When Papa and I were dating, one of our favorite haunts was an authentic hole-in-the-wall Greek restaurant. The place only seated about 20-25 people. It was so authentic that half the staff didn’t speak English! We often ordered the sampler platter for the wide variety it offered but we also did a lot of experimenting on our own. We learned to love not just gyros, but also souvlaki (skewered meat), spanakopita (spinach pie), their wonderful lentil soup (looked awful but tasted delicious!), and a host of desserts like galaktoboureko (custard pie) and Karidopita (walnut cake with a sweet syrup). Yum. My mouth is watering!
Sadly, we’ve moved several times and although I think that restaurant is still open, it’s now over an hour away from us. Reserved only for special occasions. So, it’s time to learn to make our own Greek food!
This past weekend was my birthday. Before making plans with my parents, Papa encouraged me to save time and decide where I wanted to eat. After careful deliberation, my choice was a little place I call At Home. Call me crazy, but with Papa doing most of the cooking around here, this was the perfect opportunity to spend the day and make my favorite foods! And boy, did I spend all day at it. I got ambitious … but it was good!
I used the Soft Wrap Bread recipe from Ambition’s Kitchen. I had made this recipe once before and half disappeared so fast, I ended up making a second double batch just so we could have some with our meal. This time, I started off with a double batch because I didn’t have time to make it twice. I think I rolled my pita a little thin as they were drier than I remember. That doesn’t matter though. As long as there is enough tzatziki to dredge it in, all is good.
The Greek version of mayonnaise, but SO much better. This is how I make mine.
1 cup Greek plain yogurt*
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dill weed
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 tsp dried garlic)
* you can also use standard yogurt, but let it drain through a coffee filter for several hours before using.
Stir all ingredients together and refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
This can be done with any skewered meat. We used chicken breasts and a chuck roast this time in the same marinade.
I started off using the Greek Chicken Kabob recipe at My Baking Addiction but I cheated a little. When I went to get the spices, I noticed that I had a jar of “Greek seasoning”. Looking at the ingredients it sounded like it was all the spices I needed except it was already combined for me. So I just added a couple of tablespoons of that.
I combined the marinade ingredients and put half in each baggie. I had about 1 pound of chicken and 1 pound of beef in each. They sat marinating for about 3 hours before we grilled them. I was a bit concerned because they had a strong mustard smell when I skewered but you couldn’t taste it. We layered a few onions on the skewers and I bet green and red peppers would also be delicious. Don’t they look delicious?!
(pardon the pan … it is a well-loved object in our house. We’d replace it but haven’t found it’s likeness)
Oh, and one more item…
aka Spinach pie. I’m not a huge fan of spinach. I can usually eat it if it’s disguised in some way – like in chicken lasagna. This side dish is chock-full of spinach, and I love it!
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup dill weed
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 to 2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 pound phyllo pastry sheets
Heat the olive oil in a pan and gently cook the scallions and garlic. Add the spinach and heat; cook until spinach is completely dry.
In a bowl, stir together the parsley, dill, nutmeg, salt, pepper, feta and ricotta cheese, and the egg. Add the spinach mixture; stir until combined.
Combine the melted butter and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small bowl.
Carefully remove the phyllo from the packaging. Use a scissor or sharp knife to cut the sheets into 9-inch sheets. To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and a damp paper towel while working with the other.
Layer about 8-10 sheets on the bottom of a 9×9″ baking pan, brushing each sheet with the butter/olive oil mixture. Spread the spinach mixture evenly. Layer another 8-10 sheets on top of the spinach mixture; coat each sheet with butter/olive oil mixture.
Bake in a 350°F oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Add some chopped onion and tomatoes, a little iced sun tea, watermelon and ice cream cake for dessert … all makes for a wonderful day!