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Greek menu for Christmas

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  • Babs Nov 22, 2012 07:22 PM
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My husband and I host Christmas for 8 to 10 people each year. We have no traditions and try to come up with a new menu each year. This year I would like to do a Greek theme. I think I have found a source for the cheese for the flaming Saganaki, thinking of Avgoloemomo soup, a Greek salad and need help with the main. Probably lamb, no eggplant (husband hates it). I would appreciate any suggestions and recipes. Thanks and Happy Holiidays to all my CH friends. I have found so many wonderful recipes and suggestions here.

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  1. In case you do want another side dish (or a vegetarian main), the NY Times just published some vegetarian recipes for Thanksgiving, including a Greek (or at least Greek-inspired) phyllo pie with mushrooms and feta. Got great reviews.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jessinEC

      Hi, I looked for this recipe you suggested but couldn't find it. Can you help?

      1. re: Babs

        Doing a search found what jessinEC could be referring to:
        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/13/hea...

        At the same time searching for the above, also found this is a beautiful presentation for a Greek pie recently published by the NY Times. Great to look at and could change up the fillings as desire (a recipe is just a guide):
        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/15/hea...

        I would probably spoon a little or maybe alot of my feta with garlic sauce on either when eating after baking for another layer of flavor with the flaky phyllo texture - see below for recipe.

    2. I find Saganaki a bit filling for a starter and would prefer a seafood salad (octopus!) or some lukewarm vegetable dish.
      For the main dish I have made lamb shanks in brown paper bag. I did it without a recipe, but here's one which looks nice: http://www.kalofagas.ca/2010/04/26/ro... Completely stress-free and always good.
      For dessert I love kourambiedes - sooo addictive.

      1. I'd do a leg of lamb for the main.

        1. I went to a Greek restaurant recently and they had a lovely Lamb roasted with tomatoes and orzo as the main, it was delicious. We had the Saganki at the table for an app, a side of grilled asparagus with feta rounded it out nicely. I think the soup would be perfect as a first course too.

          Sounds wonderful to me, enjoy!

          www.saffron215.blogspot.com

          11 Replies
          1. re: mcel215

            Your lamb dish sounds like yuvetsi. The stuff made from dreams. My man makes a killer version....

            1. re: linguafood

              lingua, do you think he would share his recipe? I would love to make that dish, it was heavenly. :)

              www.saffron215.blogspot.com

              1. re: mcel215

                Why, of course!

                Here goes:

                ALL TOLD, COOKING TAKES ABOUT 5 HOURS FROM TIME FIRST PUT IN OVEN TILL BEING SERVED.

                KEY INGREDIENTS =
                4 OR 5 LAMB SHANKS
                ONE CUP OF CHICKEN BROTH
                ONE LARGE TIN OF WHOLE, PEELED TOMATOES
                TWO SMALL (14oz) TINS OF DICED TOMATOES
                SOME OLIVE OIL
                1 16oz BOX OF ORZO = 10 CUPS OF LIQUID (LIQUID:ORZO = 4:1)
                KASSERI CHEESE
                1 ONION
                GARLIC
                OREGANO, THYME, ROSEMARY

                DIRECTIONS

                • BROWN SALTED AND SEASONED (OREGANO, BASIL, THYME) LAMB SHANKS IN DUTCH OVEN ON STOVE TOP

                • ONCE BROWNED, TAKE OUT SHANKS AND PUT THEM TO THE SIDE. PLACE ONIONS AND GARLINC IN DUTCH OVEN ON STOVE TOP. DON’T LET THEM BROWN, BUT COOK LONG ENOUGH TO MAKE ONIONS TRANSLUSCENT. FEEL FREE TO PLACE LAMB SHANKS BACK IN FOR AWHILE ALONG WITH THE ONIONS AND GARLINC

                • PLACE BROTH, OLIVE OIL, TOMATOES AND HERBS IN WITH SHANKS, ONIONS, AND GARLIC.

                • COVER AND PLACE THE DUTCH OVEN IN PRE-HEATED OVEN

                • COOK AT 375.

