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A Grecian Eve

I arrived at CEC this week frazzled, exhausted and distracted by the many responsibilities sending my mind into a tizzy. Then my friends greeted me with grins, Darren poured me a glass of red wine, Selwyn served up appetizers, and all of a sudden life righted itself and I felt the stress of the day slip away.

It was Greek Night and we clustered around the counter chatting, nibbling salty Greek olives and dipping warm slices of cheese-topped pita bread into Darren‘s homemade hummus and cool, creamy tzaziki.

Deborah made a creamy orzo pasta salad studded with sweet bell peppers, parsley and tangy feta cheese.

Feta also made an appearance in Toby’s light and fluffy Mediterranean couscous.

Darren and Cameron meandered between kitchen and smoker as they fixed a succulent leg of lamb and a whole tray of veggies.

It was a delicious and healthy dinner, not too heavy but filling and nourishing.

Toby helped me wrap up the meal with Galaktoboureko Rolla – delicate Custard-Filled Phyllo Rollups doused in Lemon-Cinnamon Syrup.

Jack did mounds of dishes (thank you!!), Baboo the cat made us laugh as he ran full speed across the room and attacked our plates, and Michael entertained us with his most recent embarrassing moment. It was a grand evening. đŸ™‚

Deborah’s Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Salad Ingredients:

1 cup orzo pasta
1 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 chopped fresh basil

Salad Dressing Ingredients:

1 packet (1 ounce) Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing Seasoning Mix
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar

Directions:

  1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt. 
  2. Rinse with cold water and drain well.
  3. Mix orzo, bell pepper, feta, and chopped basil in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk together seasoning mix, oil, vinegar and sugar. 
  5. Stir dressing into orzo mixture.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. 
  7. Garnish with leaves of basil before serving. 
  8. Makes 4-6 servings.

Toby’s Mediterranean Couscous
(From Recipezaar)

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked couscous
2 roma tomatoes, diced
2-3 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oil-cured olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt (optional)
feta, crumbled (optional)

Directions:

  1. Prepare the couscous (Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil).
  2. Heat olive oil in a small pan to medium-high.
  3. Add tomato, scallions, garlic, and olives.
  4. Saute in the pan for around 3 minutes.
  5. Fluff couscous with a fork.
  6. Add salt to taste, mix tomato mixture with couscous and serve.

Krista’s Galaktoboureko Rolla – Custard-Filled Phyllo Rollups
(From Greek Food)

Ingredients:

For the syrup:
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1-2 slices of lemon peel
1 stick of cinnamon (optional)

For the custard:
3 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of semolina (fine grind), or rice flour, or cream of wheat
1/2 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of grated lemon peel
3 cups of whole milk
1 cup of unsalted butter, melted

2 one-pound boxes of phyllo pastry sheets, defrosted, at room temperature

Preparation:

Note: Defrost the phyllo dough in the refrigerator the day before. Bring the phyllo to room temperature before beginning, and do not open the package until the filling has been prepared and you’re ready to start making the pastry. When you do open it, keep unused portion covered with a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and a cool damp towel. Make sure hands are dry when handling.

Make the syrup: Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add lemon peel and cinnamon, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon juice (do not stir) and set aside.

Make the custard:

  1. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat 1 egg with 1/3 of the sugar until light and fluffy; add another egg and another 1/3 of the sugar, and repeat until all 3 eggs and all the sugar have been beaten together. Continue to beat on high for 2 minutes. 
  2. Beat in the semolina, lemon juice, and grated lemon peel. Continue beating and add the milk and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Beat for another 5-6 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. Transfer the custard to a pot and heat over medium heat. Whisk vigorously until it thickens to the consistency of ketchup (or puréed baby food). Remove from heat immediately and set aside.
  4. Tip: If the custard has thickened a little too much, transfer to a bowl, whisk, and continue with the recipe. If left in a hot pot, it could continue to thicken further.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

  1. Prepare the rollups: Brush the bottom and sides of two or more shallow baking pans with melted butter. Open the phyllo dough and work with 5 sheets at a time, keeping the rest covered.
  2. Place the phyllo lengthwise in front of you on a dry work surface.
  3. Fold the sheet in half from side to side and brush the top lightly with butter.
  4. Using a pastry bag or tablespoon, place custard (about 2 to 2 1/2 tablespoonfuls) across the bottom of the phyllo (shorter side), about 1 inch in from the bottom and sides.
  5. Fold the phyllo up over the custard from the bottom, and roll up two or three times, trying to make sure there’s no air space between the dough and the custard.
  6. Fold the sides in to create a straight channel and roll the pastry up the rest of the way.
  7. If needed to keep the rolls fairly tight, brush the phyllo with a little more butter to avoid stressing the phyllo, which could result in tearing; however, do not roll too tightly as the custard will expand a bit during cooking.
  8. Place the roll in the baking pan with the seam side down and continue until all custard is used. Do not place too closely together.
  9. Package any remaining phyllo in airtight wrapping and refrigerate for use another time. Do not freeze. It will keep for about 10 days.
  10. Brush the tops and sides of the rolls with melted butter and bake at 350°F (175°C) on the rack just below the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven and pour cooled syrup (remove cinnamon stick and lemon peel first) evenly over the pastries to the edges of the pan. Let sit several hours until syrup is absorbed and the pastries come to room temperature.

Galaktoboureko should be eaten within a day or two. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 30-40 pastries




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