A Greek Feast (PFB Challenge 2)

There’s nothing like a little procrastination when it comes to a challenge that could potentially get me $10,000. But, I really dropped the ball on this one. Yesterday afternoon we were out enjoying a beautiful fall day at the Corrales Harvest Festival (more on that later) when I received an e-mail reminding me that my second entry for Project Food Blog was due tomorrow. Oops!

Billy and I thought about what we wanted to make for challenge number two, “The Classics,” and headed to the store for some supplies. The challenge was to prepare an ethnic classic that’s out of our comfort zone — so obviously Italian and Arabic were out. We both really like Greek food, but it’s something we’ve never prepared at home, so that’s the direction we decided to go for this challenge.

While the basic ingredients and techniques of most Mediterranean cuisines are similar, this was still a challenge for us because it’s something we’ve never prepared before (and of course because of my stupid timing issue). We decided to make souvlaki, tzatziki and fresh pita bread, a pretty classic Greek dish. We had a lot of fun with it, and despite the quick turn around, were able to enjoy an awesome Greek feast! We’ll definitely be trying more Greek dishes in the future, thanks to this challenge!

Souvlaki

{Print this Recipe}
Here’s what you’ll need:
Serves: 2 to 4
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp oregano
- salt and pepper
- about 1 lb pork or lamb, cubed (we did a little of both)

Instructions:
In a small bowl, whisk all the marinade ingredients (everything but the meat) together. Place the meat in a Ziploc bag, then pour the marinade into the bag. Seal the bag, without removing the air, and toss to coat all the meat cubes. Open the bag and reseal, removing all the air. Place the bag in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight, turning once or twice so the marinade really covers the meat.

When the meat is ready to be cooked, soak some wood skewers in water for about 20 minutes to prevent them from burning while on the grill. Meanwhile, heat the grill and thread the meat cubes onto the soaked skewers. Grill the skewers until the meat is throughly cooked and nicely browned on all sides, about 10 to 15 minutes, turning throughout the cooking process. Remove the meat from the grill and let rest for a few minutes.

While the meat is resting, lightly toast the pita bread on the grill (no longer than a minute or two). To serve, cut the pita in half or quarters and fill with tzatziki and a few cubes of meat.

Tzatziki Sauce

{Print this Recipe}
Here’s what you’ll need:
Makes: about 2 cups
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- about 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- about 1 tbsp fresh mint, minced
- juice of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld.

Note: Michael Symon’s recipe says to strain the yogurt for 24 hours (in the refrigerator, of course) and also suggests straining the cucumbers for a few hours. We skipped both these steps due to time constraints, but I didn’t notice anything strange about the sauce as a result.

Recreating something you’ve only had in a restaurant is hard to do, and usually it’s just never quite the same. For us, restaurants are the only thing we have to give us an idea of what Greek food is like, and this time we were pretty darn accurate in our recreation. We used a few different recipes to help us along for the marinade, but ultimately followed this Serious Eats recipe pretty close. Although the marinade only had a few simple ingredients, most (if not all) of which are probably already in your house, it really made this souvlaki shine. It was bright from the lemon juice, but a little tangy from the red wine vinegar. You could really taste the olive oil, and the onion and garlic gave it just enough of that Mediterranean flavor that we’re so used to in this house. The meat was tender and delicious, perfect for pita sandwiches coated with lots of tzatziki.

Traditional Pork and Lamb Souvlaki

Whenever we go out for Greek food, the tzatziki sauce is one of my favorite elements. I know that sounds kind of weird, but if the sauce sucks, then your whole meal is likely to suck since it’s a huge flavor component to a lot of Greek dishes. Then again, if the sauce is just right, it really can make your whole meal amazing. When we decided we were going to Greek route for this challenge, I immediately turned to Michael Symon. He always talks about his Greek roots, and so I knew his sauce was probably right on the money. And I was right…his tzatziki was awesome! It had just the right amount of lemon to give it a little kick, but it still had the bitterness of the yogurt. The contrasting textures from the cucumber and shallot were really nice too, it gave the sauce a little more substance. I also liked the little hint of mint in each bite — it wasn’t overpowering, but you could definitely taste it. Not only did this tzatziki go great with the souvlaki sandwiches, but it was also perfect for dipping extra pita (this could be my new favorite afternoon snack!).

