If there is one thing I have learned about blogging in these past few months, it is that people really like to read a how-to. I am now going to try to reconstruct the steps of preparing the meze on Saturday night. You will understand, and forgive me, if I get a little jumbled around. You will also forgive the dearth of photographs, because the food is even less photographable now than it was yesterday.
First task: prepare the rice stuffing for the stuffed peppers and grape leaves. Cook one cup of rice in two cups of water. While it cooks, sautee two onions finely minced, two cloves of garlic minced, a quarter cup of currants, two tablespoons of pine nuts, and sprinklings of cinnamon and ground cloves. When both are finished, combine them. Immediately stuff the peppers and put them in the oven to roast.
On a second baking sheet, put two whole eggplants and one whole head of garlic, and put in the oven with the peppers. These vegetables will stay there for an hour.
Get out food processor. Insert one small package of cream cheese, three whole roasted red peppers, and a handful of walnuts. Blitz. Season to taste. Wash bowl of food processor. Insert two slices of bread soaked in water, the juice of a lemon, four cloves of garlic, three ounces of walnuts, and a hearty helping of black pepper. Blitz. Season to taste. Wash bowl of food processor.
By now, the rice filling will have cooled down enough to handle with bare hands. With great difficulty, extract roll of pickled grape leaves from their jar. Roll up dollops of filling in grape leaves and arrange on a platter. Cover with plastic wrap.
Using your box grater (because the food processor has earned a rest, and you’re sick of washing it), demolish one onion. Add it to a pound of ground beef or veal along with a handful of dried parsley and lots of salt and pepper. Mix well. Open a package of wonton wrappers and cut them into quarters. Spent the rest of your hour enclosing chickpea-sized dollops of meat filling in the tiny casings. Enlist help of Hawaiian friend who is an old hand at entertaining large numbers of people with large amounts of food. Have vicious gossip fest. Remove the trays of vegetables from the oven and replace them with the tray of dumplings and a tray of break-apart, pre-made feta and phyllo pastries.
Arrange the stuffed baked peppers on a platter with the rest of the jar of roasted red peppers. Top roasted red peppers with dollops of beyaz penir and pine nuts, to make it look like the dish required some effort.
Chop a cucumber, salt it, and set it to drain in a colander.
Scoop the insides of the two baked eggplants into your food processor. Squirt out the now-soft cloves of the roasted head of garlic. Add one snack-size container of Greek yogurt, juice of one lemon, and pepper. Blitz. Season to taste. Wash bowl of food processor.
Chiffonade some mint leaves. Combine them with the salted and drained cucumbers and another snack-size container of Greek yogurt. Call it cacik.
Open oven to check on dumplings and phyllo-feta pastries. Throw chicken broth on dumplings–they really are like potstickers, you know. Close oven.
Beg random guests to arrange olives on a platter, any platter, to cut up pita, and to set still-frozen squid in a bowl of warm water. Your boss will take charge of the squid, the Hawaiian helper will take charge of the other two.
Beg the boss’s fiancee to beg people to drink Turkish beer.
Put the grater disk in your food processor and grate four mediumish zucchini. Put them in a large bowl. Under the watchful eye of Ryan (of Ryan’s Salmon), who has Opinions About These Things, add eggs, milk, flour, salt, and pepper to make a lumpy batter. Put a skillet and lots of oil to heat on the stovetop.
Rescue dumplings from oven, make mental note to not forget the phyllo-feta pastries.
Drop spoonfuls of the zucchini batter in the hot oil and let fry till brown on both sides. Serve, and receive effuse compliments. Try to sit down to talk to people while they fry.
Call Ryan back into the kitchen for The Squid Frying Problem and, after making a rudimentary beer batter, leave him to entertain himself by perfecting it. He does. Most people are too full for squid by this time, unfortunately. Meanwhile, arrange baklava and halva on a plate, just to further terrorize your already stuffed-to-popping guests. Make mint tea.
Welcome Diana (of Diana’s Minestrone) who has already had dinner–because it is her birthday! Mourn how very little six people are capable of eating.
Talk, pick at food, watch a movie, wave goodnight to guests, fall into bed exhausted. Wake up next morning and remember the phyllo-feta pastries.