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Creative Cooking: The Hot Flavors of Greece -- Opa! (PHOTOS)

06/27/2013 08:39 am ET

Outdoor cooking and entertaining is all about getting people together, and who does that better than the Greeks? Rustic Greek food is simple, fresh, tasty and made for sharing. You can transform any backyard into a Greek Isle by serving up this splendid Mediterranean cuisine.

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Start the evening by offering specialty cocktails made with ouzo, the anise-flavored aperitif that is widely consumed in Greece and Cyprus. Serve a village-style Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, green, red, and yellow peppers, kalamata olives and feta cheese. Next comes the star of the evening, deliciously gooey flaming Saganaki, served on sizzling plates with sliced bread. Grill up some tasty lamb chops and serve them with fresh mint sauce and ladolemono sauce, and some chicken soulvaki with a dollop of tzatziki on top. Traditional moussaka with roasted eggplant, lots of garlic, tomatoes and garbanzo beans provides a delicious side dish or a satisfying main course for vegetarians. Add a platter of lemon, rosemary, and oregano roasted potatoes and your dinner is complete. Crispy pistachio and honey-filled baklava and some fun cupcakes decorated with Greek motifs provide a perfect finish to your meal.

Recipes by: Neil Noseworthy at TasteWorthy Cuisine
Photo Credit: Mark Luciani

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Ladolemono Sauce
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup lemon juice (approximately 2 big juicy lemon) or 3 small ones
• Sea salt (to taste)
• Black pepper (to taste)
Combine all ingredients and voila! Done real easy.

Grilled Lamb Chops
with mint sauce and ladolemono sauce

• Rack of lamb cleaned and French cut by the butcher (if you don't know how or don't have time to do yourself)
• 1 sprig of fresh mint chopped
• 1 clove of garlic chopped
• 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
• 1 tsp fresh cracked black peppercorns
• 1 tsp olive oil

Mint Sauce
• Bunch of fresh mint leaves off the stem
• 1 cup olive oil
• A dash of Maldon sea salt
• 2 garlic cloves
Puree in a blender until liquid.

Assembly
Smear the outside of the lamb with grainy mustard, mint, garlic, peppercorns and oil. Let rest in the fridge for an hour. Then sear off on the BBQ, careful not to expose the bones directly to the heat as they will burn and become brittle and break. Once seared, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes to sear in the juices. Cut into portions (usually half a rack per person) and serve with mint sauce and ladolemono sauce.

Chicken Souvlaki

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Serves 8

Marinade
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp brown torbanado sugar
1 tsp chopped fresh garlic
1 large lemon juiced, or 2 small lemons
1/8 of a cup or 2 tbsp dried Greek oregano if available or dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup olive oil add slowly while blending
Mix in a food processor or by a whisk until blended

Preparation
2lbs or 4 large 6 to 8 oz chicken breast or 2 lbs sirloin beef cut into 1" cubes
Place in bowl and add marinade to coat chicken but do not add too much so that it becomes soupy. It will drip and the BBQ and cause flair ups.
Marinate for 2 hours or over night. Then feed 4 to 6 pieces per bamboo skewer. Place on hot grill about 400 degrees and allow to cook for 5 minutes per side until browned.

Serve with lemon wedges and Tzatziki sauce.

Tip 1: pre soak the Bamboo skewers in water to prevent skewers from burning.

Tip 2: use a 6 or 7" skewers and place meat on skewer right to both ends to also prevent the skewers from burning.