                • AFTER 3-4 HOURS, THE LAMB SHANKS WILL BE DONE (MEAT WILL LITERALLY FALL OFF THE BONE TO THE TOUCH). AT THIS STAGE, TAKE THE BONES OUT, REMOVE ANY REMAINING MEAT AND PLACE IT BACK IN THE DUTCH OVEN. THE BONES CAN BE DISCARDED.

                • WHEN YOU ARE READY TO COOK THE ORZO, REMOVE THE DUTCH OVEN. WITH A LADEL OR MEASURING CUP, REMOVE AS MANY CUPS OF LIQUID AS YOU CAN FROM THE DUTCH OVEN AND PLACE IN A BOWL (IF THERE ARE CHUNKS OF TOMATO IN THERE, DON’T WORRY. COUNT THEM AS LIQUID AS WELL). ALL TOLD YOU WILL WANT A 4:1 LIQUID:ORZO RATIO. SO, GENERALLY, YOU WILL WANT TO COOK AN ENTIRE BOX (16 OZ0 OF ORZO), MEANING YOU WANT ABOUT 10 CUPS OF LIQUID. IF YOU COME UP SHORT (AND THAT DOES HAPPEN), THEN SIMPLY MAKE UP THE REST BY ADDING CHICKEN BROTH OR WATER. THEN, PLACE ALL THE LIQUID BACK IN THE DUTCH OVEN, ALONG WITH YOUR ORZO. COVER AND PLACE THE DUTCH OVEN BACK IN THE OVEN UNTIL DONE, I.E. WHEN THE LIQUID IS GONE.
                NOTE: ONCE PUTTING THE ORZO IN, YOU SHOULD PLAN ON IT TAKING CA. 1 HOUR

                • ABOUT 15 MINUTES BEFORE REMOVING FROM THE OVEN, PUT SOME GRATED GREEK CHEESE ON TOP.

                • REMOVE, LET SIT FOR ABOUT 15 MINUTES, THEN SERVE.

                Don't ask why this is all in capitals. Perhaps my man's bad eyesight :-D

                1. re: linguafood

                  Please thank him for me, copied and pasted. :)

                  www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                  1. re: mcel215

                    Oh, any time. Hope you can work with it.... it's not your, ahem, usual instructions.

                    1. re: linguafood

                      It's a bit of this and that, much the way I cook. Unless I bake, I never measure. :)
                      Thanks agan.

                      www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                      1. re: mcel215

                        Yeah, that's why I don't ever bake. I don't measure anything, just throw stuff together.

                  2. re: linguafood

                    I grew up eating this as a comfort food! Love it. If you want it as an easy weeknight meal, it works great when there's leftover lamb from a weekend feast!

                    1. re: linguafood

                      No cinnamon in your man's yuvetsi? ;-)

                      1. re: prima

                        Hmmm, weird. I always thought he put a stick or two in there. He may have just forgotten to write it down. MEN! Snort.

                        1. re: linguafood

                          ;-)

              2. Happy holidays to you and yours. I would do something(s) using my Feta with Garlic Sauce, Dip, and Dressing:

                30 oz - Mayo (go with the real stuff and a good brand - lite does not taste as good in this)
                24 oz - Sour Cream (Daisy or another made of only cream - not thickened with corn starch)
                1 lb - Feta chopped as fine as you can get it.
                5 - large garlic cloves chopped as fine as you can get them.
                1/2 tsp - kosher salt
                1/2 tsp - fresh ground black pepper
                1/2 tsp - granulated garlic
                1/2 tsp - granulated onion

                DIRECTIONS: Stir all ingredients together then let flavors mingle at least overnight - I like it best after 48 hours. Less or more can be made, just keep the ratios the same. This makes a bunch but we have no problem going through it. The above as listed is probably about right for 8-10 if making the sandwiches or salads below as a main - just trying to give you an idea how far it goes (BTW: I also feel leg of lamb would be a great traditional main dish choice for your Christmas meal).

