Monday, December 1, 2008

ModernGear Food: Greek dinner extraordinaire!

Making an entire meal from one culture, from start to finish, is a time consuming but very worthwhile endeavor. It's delicious, and impressive!

One of my most-oft craved dinners is Chicken Souvlaki at a Greek restaurant on Vancouver's 4th Ave called Maria's. Some chicken souvlaki, amazing potatoes, and Greek salad share the plate. Tzatziki makes a great addition, and with a squeeze of lemon it's as close to perfection as one can get. But I am rather proud to announce that with a dinner I attempted a few years ago and have been making regularly since, well, we don't go to Maria's anymore. (And not just because we live in California now!)
The following is everything you need, minus the Ouzo. You're on your own for that!!

Now, I know I usually have photos for the entire process but...when I made this for a dinner party a few weeks ago, I realized pretty quickly that I had to focus on the cooking and not the picture taking. So okay, I got busy and forgot! There's a lot of info and scrolling for you anyway, and I do have pics of the finished product.

I will put the recipes in the order you should prep:
*marinate the chicken/lamb
*chill out for a few hours
*cut the potatoes, stick 'em in the oven
*prep the tzatziki, stick it in the fridge
*make the salad, stick it in the fridge
*cook the chicken/lamb when there's about 15 minutes left in the potatoes

Chicken Souvlaki
2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon savory
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1. If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for at least 30 minutes before using.
2. Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl; mix well.
3. Stir in chicken cubes; marinade for at least 2 hours before threading on skewers.
4. Grill on high heat, lid down.
5. Grill for about 4 minutes per side (total 8 minutes) or until the juices run clear.

Lamb Souvlaki
3 lbs lamb
1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 garlic clove (minced)
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves

1. For the marinade: Combine first 8 ingredients.
2. Cut lamb up into 1/2" thick, 1" wide, 3" long strips.
3. Pour marinade over lamb and chill overnight. Turn occasionally.
4. Skewer meat. If using wooden skewers, soak for an hour in water first. About 8 slices per stick.
5. Prepare grill.
6. Grill until meat is done, brushing often with marinade. Meat should be brown around the edges, but still a little pink in the center. Don't dry the meat out.

Greek Potatoes
8 large potatoes, peeled, cut into large wedges (about 6-7 wedges per potato)
4 garlic cloves, minced (more garlic is a good thing, less garlic is a no-no for this recipe)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup water
1 tablespoon oregano (can use dried or powdered, use Mediterranean, it's the best...I prefer the powdered in this recipe)
1 to 1 1/2 lemon, juice of
sea salt
fresh coarse ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 440°F.
2. Put all the ingredients into a baking pan large enough to hold them.
3. Season generously with sea salt and black pepper.
4. Make sure your hands are very clean and put them in the pan and give everything a toss to distribute.
5. The garlic will drop into the water/oil solution but its flavour will permeate the potatoes, and this way, it won't burn.
6. Bake for 40 minutes.
7. When a nice golden-brown crust has formed on the potatoes, give them a stir to bring the white underside up, season lightly with a bit more sea salt and pepper and just a light sprinkling of oregano.
8. Add 1/2 cup more water if pan appears to be getting dry, and pop back into oven to brown other side of potatoes.
9. This will take about another 40 minutes.
10. Do not be afraid of overcooking the potatoes- they will be delicious.

I often make these and the tzatziki with other dishes as they are SO GOOD!

Makes 4 cups
3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups Homemade Yogurt, or prepared, plain
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1. In a colander, toss together cucumbers and 1 teaspoon salt. Place colander in sink, and let cucumbers drain for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Press cucumbers to extract excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl; mix in yogurt, garlic, dill, mint, oil, lemon juice, and remaining teaspoon salt.
3. Refrigerate about 1 hour to allow flavors to blend; serve at room temperature.

Greek Salad
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese, (8 ounces)
1/2 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 large cucumber, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted or not (warn your guests if not!)

1. Slice red onion, soak in vinegar to soften for 20-30 mins
2. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, onion, cucumber, and olives.
3. In a jar, combine the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and oregano; season with salt and pepper. Shake well to combine.
4. Add red onion to salad.
5. Drizzle dressing over salad, and toss to coat. Throw on a bit more dried oregano over the whole works. Serve immediately.

Serve all of the above with pita bread and chunks of fresh lemon to drizzle. Just gorgeous!

Sorry, Maria's!!

Bon appetit!

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