So you are having a small dinner party and your comfort zone is Italian food, but your guests love Greek. What do you do? Make the same old lasagna and garlic bread? Cancel the dinner in a frustrated fit? Serve Indian? I have a better idea; Fusion! By combining a few basics from each cuisine and thinking outside the box, I created a menu that was sure to please everyone! Let’s walk through the menu together! Godere! Απολαύστε! Enjoy!
Okay, so not all Greek-Italian fusions are good. Trust me, the food is better than a Mona Stamos any day!
I started by brain storming the best of both worlds. The bright acidity of Italian foods, the pastas, breads, sauces. Then there was the briny-ness of greek feta cheese, pungent olives and the pastries, oh, the pastries! What I came up with was a roller coaster of Mediterranean classics, turned on their ears.
I began with a favorite of mine, bruschetta. I started with the usual suspects: tomato, garlic, onion, olive oil, basil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Sea salt and cracked black pepper would finish the dish off, but what about the Greek twist? I started to think about common Greek sides and a ratatouille-esque dish I knew about that called for grilled eggplant. Such a simple addition took the predictable and added a subtle creamy texture as well as a smokey flavor. I served a generous scoop on top of a crispy piece of italian bread and drizzled the entire dish with olive oil. Don’t forget the grated parmesan cheese!
For the second course, I wanted to start with a Greek blue print. I remembered bitter sweetly the time when my best friend and I spent the better part of 2 hours painstakingly folding the delicate pages of phyllo dough into the triangular shape of a spanakopita. After a viewing of Billy Elliot and then some, we had finally finished our task and vowed to never do it again. I wondered how I could possibly get away with incorporating Greek food into this dinner without even the mention of the spinach stuffed pastry. I think I found an out that was both tasty and looked good on the plate to boot!
Creamed spinach was given a little extra crunch with the addition of hazelnuts. The spinach, along with its cloak of cream, shallots, nutmeg, salt and pepper, was piled high on a grilled tomato slice and topped with a salted top hat of phyllo pastry. It was creamy, sultry crunchy and, thanks to the tomato, bright. A very well rounded dish that evoked both cuisines in one bite.
For the main course I swung back to the boot-shaped country with ravioli. I love making my own ravioli and creating a new filling each time. I started by pressing fresh oregano leaves between sheets of pasta to create an extra special ravioli. (Step by step details on this technique to follow) For the filling I chose a ricotta base and to it, added feta cheese, black olives, fresh oregano, and a pinch of lemon zest. The ravioli were served with a warm Greek salad dressing and kalamata olives. The vinegar in the dressing was a welcomed acid that seemed to cut through the feta and ricotta cheeses brilliantly. It was a simple dish that packed a ton of flavor.
Dessert was a no brainer. I am lucky enough to live very close to the oldest farmers market in America. Listed as one of the top 10 markets in the US, I do my weekly grocery shopping among the stand-holders and I knew that my favorite Greek pastry stand was my target. I chose three of my favorites which happen to be baklava, tilixta and koulourakia. I served all three with an Italian espresso, unsweetened.
Arguably, not all cuisine is a match made in culinary heaven. But chances are, if you are deciding between Mexican or Asian for dinner tonight, the answer just might be: yes!