                NOTE: Have been experimenting making with Greek yogurt and combinations, but nothing to me tastes as good as the above 5 parts mayo to 4 parts sour cream ratio for this. So if you want to go with the proven sauce for a holiday meal when entertaining guests, friends, and family save the yogurt combinations for later when we have more time to experiment to perfect. Not sure if ever can make better than is listed above. Seems Greek yogurt would work, but is not as good to me. More sour cream than mayo doesn't work as well to me either. It seems the oil in the mayo, even though do not want that fat, some how transmits the garlic and feta flavor combination to my taste buds best.

                Awesome as a dip for most anything including: Crackers, chips, bread, bread sticks, eighths / sixths triangular pieces of pita baked in the oven into dry crunchy chips, ... Vegetables like : carrot slices, celery slices (can stuff), thin sliced small zucchini, radishes, cucumber slices, even pickles, ...

                I like as a dressing on any kind of lettuce based salad. Good on a cucumber, onion, & tomato salad which is a simple special side dish.

                Great on sandwiches or Hors d'oeuvres as a sauce / spread (I often make small versions of the below sandwich to nibble on a bite at a time by cutting pita into sixths / eighths or sometimes even use bread quarters / sixths depending on size desired - pita is better). Even 'Greeks' up a chicken sandwich or burger which can be made full size or as mini open-face Hors d'oeuvres.

                Be creative with it.

                A personal favorite sandwich or layered salad (eaten with a fork) with the above Feta & Garlic Sauce: Whole-wheat pita simply folded once warm, cut in half used to make two pocket sandwiches (to me the best), or cut in eighths / sixths depending on size desired. Heat pita until flexible definitely helps to separate, stuff, and eat. Warm also improves pita flavor. In my microwave 35 seconds (or in the oven until bends easily is even better but takes longer). Pita is terrible cold and when not flexible falls apart if try to eat a sandwich made from cold pita (especially folded or as a pocket). Have even rolled this combo in flour taco shells with success - I like the Calidad-brand Soft Taco Flour Tortillas and heat in a cast iron pan with a very little bit of olive oil mostly on one side until poof-up inflating existing air bubbles (that way the outside is not oily with great texture). I like to layer in this order:

                1) Get pita / pocket / slices warm. Use as much Garlic & Feta Sauce as able (do not be shy)
                2) lettuce - very fine cut shred. Absorbs veggie liquid / sauce otherwise a dripping wet mess to eat
                3) meat (cooked / grilled chicken chunks, lamb, pre-made then heated gyro meat, or even beef)
                4) tomato 1/2" cubes (personally prefer Roma as less wet - or remove seeds by squeeze / spoon)
                5) onion fine chopped (I like red Bermuda. Any will work if not too strong otherwise overpowers)
                6) cucumber cut in 3/8" cubes (if seed area large halve & remove wet seeds by spoon before cut)

                CAUTION: The goal is to be nice and damp in the lettuce with the thick flavorful sauce. Not a dripping wet with cucumber water and tomato juice mess. Excessive liquid also makes a problem when try to eat. Even if 'vine ripened' is not good eats when runs down your hand, arm, or face, stealing flavor. Overly liquid waters down the thick sauce dripping some to your plate so sandwich results do not have as concentrated or tasty a garlic with feta flavor. Like a sloppy burger once you start into a half as a pocket sandwich I do not put down until gone - find will fall apart then is not as good when eat with a spoon if try to set down and pick up.

                NOTE: Good, but not as messy to eat as a layered salad a bite at a time by fork. Is what do when unable to make pocket sandwiches out of my pita. Maybe pita is old, brittle, dry, or falls apart for some reason even when heated. If want something substantial and easy to eat a layered salad is sometimes best.

                Enjoy.

                5 Replies
                1. re: smaki

                  I'd eat that off a spoon!