Michael Symon's Tzatziki

The big difference I noticed in our sandwiches versus what we’ve had in restaurants is the pita. We didn’t want to use store-bought since we were making everything else, but we also didn’t have a good Greek pita recipe. What we did have was Billy’s family recipe for Arabic pita bread. So, Billy made that and we used it in place of the traditional pita. It wasn’t quite the same, but it was delicious (and way better than any store-bought pita I’ve ever had) nonetheless.

Overall, I was really happy with how this meal turned out…especially since we only had one day to come up with a plan and execute it. I have a feeling that this won’t be the last time we make Greek food! Voting for the second challenge for Project Food Blog starts tomorrow. I could really use your votes again, so make sure you click this link to vote for me and help me advance to the next round (and get me one step closer to that $10,000 prize)! Thanks again for your support! Ciao.

P.S. The Arabic bread recipe is posted, and trust me — you don’t want to miss it!

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22 Comments

  1. Very nice, especially with such a short time frame. I’m so impressed that you even made your own pita bread. I’ll be voting for you. :-)

  2. Oh Dear! Don’t even get me started…I sent my post was 2:55 WHAAAAT? I’m not kidding, It was the most stressful thing ever. Evaaar. lol
    You made the pita bread…I really need to try that once. It probably tasted awesome. Lovely post u got my vote.

  3. that looks great. I love the Tzatziki Sauce. You got my vote.

  4. YUM!!! That looks so good! I absolutely love Tzatziki. You did a fantastic job, especially with the short amount of time! Good luck. :)

  5. I also adore Greek food…and Tzatziki is so good. The creaminess is so refreshing with the meat and bread. You did a great job, on short notice too! I will be voting for you tomorrow! Sweet dreams tonight!

  6. I would inhale that!… Just voted. Good luck!

  7. Great post. Love homemade pita bread. You have my vote and good luck!

  8. Great job! I’ll have to try that sauce…mine is slightly different with chopped onion and fresh parsley but no shallots. Your pictures look yummy! The link you posted at the end did not allow me to vote for you but clicking on your button did. Good luck!

  9. Ok first and foremost, I love your masthead. That alone got my vote ; ) I really can’t wait to see your pita recipe to see if it matches up with the one I use. I went on a massive pita making experiment last fall and tried about a billion recipes. They were all different, but it was loads of fun!

  10. Great photos! Looks very good. Good luck with project food blog. You have my vote!

  11. Great post! Looks delicious. Excuse me while I drool. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at :http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/864

  12. Margaret Murphy Tripp

     /  September 28, 2010

    Oooh, YUM! Very impressed with the home-made pita bread! Great post. You got my vote.

  13. I hear ya about trying to get this entry in on time. Love this post, you’ve got my ♥ vote! Hope we both make it to round three!

  14. Hello,

    I am glad your dishes turned out so well! These looks delicious and I can’t wait to try out your recipes.

    Good luck throughout the competition. You’ve got my vote. :)

  15. I love Greek food as well. I love the combination of the things you decided to cook. And you are so right about store-bought pita bread. I was actually just talking about that with my roommate today. Store-bought kind just doesn’t cut it.

    XOXO best of luck!

  16. Thanks everyone for the wonderful comments and votes! I wouldn’t be doing this competition if it weren’t for all of you!

  17. I had the best souvlaki in Greece, I still have never had anything as good here, but I’ll have to try making it at home.
    You’ve got my vote!

  18. Looks great! I had to check your entry out since I made pita and falafel for mine. Hooray for Greek/Mediterranean/Middle Eastern eats! I made sure to send a vote your way. :)
    Here is a link to my entry in the challenge, if you have a chance to check it out: http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/1008

  19. Yum – love love LOVE Greek food! Glad you got your entry in on time…good luck :)

  20. Greek food is really tasty. Good luck with round 2!

  21. I’ve had chicken souvlaki but never pork or lamb. These look delicious! I like the bread you used it looks heartier than pita. Good luck in this round!

  22. This bread is their local version of a Pita. and the best is when you mix pork and chicken!

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