tablespoons oil for 8 to 10 minutes until tender and translucent. Raise heat slightly and stir several minutes until very lightly browned. Stir in garlic and cook another minute. Add uncooked rice and sauté for another two minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer to bowl with zucchini and stir together with milk and all but 2 tablespoons cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  5. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until rice within is cooked but not mush. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Remove foil, drizzle top with remaining olive oil (or dot with butter), sprinkle on remaining cheese and bake uncovered until browned and crisp on top, about another 10 to 15 minutes. Broil for one minute at the end.

Traditional Greek Salad

 

No Greek feast is complete without a Greek salad (Horiatiki), and Sarah and Cole delivered.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, red onion, and feta, tossed in a red wine vinaigrette and garnished with herbs, meld together into a salad so delicious it doesn’t even need lettuce.

Traditional Greek Salad (Horiatiki)

Recipe from Epicurious.com

  • Prep Time: 20m
  • Total Time: 20m

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound tomatoes, seeded, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups diced seeded peeled cucumber (from about 1 large)
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper (from about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)

Instructions

  1. Toss first 9 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Gently mix in cheese. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

The main event had to be lamb, so I procured a four-pound boneless, butterflied leg of lamb. I marinated it in olive oil, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, and parsley, encased it in sprigs of rosemary, tied it, and roasted it in the oven for almost two hours. It was a perfect medium rare, and made a lovely centerpiece to a fantastic meal.

Rosemary Encased Leg of Lamb
Rosemary Encased Leg of Lamb

This recipe is from Curtis Stone, one of my all-time favorites. Take Home Chef was a TLC show in which a more-than-slightly-attractive chef (Curtis Stone) picked up women at the grocery store and took them back to their place to “cook dinner” for their husbands. When it was on the air, I was a devotee. To his credit, my own husband tolerated my infatuation and would even watch a few episodes with me. He even refrained from rolling his eyes that time I freaked out because Curtis Stone made a joke about zucchini in response to my gardening question (about 14 minutes into the video, just in case you’re interested). But I digress. Dynamite lamb recipe, Curtis.

Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary

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  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 1h 45m
  • Total Time: 2h 15m

Ingredients

  • 1 4-5 lb leg of lamb, butterflied and rolled
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 handful oregano, minced
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 12 sprigs of rosemary
  • 12 10-inch pieces of kitchen string

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Season the lamb all over with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest with the garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Rub the mixture all over the lamb.
  3. Arrange nine long pieces of kitchen string crosswise on a large rimmed baking sheet, 1 inch apart. Arrange 10 rosemary sprigs across the string and set the lamb on top. Cover with the remaining rosemary, then pull up each piece of string and tie tightly to secure the rosemary and form a neat roast.
  4. Roast the lamb on the baking sheet for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat registers 130°. Transfer the lamb to a carving board and let rest for 30 minutes.
  5. Untie the lamb and discard the rosemary sprigs. Carve the lamb and serve.

The pièce de résistance was Allison’s cake. We had chatted back and forth about ideas for the night’s dessert. We envisioned something with honey, figs and nuts. A visual person, I Googled images of “fig honey pistachio cake” and came upon Cake Crumbs and Beach Sand’s Honey Cake with Mascarpone, Figs and Pistachios. Allison put her own spin on the original recipe and the result was a cake for the ages. Seriously. I heard many supper clubbers comment that this was one of the best cakes they’ve ever tasted. What’s more? It was absolutely gorgeous.

Photo credit: Allison Risher
Photo credit: Allison Risher

Allison stacked yellow layer cakes (which, in a brilliant shortcut, she purchased from Whole Foods) and frosted them with heaven itself (aka mascarpone buttercream). Then, she decorated the top with crushed pistachios and figs and drizzled the whole cake with a spiced honey just before serving. If your mouth isn’t watering just reading this, you don’t have tastebuds.

The Most Amazing Cake in the World (aka Fig, Honey, Pistachio Cake with Mascarpone Frosting)

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  • Prep Time: 30m
  • Cook Time: 10m
  • Total Time: 40m
  • Serves: 12
  • Yield: 1 9-inch 2-layer cake
  • Category:

Ingredients

Cake Assembly

  • 2 9-inch yellow cake layers, baked and cooled
  • 1 pint brown turkey figs, quartered
  • 1 pint black mission figs, quartered and some halved (you will not use all of the figs)
  • 3/4 cup roasted pistachios, crushed

Mascarpone Buttercream

  • 2 containers of mascarpone cheese
  • 1 9-ounce carton of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar, plus 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Honey Drizzle

  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1 dash of cinnamon
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods

Instructions

Mascarpone Frosting

  1. In a medium bowl, whip mascarpone and cream together with a hand mixer until smooth and combined.
  2. Add vanilla and mix through, then add powdered sugar and whip until icing thickens, about one minute. Add more sugar to taste.

Honey Drizzle

  1. In a mason jar, combine honey, cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves and heat in microwave 30 sec intervals and stir. Repeat 5-6 times to let the spice meld in to the honey.

Cake Assembly

  1. Put a dab of icing on the cake plate to secure the first cake round in place.
  2. Drizzle the top with a small amount of heated honey to flavor the cake.
  3. Put about 3/4 of a cup of icing on the top of the cake, letting some of the icing spill over the sides.
  4. Add second cake layer. Do not add honey to this layer.
  5. Add icing. Then use a icing/cake spatula to smooth the icing around the sides.
  6. Add fig quarters to the top, sprinkle the crushed pistachios over the figs, and chill.
  7. Right before serving, heat the spiced honey and remove the cloves and pods. Drizzle over the top of the cake and serve.

Bottom line: Greek night was a hit, and I can’t wait until next months’ meeting of JSB. Be sure to follow our hashtag on Instagram to see what Jubilee Supper Club’s eating, and tag your own supper club photos with #jubileesupperclub!

Sliced Leg of Lamb with Rosemary

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