                  1. re: alkapal

                    We do. It is so good. People love it (if like feta and garlic and find few don't). This thread seemed a good place on CH to share. Our recent favorite dip / spread / dressing here. A successful local Greek deli & grill uses it as a popular dip for 'Greek fries' (batter coated deep fried potato wedges) and a spread on a few special sandwiches. Found we added to other deli sandwiches, burgers, chicken sandwiches, gyros, salads, ... for the extra Greek flavor. Great at home on french fries / steak fries / tots / veggies / crackers / chips of many kinds. They call theirs omega sauce (is different than a yogurt based traditional cucumber sauce spread on gyros and I think theirs is a plain mayo base). It used to be 25 cents in a little cup (only about two heaping teaspoons). Then it went to 75 cents - still craved but price became a factor so we ate less often three+ at a sitting per person $2.25+. So made my own similar we may like better to eat on everything we can. Feel mine has more feta maybe more garlic and put as much sour cream as possible in it to cut the fat without killing the flavor. I can make a couple quarts for $6.50 when crave (to keep price down found a local place has Athenos feta for $1.99 a pound in a 24oz tub, mayo on sale $2.49 or less, find best to buy single ingredient sour cream at Winco under $2). It came out of my head and has been perfected by me. All thoughts on good things to eat with it are welcome.

                    1. re: smaki

                      fantastic -- thank you!!!!

                  2. re: smaki

                    Thank you. Now i have my appetizer planned. My husband is nervous about flaming the saganaki. Guess we will keep that for our favorite Medeterrian restaurant here in our town. Laskara in Wallingford, Ct.

                    1. re: Babs

                      CAUTION: do not put in too much garlic. 4 regular cloves will do it. Is stronger as is not cooked. I made a batch a couple days ago with 8 cloves and the garlic took over the sauce. Yes I like a garlic sauce but is better with 4-5 cloves so can better taste the feta.

                  3. My Greek grandma would be so proud of you! :) I agree with the other poster who said lamb roast with orzo is a great way to go for the main.
                    Kourambiethes are wonderful christmas cookies, but if you wanted to get a little creative for dessert maybe you could serve a warm almond or honey cake with homemade baklava ice cream.

                    1. We love a butterflied leg of lamb marinated for two or three days in onion, garlic, oregano, olive oil and lemon juice, grilled or broiled to medium rare and served with a lemon sauce.

                      1. Hi
                        Greetings from Athens Greece. Just a few suggestions: Greek cuisine has many tasty vegetable dishes, as appetizers and main course. I would try and add some cooked veggie dishes rather than just a salad. Little cheese and spinach pies wrapped in phyllo or a zucchini and feta muffin with greek yogurt dip (inspired by Greek zucchini patties). I'm a Greek-American Nutritionist, specializing in Mediterranean food currently based in Athens. I share several easy recipes and other info on Greek food on my blog. http://www.olivetomato.com

                        1. We make leg of lamb quite often, and for special occasions, racks of lamb. We always marinate it with rosemary, olive oil, garlic & some Dijon.

                          For a special meal, I would probably make the pita or flatbreads by hand & grill them with some seasonings. I love serving the lamb with a black olive relish made with shallots, kalamatas & sherry vinegar. Also roast some Roma tomatoes topped w garlic, oregano & oil. Roast potatoes with lemon is a nice alternative to rice or orzo. Have not made dolmas in ages, but grew up eating homemade with ground lamb, delicious! Also a baklava would be a fitting dessert. I've seen recipes where you can roll them and slice, looked a bit less labor intensive, but I've not tried it.

                          1. Thought of you when saw Chef Michael Solomonov's video on Nightline when he cooked a version of lamb shoulder with a nice presentation. His is served with a pomegranate - garbanzo bean sauce over rice. He also made home made pita which I do sometimes on a pizza stone in a home oven. Here is a link to the video: http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/plate...

                            1. Here's what our greek family eats on many holidays. It's not a fancy meal but very typical greek eating if that's what your going for(remember greek food traditionally is fairly rustic), Saganaki and avgolemono are both pretty rich, we don't serve those with big meals in our family.

                              Mixed olives and feta cheese

                              Grilled leg of lamb(though we've been known to do a whole one on a spit with a big enough crowd)

                              Roasted lemon potatoes

                              braised green beans(fassoulakia)

                              Spanakopita

                              Big "greek" salad(we just call it salad!)

