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10.30.10 by  

My Big Fat Greek Happy Hour

Complement your cocktailing with some chic Mediterranean small plates. These recipes, the best of the blogs, will give you something to look forward to after five (besides that highball of rye).

On the hunt for a way to spice up cocktailing fare, we hit up our favorite blogs for modern twists on Greek fare. Sure, it’s not your typical Happy Hour menu, but if the food is like the countrymen, we know it will look delicious on a plate.

Our roundup:

Fried cauliflower. We love the saffron-yogurt dipping sauce in Bon Appetit‘s recipe. Our only tweak is not deep-frying the cauliflower, but sautéing or roasting it instead. (Fry Daddy, we loved you in 1980, but not so much anymore.) A more Middle Eastern version worth trying is Yotam Ottolenghi’s served with tahini — his recipe calls for mixing the cauliflower in the sauce, but you can serve it on the side for less mess.

Raw vegetables at Happy Hour? Not on your watch. Roast them and sidecar with a Greek dipping sauce. Photo: Colin Campbell for the Guardian

Green hummus. It’s not a Mediterranean party until someone breaks out the green goo. This time, it’s Heidi from 101 Cookbooks. We love her twist on the traditional chickpea recipe, served with toasted pita bread or her olive oil crackers, which are pretty much are single biggest reason for sticking with carbs.

Heidi's olive oil crackers are best made in bulk and are hearty enough to man-handle your sturdiest of dips. Photo: Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks

This green-hued version is completely unexpected. Photo: Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks

Pan-fried sardines. This recipe, Pan-fried Sardines with Micro Ratatouille, is actually an entrée, but makes a great small plate or tapa. You can lose the ratatouille or serve it on the side as a dip of sorts. Or Chef Michael Psilakis makes a killer fritto misto, taking the concept of small fried sardines (“fries with eyes”) to a whole new level.

In lieu of the ratatouille, serve with fresh lemon or dust with smoked paprika. Photo: Guy Raz/NPR

Michael Psilakis' sardine and calamari fritto misto. Photo: The Atlantic, Courtesy of Little, Brown

Pickled octopus. Seems like the new motto is, “if it ain’t moving, pickle it.” So it makes perfect sense that seafood was next in line to get hit with vinegar and spices. It’s more interesting than a basic shrimp or crab cocktail and it’s relatively simple to prepare. There are actually two common methods for preparing, one involves pre-marination and serving warm, while another involves more of a traditional pickling method, served cold.

Tenderize the octopus pre-prep with your favorite beating tool. You don't want guests gnawing on overly chewy apps at your cocktail party.

Photo: Rolf Hicker Photography

Pepper salad. There aren’t many things to disagree with Smitten Kitchen about. Deb’s Zabar’s-inspired salad definitely isn’t one of them. We love making this version, but keeping the peppers, onions, cukes and feta chunks on the large size (think crudité) so they’re easier to nab one-handed with a toothpick. At the end of the day, no one wants to put down a drink to eat a vegetable.

A cooler way to serve vegetables and cheese. Photo: Smitten Kitchen

Fried chickpeas. Chow’s Chickpeas with Sage recipe is easy to doctor up with your favorite spices. Unfortunately, the crispy texture does require plunging them in hot oil, but you can get flavor sans the fat (and crunch) by roasting or sautéing instead.

In the unlikely event you have leftovers, serve them the next day on a salad, pizza or pasta. Photo: Chow.com

Side car these dishes with Greek wine for a truly Greek experience. Sigalas Assyrtiko/Athiri is our pick for a bright, citrus-forward sip. And if you’re looking for a two-second bite to keep cocktailers from stalking the kitchen, sauté kalamata olives and/or capers with a touch of sea salt and hit of smoked paprika. Fast and easy.