As you can probably guess, the theme of my son's birthday party last weekend was ... PIRATES! I had so much fun making invitations, decorating the house, the cupcakes and the cake for this theme--and my son's satisfaction with everything we did and the grisly "AARGH!" he'd exclaim every time he saw a skull and crossbones (he just turned "2" so the way he says it is just so darn cute), was the icing on the cake.
We had quite a few guests: I reiterate, we are a BIG family; add to that a plethora of friends and you've got yourself a kid's birthday party of 17 little ones and 25+ adults (and, for the record, some people didn't make it). Anyhow, we had a great time and I just wanted to share a piece of that with all of you through some of the goodies I got to serve up that afternoon.
There was my version of kopanisti (a cheese spread) which included 1 cup well crumbled feta, 1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola and two finely chopped hot cherry peppers, mixed well and topped with about 1/3 cup of olive oil (stir the oil in until just barely incorporated). I served this slightly spicy kopanisti with some crackers and toasted pita triangles. I initially made a variation of this on Thanksgiving Day--that version included the feta, gorgonzola along with 4 or 5 pureed roasted tomatoes (cut in half and seeds removed before roasting) and some olive oil. It had a more mellow flavor as opposed to the peppery taste of the other dip.
I also had a white bean dip with thyme, lemon and olive oil; mini pancetta cornbreads; and not letting all those turkey leftovers go to waste, I put together these really yummy wraps of roasted turkey and cranberry apple chutney rolled in a flour tortilla and sliced into thick rounds.
As for the main event, there was beef roasted with thyme and honey, glazed baby carrots, roasted potatoes, turkey tetrazzini, chicken roasted with thyme and oregano, kreatopita and my sister's butternut squash casserole.
I know, I know ... it was a kid's party and yet none of what I just described was kid friendly per se, but my kid's eat things like this on a daily basis so why shouldn't others?! In all honesty, I saw many of the kids enjoying a little bit of everything that was out and that made me happy.
**It was all buffet style and nothing was plated as shown ... that's just for your viewing pleasure!!
Beef Roasted with Thyme and Honey
1 beef rump roast, about 6 1/2 pounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, sliced
1 head of garlic, each clove peeled and mashed
5 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 cups red wine
3 cups broth
4 tablespoons thyme honey
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Rinse beef and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven (or roasting pan over two burners) on high heat and then sear the beef until well browned on all sides. Remove the beef to a plate and keep warm. Add the onions, garlic and carrots to the Dutch oven or pan and saute until the onions are softened. Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Stir in the broth, honey and thyme and cook for a minute or so.
Place the beef back into the pan and cover tightly. Once covered, place the pan in the oven and roast for about four hours--turning the meat over a couple of times--until fork tender.
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground pork
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon allspice
5 garlic cloves, minced
Thyme from 4 to 5 fresh sprigs
2 onions, chopped
1/3 cup red wine
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Kefalotyri
Grated orange zest (about 1/2 teaspoon or more if to your liking)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
10 sheets of phyllo
Oil for brushing phyllo
Combine the lamb and pork with half the olive oil, the allspice, the garlic, the thyme, salt and pepper to taste and let sit for about 15 minutes (or 2 hours in the refrigerator, time permitting).
Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet and saute the onions until soft. Transfer the onions to a bowl and the meat mixture. saute until browned. Add the wine and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add the meat mixture to the reserved onions and stir. Mix in the grated cheese, parsley, orange zest, cinnamon, additional salt and pepper as well as the eggs and mix thoroughly.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 9-inch springform pan. Line the pan with one sheet of phyllo, keeping most of the phyllo to one side of the pan, and brush lightly with oil. Layer pan with remaining sheets of phyllo, alternately overlapping one side of the pan and then the others, brushing each sheet lightly with oil. Add the filling to the pan. Fold the overhanging phyllo up and over the filling, brushing lightly with oil.
Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (if the phyllo browns too quickly, cover with foil). Allow to cool for about 20 to 30 minutes before cutting.