Five-course Greek dinner

A five course Greek dinner for six diners. This is the dinner I auctioned off, and cooked for the winning bidder in the silent auction benefiting the Michigan Association for Justice.

It was great to get in the kitchen and pull it off, but it was hard work. We settled on the menu Monday night, for a Saturday dinner. I had originally planned to make my shopping list Wednesday, shop on Thursday, prep on Friday, and do little more than serve on Saturday. A friend agreed to help me during the dinner, so I thought this would be accomplished with little sweat.

But life intervened. I didn't make the shopping list until Thursday evening, and had to take Friday off for shopping and prep. Which was made more challenging by two intervening causes: a noon meeting I was chairing, and my daughter needing the car. Nonetheless I managed to get to nine different stores on Friday, and had my shopping done by 5 p.m.

I could still do my prep on Friday evening, right? Not so fast. I had yet another intervening scheduling issue: our long planned, and oft-postponed, office holiday party. Never mind that we were well past any known holiday, with the possible exceptions of "Dress Up Your Pet Day," "National Hat Day," and "Appreciate a Dragon Day." (Yes, these are all actual, verifiable calendar events.) So on Friday evening, with all my groceries chilling in my car-temperature controlled thanks to Mother Nature-I went out partying with my law firm.

I will provide no further detail. Let's just say that if you happened to be at the Eight Ball Saloon that evening, you may understand why I was not able to begin any food prep until late Saturday morning.

When I finally awakened, I was productive. I had a dozen dishes I had to prepare, and roughly went in order. First, skordalia: a coarse garlic dip held together with bread, mashed potato, blanched almonds, olive oil and capers. Delicious with roasted beets or crusty bread. I skipped the part about soaking the almonds overnight and let half an hour suffice.

Next, tzatziki, yogurt flavored with herbs and garlic (are we sensing a theme here?). Time constraint: tossing the diced cucumbers with salt and letting them drain a bit, but otherwise easy. Also tasty with crudités, pita triangles, and our main course, lamb.

The third dip was taramasalata, made with the roe of the most prized of all fish, the noble carp. Gussied up with olive oil, lemon and shaved onion and lots of bread to soak up the salt this puppy is addictive.

The three other appetizers were spinach-cheese pies folded into individual triangles; zucchini fritters with feta, dill and mint, and broiled lamb sausage (bought, not made).

I managed to make the mix for the fritters; the rest had to wait.

It was getting past lunch and I wanted to be at the hosts' house by 3 p.m. I had to go into triage mode. Next was the avgolemono soup (chicken, egg, lemon, orzo). I was able to roast some chicken pieces I'd picked up at the butcher, but the rest of the soup would have to wait as well.

At this point I needed to get organized for travel. I created a series of grocery bags, one for each individual dish, containing all the ingredients and everything I'd made ahead. As I finished each bag, it went on the porch to be packed into my car. Again the weather was cooperatively chill.

But I was not so chill. Salad would have to wait too. Nothing more than a traditional Greek salad with romaine and spinach, with some cooked farro to give it a different texture, flavored with olive oil and lemon - think Greek tabbouleh. But other than the cooked farro, everything else went in the bag for later.

Now the main course. I had managed to marinate the butterflied leg of lamb by mid-morning, rather than the optimal two days before. This would be grilled on site. Roasted potatoes and green beans "kapama" would also have to wait. And so would the dessert, a lovely rice pudding topped with dried fruit.

If you're keeping score, I still had seven of the twelve dishes that pretty much needed to be cooked, by the time I unloaded my marked bags and got my lay of the host's kitchen. Fortunately my friend Rose was there, cheerful, indefatigable, talented and invaluable. That means she pretty much made everything (and cleaned) while I tried to keep everything straight and kept opening drawers looking for stuff.

But I get all the credit. Just in time for "Appreciate A Lamb Day!"

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor. He has a blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com.

Published: Mon, Feb 15, 2016

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