                              For dessert - an asstmt of sweets typically including melamacarona, kourembiedes, and karithopita(walnut cake). And fruit in season. Baklava will occasionally appear, particularly for non-greek guests(not a real favorite in our family actually so we don't make it for most family gatherings).

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: ziggylu

                                Hey, care to share your recipe for fassoulakia? I've made them before (and they are similar to what my man knows as Armenian green beans -- they're both in tomato sauce), but was wondering if you had a good one?

                                And man, do I love me some lemon potatoes!

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  uh, more a method than a recipe! LOL I've adapted from what my mom did but here's how I do it:

                                  Saute about a lb of green beans with a fel whole cloves of garlic

                                  I typically have demiglace in the fridge so I'll add a spoonful to the pan but ok to leave out if you don't have.

                                  Deglaze with a little vermouth

                                  Toss in a can of diced tomatoes(I use the Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

                                  Add a touch of water

                                  Cover and simmer about 45 minutes.

                                  Uncover, cook off the liquid.

                                  Squeeze lemon over the beans. Season with salt and pepper.

                                  Serve hot or at room temp.

                                  If we're having this as a lunch or light dinner I'll add some feta before serving but otherwise just the lemon.

                                  1. re: ziggylu

                                    Interesting recipe for fasolakia latheera! Here is a more traditional method as well http://www.olivetomato.com/3-quick-an...

                                    1. re: hparav

                                      I don't make it with the other veggies as I prefer just the beans(fassoulakia yahni vs fassoulakia latheera). LIke apple pie, many different ways to make this.

                                      Granted not a lot of rustic greek kitchens have demiglace sitting around but it does add a nice richness to the dish which is why we always put a little in. Turns out fine without it. Note: This is often a fasting dish in Greece...so demiglace/broth would not be appropriate in that case. .

                                    2. re: ziggylu

                                      Thazz ok, ziggy. As you can tell from the yuvetsi "recipe" upthread, in our house most cooking is done ad lib :-)

                                      Vermouth! I would've never thought of that. Thanks!

                                2. Roast pork is also common for Xmas in some parts of Greece. Diane Kochilas' The Glorious Foods of Greece has several regional Xmas recipes, including a pork with chestnuts and chickpeas.

                                  My Xmas dinner always includes spanakopita.

                                  1. Do not forget desert, Greek do it right. Very tasty.

                                    As to traditional Greek food ideas maybe this will put more ideas out there for us all to think about:

                                    http://greekfood.about.com/od/discove...

                                    http://allrecipes.com/recipes/world-c...

                                    http://greek.food.com/

                                    http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Cu...

                                    http://jaynes-greek-recipes.4t.com/

                                    http://realgreekrecipes.blogspot.com/

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: smaki

                                      LOUKOUMADES!!!!

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        Loukamades were a New Year's Eve tradition in our family for years. We stopped doing it about 5 years ago once my parents started having health issues(my mom was in charge of making them). A game of a poker and loukoumades fresh from the fryer until the ball falls!

                                        1. re: ziggylu

                                          O.M.G. I love them so much!!! There aren't many restaurants offering them on the regular menu. I believe the first time I ever had the pleasure of tasting them was on Evia in the late 80 or early 90s. There was a stand near the beach that exclusively made them for a s few hours each night. Whenever a restaurant offers them, I try to have them. Unfortunately, I'm generally too stuffed by the mezedes and some lamb souvlaki or youvetsi at that point...

                                      2. re: smaki

                                        Many Greeks eat their Xmas sweets with coffee or tea, and maybe some Metaxa, rather than as a dessert course after a big Xmas meal.

                                        Kourambiedes and melomakarona/finikia show up the most frequently on the cookie trays in my neck of the woods. Lots of regional variations out there, and a lot of people end up preferring whatever version was the norm in their household.

                                      3. Recipes noticed here on CHOW.com that may give ideas:

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/28220-gre...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/29620-bas...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/13432-lam...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/28468-tur...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/29533-bra...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/30369-med...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/29441-bas...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/12099-mid...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/12417-roa...

                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes/11148-tun...

                                        I like to make ground lamb into a loaf then slice for a version of gyros in warmed flat bread.