30 Minute Greek Feast

Greek salad is my favorite lunch food in the summer, but it is actually the only Greek food I ever make! When I got my first batch of cucumbers and tomatoes in my farm share last week, I decided to expand my horizons and create a Greek feast for this week’s pre-game dinner.

I don’t typically like to half-ass cuisine that I don’t know, so since I unfortunately didn’t have time to fly over to Greece for a quick cooking lesson, I scoured my cookbooks and came up with a surprising number of fast, easy recipes. Plates to Share by Jennifer Joyce was particularly useful with it’s country-specific lists of easy to prepare, sharable dishes.

After parring down my research, I decided that the following items would make a wonderfully diverse, complete meal:

  • Hummus (I used the tahini-free Trader Joe’s Original Hummus because it works great with falafel)
  • Toasted Pita (again from Trader Joe’s – I like the 4 inch diameter whole wheat pitas. They even fit nicely in the toaster!)
  • Greek Salad (farm-fresh tomatoes and cucumber with creamy President Feta)
  • Eggplant Dip
  • Steamed Greens with Cinnamon (can be made with different greens, I used swiss chard)
  • Falafel (this mix is easy to prepare and delicious and much faster and healthier baked than fried)

The only way to get a dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less is to plan your preparation very carefully. I made the falafel in advance this week so that I could get everything ready I ten minutes, but if you wanted to do it all one go, here’s your Greek feast guide:

  1. Combine the falafel mix with water, following the package instructions, and preheat the oven to broil.
  2. Pierce the eggplant several times with a knife.
  3. Set a colander in the sink or over a bowl.
  4. Using tongs to hold the eggplant, hold it over an open flame and cook until it is completely charred, then place in the colander to drain off excess liquid.
  5. Set a wide pot of water (one that you have a steaming tray for) to boil.
  6. Chop one cucumber into thin rounds or one inch cubes and add to salad bowl.
  7. Chop two tomatoes into cubes or a small box of cherry tomatoes in halves and add to salad bowl.
  8. Add a handful of black olives, a handful of crumbled feta, and two tablespoons of olive oil to salad bowl.
  9. Squeeze the juice of one lemon juice into the salad bowl.
  10. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper, and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano to the salad, mix and set aside.
  11. After the falafel has soaked for exactly fifteen minutes, form the dough into 2 inch diameter patties ¾ of an inch thick.
  12. Brush both sides of each falafel patty with olive oil and arrange on a cookie sheet.
  13. Cook falafel for about three minutes on one side (till the bottom of the patty is golden brown).
  14. Once water is boiling, set the steamer tray in the pot, add the greens.
  15. Toast 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds.
  16. When greens become very bright (about 2 minutes), remove from steamer.
  17. Flip the falafel patties using grilling tongs and cook on the other side.
  18. Squeeze half a lemon into the steamed greens and mix.
  19. Drizzle the steamed greens with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and dust with a half teaspoon of cinnamon (freshly ground if possible).
  20. Empty the hummus into a wide, flat bowl (for easy dipping) and spread so the top is smooth.
  21. Drizzle the hummus with olive oil, and cover with toasted sesame seeds.
  22. Remove falafels from oven and turn off.
  23. Use tongs to move falafels into serving dish.
  24. Peel the skin off of the eggplant and spoon the flesh into a food processor or magic bullet.
  25. Add 1 roughly chopped garlic clove, two tablespoons of olive oil, the juice from half a lemon, 1 tablespoon of yogurt, a pinch of coriander seeds, chopped mint, salt, and pepper and blend until smooth.
  26. Put pitas in the over to toast (2-3 per person) for 2-3 minutes.
  27. Spoon the eggplant dip into a bowl and garnish with a finely chopped small red onion and small cucumber.
  28. Whew! That’s it! Bring your bowls of hummus, eggplant dip, greek salad, and steamed greens to the table to the ooos and ahhhs of your guests, set out your plates of pita and falafel, and bon appetit!