New Year’s Eve is the one night of the year when you feel guilty if you’re not having a good time. Which you usually aren’t. Because this good time invariably involves doing things you don’t want to do in places that you’d rather not be.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to go out, drink too much and spend a lot of money kissing strangers when the clock strikes midnight. You don’t have to feel guilty. You can decide to stay home and have a wonderful time.
Herewith, some New Year’s Eve suggestions. Cozy down around the fire with a few like-minded friends. Or invite one special person over for an elegant, intimate dinner. If that’s not your kind of New Year’s Eve fun, why not invite all your friends over for a rowdy Greek buffet? Let them do the driving.
A GREEK BUFFET
Fresh, straightforward flavors and lots of finger food. What could be friendlier than a large Greek meal? (These recipes come from Cafe Athens in Santa Monica.)
4 cups parsley, finely chopped
4 cups (1/4-inch) green onion slices
1/2 cup bulgur
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, finely diced
6 fresh mint leaves, chopped
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup lemon juice
Belgian endive or lettuce
Combine parsley, green onions, bulgur, diced tomatoes, mint, basil, olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Serve garnished with endive and tomato and lemon wedges. Makes 8 servings.
2 pounds plain yogurt
2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
Fresh mint leaves
Place yogurt in cheesecloth-lined strainer. Drain, then refrigerate 12 hours.
Peel, seed and finely chop cucumbers. Combine with drained yogurt in bowl. Stir in garlic and 8 chopped mint leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with mint leaves, kalamata olives and small amount olive oil. Makes 3 1/2 cups.
2 large eggplants
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 1/2 ounces tahini
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Pierce eggplants with fork. Bake at 350 degrees 1 hour or until very tender. Cool, then peel and chop very fine.
Combine eggplant pulp with mayonnaise, yogurt, tahini, juice of 1 lemon, garlic and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.
Serve salad drizzled with few drops olive oil and lemon juice. Garnish with parsley and olives. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
1/4 pound white bread
4 ounces red caviar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 white onion, chopped
Virgin olive oil
Trim crusts from bread. Soak in water, then drain and squeeze dry.
Place caviar, lemon juice and onion in food processor. Process 1 to 2 minutes. Add bread and process about 20 seconds.
Very slowly add vegetable oil until mixture is desired consistency. To serve, drizzle with few drops olive oil and garnish with olives and parsley. Makes about 3 cups.
1 pound small whole squid
1/2 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup fine cracker meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese, grated
3 cups oil
Rinse squid under cold running water and drain on paper towels. Gently pull apart head and body. Set body section aside.
Cut tentacles off just in front of eyes. Discard eyes and attached material. If hard beak is still attached to tentacles, squeeze thick center part near cut end to push beak out. Discard beak, rinse tentacles and again drain on paper towels.
Returning to body section, reach inside and pull out long clear quill. Discard. Beginning at uncut end, squeeze tube between thumb and forefinger to remove entrails.
Peel off and discard speckled skin with fingers. Rinse mantles inside and out and drain again on paper towels. Slice mantles crosswise into 1-inch rings.
Combine egg and milk in bowl. Add cleaned squid.
Combine flour, cracker meal, salt, pepper and cheese in separate bowl. Remove squid from liquid and dredge in flour mixture.
Heat oil to 400 degrees. Fry squid in small batches in oil until golden brown. Season to taste with salt. Makes 10 to 12 appetizer servings.
AN ELEGANT RUSSIAN MENU
An intimate Russian dinner may the perfect way to usher in the new year. (Recipes from Diaghilev restaurant in the Bel Age Hotel.)
6 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons beef stock, chilled
1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs (basil, rosemary and thyme), chopped
2 (17 1/4-ounce) packages frozen puff pastry sheets
1 tablespoon water
Saute mushrooms in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine with ground beef, beef stock and mixed herbs. Set aside.
Cut puff pastry into circles with 3-inch biscuit cutter. Place small amount filling in center of each circle. Combine egg and water and brush edges of circle. Fold circles in half forming half-moon. Press two edges together to seal. Brush top with egg wash.
Bake at 350 degrees 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 4 dozen.
10 leaves savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup bread cubes
3/4 pound ground beef
1/4 pound rice, cooked
1/2 cup tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
Blanch cabbage leaves 10 to 15 seconds in boiling salted water. Remove and place immediately in ice water to preserve color.
Pour milk over bread cubes. Let stand until milk is absorbed, then squeeze out excess. Combine soaked bread, beef, rice, tomatoes, onion, thyme, rosemary and egg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove cabbage from ice water and dry leaves with paper towels. Form about 2 ounces meat mixture into shape of link sausage and place in middle of cabbage leaf. Roll up leaf around filling, tucking in ends. Repeat with remaining leaves and filling.
Place cabbage rolls in steamer. Steam 10 minutes. Cut each roll in 4 slices. Makes about 10 rolls.
1/4 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/4 cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons leeks, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
1 (16-ounce) can shoestring beets
1/2 cup tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
Lightly saute carrots, celery, onion and leeks in butter. Do not brown. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Add cabbage, dill, lemon zest and beet strips with liquid. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with sour cream and chives. Makes about 5 cups.
Note: If really ripe tomatoes are unavailable, canned tomatoes may be substituted.