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A Greek Island Party

by Lou Seibert Pappas

This imaginative, easy-to-prepare menu adapts to any size group. Consider it for a summer garden party, perhaps a bridal or anniversary event. I even staged it as a box lunch for a poolside party serving 125. Several persons may do the cooking well in advance for a crowd. Each plateful is eye-catching with cold chicken breasts sparked with pine nut mayonnaise, a colorful tomato and cucumber salad with feta, stuffed grape leaves, garbanzo spread with bubbly Armenian cracker bread, an inviting watermelon basket with tri-color melon balls, and a rum-soaked nut cake for dessert.

For beverages, mineral water and sauvignon blanc are apropos. Consider the 1995 Hogue Cellars Columbia Valley Fume Blanc, the 1996 Ferrari-Carano Sauvignon Blanc, the 1996 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, or the 1995 Handley Sauvignon Blanc.

Cold Poached Chicken
makes 12 servings

12 split chicken breasts, boned and skinned (about 5 ounces each)
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon crumbled dried tarragon
Skordalia Sauce: follows

Arrange the breasts in a large skillet, or do them in two batches. Pour in the stock and wine and season with tarragon. Cover, bring to a gentle boil, and simmer 15 minutes, or until the chicken turns white clear through to the bones. Remove from stock and let cool. Chill. Reserve stock for another dish. Serve each breast with Skordalia Sauce.

Skordalia Sauce: Place in a blender container 1 egg, 1-1/2 tablespoons each fresh lemon juice and white wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 garlic cloves, minced, and blend a few seconds. With the motor running, gradually pour in 2/3 cup safflower oil and 1/3 cup olive oil in a fine, steady stream. When the mixture is the consistency of mayonnaise, stir in 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts and blend 1 second, or until finely minced. Turn into a container, cover, and chill.

Hummus or Garbanzo Sesame Spread
makes about 2 cups

1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped green onion tops or chives
1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground cumin
Dash pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons sesame oil
Italian parsley sprigs for garnish
Lavosh, sesame or oat crackers or sliced cucumbers, zucchini, jicama, or carrots

Drain garbanzo beans and rinse under cold water; drain again. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, place the beans, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, onion tops, salt, cumin, pepper, and sesame oil. Process until almost smooth. If the mixture is too stiff, add a little water. Spoon the spread into a serving container. Cover and chill. To serve, garnish with parsley sprigs and accompany with lavosh, crackers or relishes.

makes 36 to 48

1 jar grape leaves, about 48, rinsed
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup short-grain white rice
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried dil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup dried currants
2 cups water
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Scald the grape leaves with hot water and drain. Cut off the stems from the leaves and pat each leaf dry with paper towels. In a large skillet, saut» the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden. Add the rice, parsley, dill, salt, pepper, pine nuts, currants, and 1 cup of the water. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, place 1 teaspoon of the rice mixture in the center of each leaf (shiny surface down), fold sides and top in like an envelope, and roll up. Do not roll too tightly as rice will expand. Arrange rolls in layers in a large saucepan, sprinkle with lemon juice and the remaining oil. Combine the stock and water and pour over the rolls. Weight them with a baking dish, cover the pan, and simmer 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Let cool in the pan and chill until serving time. Serve them on a plate with lemon wedges.

Greek Country Salad
makes 12 servings

6 large tomatoes
2 large cucumbers
1 small sweet red onion
1 head curly endive or other greens
2 dozen Mediterranean-style olives
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces feta cheese
2 tablespoons big capers

Core the tomatoes and cut into thin wedges. Peel and halve the cucumber lengthwise, then slice. Peel and slice the onion thinly. Tear the greens into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a salad bowl along with the olives. Mix together the oil, vinegar, salt, oregano, and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss. Dice or crumble the cheese and scatter the cheese and capers over the salad.

Watermelon Basket
makes 16 servings

1 small seedless watermelon (about 3 pounds)
1 green honeydew melon (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 large cantaloupe (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
Mint sprigs for garnish

Cutting it horizontally, slice the top third from the watermelon. Scoop out the melon into balls and scrape out the flesh to make a smooth cavity. Fashion a handle by slicing a 1/2-inch arc of rind from the upper third of the melon and tuck it into the large watermelon shell. Halve and seed the honeydew and cantaloupe and scoop out the flesh into balls. Stir together the sugar, orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, and orange zest and let stand until the sugar dissolves. Spoon over the melon balls and let steep 1 hour. Serve in the watermelon shell and garnish with mint sprigs.

Rum Nut Cake Diamonds
makes 3 dozen

6 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon each salt and cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup ground almonds
1-1/4 cups ground walnuts
Rum Syrup:
follows (optional)

First prepare the rum syrup and let cool. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Beat the egg whites until foamy; add the salt and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar, beating until the meringue stands in peaks; set aside. With the same beater, beat the egg yolks until pale yellow and gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until thick and lemon colored. Beat in the almond extract. Mix the crumbs with the baking powder and grated zest and beat into the yolks. Mix in half the nuts. Fold in the egg white meringue and remaining nuts. Turn into a buttered, floured 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched. Let cool 5 minutes. While hot, pour over the cool syrup, if desired. Let cool and cut into diamonds.

Rum syrup: Combine in a saucepan 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons grated orange peel, and 1/3 cup water. Bring to a boil and boil until clear. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup rum.

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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