It’s New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2009. The end of one decade and the beginning of a new one. I’ve been thinking of all the ways I’ve spent New Year’s Eve.
My earliest recollection was attending the Annual New Year’s dance of the Amynteon Association of Toronto. My parents are from this town in northern Greece (Florina) and I remember having a blast at these dances as a kid.
The hotel was the Lord Simcoe Hotel, torn down in 1979 and now the site of the Toronto Stock Exchange.
I’ve also gone to bars, clubs, restaurants with friends and drinks and food were always part of the festivities but nothing compares to a good house party with family and friends.
That’s what I’m doing this year. Heading over to my brother’s place for drinks, noshing and a celebratory toast to the New Year.
I’m not one to ever go empty-handed as a guest, so I will be bringing some appetizers along for the ride.
First up are the meatballs or as us Greeks call them, “keftedakia” or the diminutive of ‘keftedes’ (meatballs). Here, I share a base recipe which allow you to have a free reign with the flavour of the sauce. On this occasion, I added a touch of Chipotle for that smoky element that I just adore in food.
Keftedakia (Cocktail Meatballs)
(makes about 40 meatballs)
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. lean ground pork
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 slices of stale bread, moistened in milk
1 1/2 tsp. of seasoning salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1 bottle of tomato sauce (pommaro)
1/4 white wine
1 cup of water
1 Tbsp. of ketchup
1 tsp. of minced garlic
1 Tbsp. of Chipotle BBQ sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heated 400F oven
- Squeeze the excess milk out of your sliced bread and crumble into a large bowl. In a large skillet, add some olive oil and over medium-low heat, saute the onions for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the ground beef, pork, eggs, cooled onions and garlic, the seasoning salt, pepper, cumin and oregano. Mix well with your hands and roll-up a meatball and fry it off to taste-test. Adjust seasoning and spices to taste.
- Pre-heat your oven to 400F (middle rack). Lightly oil a baking tray and roll the meat mixture into small meatballs. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden-brown (turn meatballs as necessary). Remove the meatballs from the tray and drain-off any excess fat. Pour 1 cup of hot water onto the try and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon.
- In the meantime, take a large skillet and add the olive oil, garlic and add the water, white wine, water & brown bits along with the bottle of tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, add the meatballs and then reduce to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes until thick. Add the ketchup and the Chipotle Sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately or allow to cool and cover and reserve for future use. It’s perfectly fine to make these a day ahead…just leave the sauce a little thinner (simmer for 20 minutes) and then re-heat in the oven (covered) for another 10-15 minutes). Serve warm in a bowl with some cocktail toothpicks or with some small buns, Mozzarella cheese for mini-sandwiches.
The second appetizer I’m taking to the party are a tray of Tyropitakia. These phyllo triangles are filled with a mixture of Feta cheese, ricotta (fresh mizithra), eggs, black pepper and salt (if any is needed).
The filling might seem simple but this is all you really need, especially when quality Greek Feta cheese is used. Ditch the faux- Feta, buy Greek!
(makes 36 – 40 triangles)
1 package of frozen commercial phyllo (thawed in the fridge over night)
2 sticks of melted unsalted butter (clarified if possible)
500gr. of crumbled Feta cheese
500gr. of ricotta cheese
1 tsp. of black pepper
salt (if necessary) to taste
Pre-heated 325F oven (middle rack)
- Add your butter into a medium-sized saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Reserve & keep warm/melted.
- In a large bowl, add the Feta, ricotta, eggs, pepper and salt (depends how briny your Feta is) and mix with a spatula. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Take your phyllo out of the fridge and allow for it to come to room temperature (15 minutes). Brush a large baking tray with the melted butter.
- Lay your phyllo out on your work surface and cut the phyllo in to six equal strips, vertically.
- Lay out about 6 phyllo strips on your work surface, brush lightly with melted butter and then top each with another layer (again buttered). Place a tsp. of filling at the bottom of each strip and fold over to the top right, then upwards, then to the left, etc. until you’ve completed the triangle at the top. Place on your buttered baking tray.
- Repeat process until filling and phyllo are all used up. Brush the tops with butter and place in your pre-heated oven (middle rack) for about 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
NOTE: You may pre-assemble the Tyropitakia and then refreeze for future use. Wrap the baking tray well with a say, a garbage bag and place in the freezer. You may throw the frozen Tyropitakia in the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until golden.
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