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A Greek-Style Feast

by Lou Seibert Pappas

This dinner showcases the traditional Greek specialties of the season. The menu easily serves a large family gathering and can be presented buffet-style. The piquant lemon and egg soup is the starter, a prelude that can be passed in small cups. Roast lamb with a wreath of rosemary and zig-zag-cut lemons, new potatoes, rice-stuffed grape leaves, and a feta-strewn salad compose the feast. Augment the menu with green beans or fresh asparagus, if you wish. Finish off with berries and a tender walnut cake. A California or Oregon Pinot Noir, particularly a choice vintage from 1994, would be a perfect companion to the feast. Consider a Steel Carneros or a Saintsbury Garnet . For this holiday occasion, the menu is richer than usual.

Lemon Soup
makes 8 first-course servings

4 cups rich chicken broth
4 eggs
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 whole lemon, thinly sliced

Heat the chicken broth to boiling. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a wire whisk until light, and beat in the lemon juice. Gradually stir in the broth, whisking constantly. Return to the saucepan and place over low heat until the soup is thickened, stirring frequently. Pour into small cups and garnish with a lemon slice.

Stuffed Grape Leaves
makes 12 servings

3 to 4 dozen canned grape leaves
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup short-grain rice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons currants
1 cup water
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 to 3 lemons, cut into wedges

Remove grape leaves from the jar, scald with hot water, and drain. Cut off the stems and pat each leaf dry. In a frying pan, sautネ the onion in oil until golden. Add the rice, parsley, dill, salt, pine nuts, currants, and water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed; let cool. Place one rounded teaspoon of the rice mixture in the center of each leaf, shiny surface down. Fold like an envelope and roll up. Do not roll too tightly as rice will expand. Arrange the rolls in layers in a large pot. Pour in the lemon juice and broth. Weight with a baking dish. Cover and simmer 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Let cool in the pan. Serve chilled, garnished with lemon wedges.

Spinach Pie/Spanakopita
makes 24 portions

2 pounds fresh spinach
1 bunch curly endive
1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch green onions
6 leaves fresh mint (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Dash nutmeg
12 sheets prepared filo dough
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Wash the greens and pat dry thoroughly. Finely chop the spinach, chicory, parsley, onions, and mint, and pat dry again. Place in a large bowl and mix in the salt, pepper, oil, eggs, crumbs, feta, and nutmeg. Lay out the filo and cover with plastic film to keep it from drying out. Line a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking pan with one sheet of filo, brush with melted butter, and cover with five more sheets of filo, brushing each with melted butter and letting filo overlap sides of the pan. Place the greens mixture in the filo-lined pan and smooth the top. Fold any overhanging filo back over the greens. Arrange six more buttered sheets of filo, cut or folded in to fit the top of the pan, one at a time on top. With a sharp knife, cut into squares through the top layers of filo only, making three lengthwise and five crosswise cuts. Preheat the oven to 375ェ. Bake in the oven for one hour, or until the greens are tender. Remove to a rack and finish cutting into squares. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Country Salad
makes 8 servings

1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil or oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 head butter or romaine lettuce
1 cucumber, sliced
4 tomatoes, sliced
2 dozen Greek olives
1/4 cup feta cheese

For dressing, place in a jar the oil, vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper; shake well. Chill. Peel and slice the cucumbers and dice tomatoes and place in a bowl with greens. Pour dressing over the salad, mix lightly, and garnish with olives and cheese.

Roast Leg of Lamb
makes about 10-12 servings

1 leg of lamb (about 6 pounds)
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup lemon juice
Garnish: fresh rosemary, lemons, oregano

Trim any extra fat from the meat. Peel the garlic and sliver it. Insert several garlic slivers in the natural seams of the meat and make additional incisions and insert more garlic. Mix together the salt, pepper, and oregano, and poke half of the mixture into the slits. Rub the remaining salt mixture over the outside of the meat. Insert the meat thermometer in the thickest part of the roast.

Place on a rack in a roasting pan and pour 1/2 cup hot water into the bottom of the pan. Place in a 400ェ oven and roast for 40 minutes, or until the meat is well browned. Reduce the temperature to 325ェ and roast 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer, or until the thermometer registers 160ェ for medium rare meat. Remove from the oven. Pour lemon juice over the meat, cover pan, and let stand 10 minutes. Remove meat to a platter and keep warm. Skim fat from the pan juices and pour one cup water into the pan; stirring, bring to a boil, scraping up drippings. Pour into a sauce bowl. Garnish the meat platter with a wreath of rosemary and lemons, cut zigzag style and sprinkle their center with oregano. Carve the meat and spoon the juices over each serving.

New Potatoes with Lemon and Herbs
makes 8 servings

16 new potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup mixed minced fresh parsley, chives, and thyme

In a saucepot, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and herbs.

Walnut Cake
makes 16 servings

6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups ground walnuts

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff moist peaks form. Gradually beat in 1/2 cup of the sugar, beating until stiff; set aside. Beat the egg yolks until thick and pale in color; gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating well. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, lemon zest, and salt, and add to the yolk mixture, beating until smooth. Mix in half of the nuts. Gently fold the egg white meringue and remaining nuts into the batter. Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake in a preheated 350ェ oven for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven, invert, and let cool in the pan. Serve with strawberries alongside.

Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.

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