Monday, September 28, 2009

Goin' Greek!

I just spent a week at home. Home home. Where I grew up. Every time I head that way, I start salivating, and since I was driving solo this time and had to actually stay awake in the car, I had plenty of time to think. We ate very, very well and by the end of the week I had an extra 4 pounds of flab to show for it. But I don't regret one single bite - it was all delicious! I made a rockin' batch of pesto that was so good that my nephew requested to have it again for his birthday dinner today. What 9 year old craves pesto?? A very smart one, in my book. Leigh Anne and Emily's super good chewy chocolate chip cookies disappeared very fast, even though we doubled the batch. A late night gathering with creme brulee (torch your own sugar is always a draw) was quite a hit, and the last night I was there I had a sudden hankering for homemade butterscotch sauce. So I headed to the grocery store at 9:00 p.m. to get the necessary ingredients. Did I mention that this trip was not good for my waistline?

So the point of this post is to share some lovely Greek food that my mom made for us one evening. I have to confess to not being super duper impressed by most Greek that I've eaten, but this dinner really rocked my socks. Don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients - much of this can be prepared earlier in the day and it's definitely not complicated. The layers of flavor in the pita pockets were just amazing. My mom makes her own pitas. I've done it once. They're a tad tricky and tend to fry oven elements like many of the other breads I bake at high heat, but they're several notches above storebought ones in quality. Case in point, mom took some of this dinner to share with an elderly woman in the neighborhood. This woman had earlier expressed her dislike for "Mormon bread" (translation: whole wheat), so mom grabbed some "white man" (our family's term) pitas at the store for her. The woman is blind, and my mom was horrified to notice as the first bite was headed for her mouth that the pita had mold all over it! Nasty! Yet another example of why homemade is best.

On with the recipes. The souvlaki and tzatziki sauce came from Allrecipes.

Chicken Souvlaki Gyro Style

Souvlaki marinade:
3/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
3 T. lemon juice
1 T. dried oregano
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Mix the marinade ingredients in a large ziploc bag. Add the chicken, seal and refrigerate for at least one hour. Preheat a grill to high heat, remove chicken from marinade (discard remaining marinade) and grill on both sides for about 8 minutes each until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear. Let chicken stand for about 10 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

Meanwhile, make tzatziki sauce.

1/2 cup seeded, shredded cucumber
1 t. kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 T. rice vinegar
1 t. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. chopped fresh dill
1/2 t. Greek seasoning
kosher salt and coarse pepper to taste

Toss the shredded cucumber with 1 t. kosher salt and allow to sit at least 5 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, rice vinegar and olive oil. Season with garlic, fresh dill and Greek seasoning. Squeeze the cucumber to remove any excess water, and stir into sauce. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Now you can't leave out the other players. It's the condiments that really make this great! We whipped up a quick batch of homemade hummus first.

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/3 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 T. lemon juice
1-2 T. olive oil
kosher salt to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor (preferred) or a blender (but be prepared to be scraping and fussing with it to get it all to process) and pulse on low until ingredients are pureed and well incorporated. Adjust liquid and salt to taste.

We also made a batch of Greek vinaigrette dressing:

1 cup olive oil
3 t. garlic powder
3 t. dried oregano
3 t. dried basil
2 t. pepper
2 t. salt
2 t. onion powder
2 t. Dijon mustard
1 1/3 cups red wine vinegar

Mix together all ingredients except the vinegar until well incorporated. Pour in the vinegar and mix vigorously until well blended.

The other players:

Pita pockets, cut in half
Kalamata olives (pitted)
Feta cheese crumbles
Diced fresh tomatoes
Shredded romaine lettuce
Pepperoncinis or tangy marinated red peppers (pictured above)
Red onion, thinly sliced

Lay all the goodies out and let everyone make their own gyro to suit their taste. Me, I like all of it! The pita wasn't big enough :). This would be a great luncheon buffet, in my opinion, and like I already said, most of this can be prepared well in advance and would be easy to pull out at the last minute.


Patti said...

You left us hanging with your story! What happened to the little old lady about to eat the moldy pita? What did you mom do, just let her eat it? We gotta know these answers!

Patti said...

Oops... what did "your" mom do. Sorry about the typo.

Nurse Heidi said...

She grabbed it back out of the lady's hand, apologized profusely, and brought it home to show us - and then back to the store for a refund. Mom had fortunately prepared their food as a layered greek salad with the pitas on the side, so it worked out ok. With specialty food like that, you have no idea how long it's been on the shelf. Yet another reason why I make my own if at all possible!