Wednesday, June 18, 2008

.souvlaki with tzatziki sauce and fresh pitas.

I admit that growing up, we didn't eat a lot of food from different ethnicities. I'm not sure why. Maybe my parents just didn't care for it themselves?

I know a few years ago, when I was home visiting my parents, we were out on my dad's boat on Lake Washington. We went up to Kirkland - a posh little yuppy town - and we had dinner at a Greek restaurant. It was more like a cafe. It was their first experience having souvlaki and gyros! I couldn't believe it!

There was this little cart outside the Navy Exchange in Hawaii that my husband and I used to frequent whenever we were there. This guy made the *most* delicious gyros in the world. I salivate when I think of it. There's a place here that makes pretty decent gyros too which work in a pinch, but I love making these.

What's the difference between souvlaki and gyros (pronounced year-oh)? Souvlaki is pieces of chicken or lamb grilled on a kabob, where the meat on a gyro is a pressed beef/lamb roast that is put on a rotisserie and slow cooked. The meat is then carved away into thin strips and put on a pita with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and tzatziki sauce.

So.. now that you know, here's how you can make them yourself!

I started this marinade this morning when I woke up. The lamb needs to marinate for at *least* 8 hours. If you work, prepare the marinade the night before and let the lamb soak overnight in the fridge.

In a bowl, put 1/2 cup lemon juice, 4 tsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp oregano, and 6 cloves minced garlic.

Cut up lamb into 1" pieces.

If you're afraid of using lamb, DON'T! But if you really don't think you can make yourself eat it, use beef. My daughter thought this was steak. I didn't tell her anything different either. She ate it ALL!

Put the lamb in a large ziploc and dump in the marinade.
Easy enough, right?

Now let's make the Tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki is a traditional, popular sauce in Greek cuisine. There are a lot of different versions out there. This one I like quite a bit. You can make the sauce up to two days ahead of time. It holds quite nicely in the fridge. Here's what you need to do.

You want to start by straining about 2 cups plain yogurt. If you can find greek yogurt, which is made with sheep's milk and has a much lower milkfat ratio. From what they "say"... it's also much creamier than any kind of yogurt you find here in the states. Since I couldn't find it, I used your basic run of the mill Dannon. *gasp*

What I did is line a sieve with some paper towels and spoon the yogurt on top. You can easily use a coffee filter, but since I don't drink coffee, I don't have any of those. The straining will take a couple of hours. So put in the sieve and then sit it in the fridge while it does its work.

Look how much liquid came out of that yogurt! It's very important to strain this so your tzatziki isn't super runny.

Put the yogurt in a bowl and discard the liquid.

Juice one lemon.

Take one cucumber and slice lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. I would have had pictures of this step, but my camera battery decided to run out of juice on me. Once you seed the cucumber, cut into pieces and put in a bowl with 1 tsp kosher salt. This will draw out the liquid from the cuke. Let it sit for 30 minutes.

If you use an English cucumber, you don't need to worry about de-seeding.

You're going to need 1 Tbsp dill weed. I'm sure fresh would be better. This is what I use.

Put everything into a blender. Crack in some black pepper and hit whichever button you prefer. You want a nice smooth sauce.

Transfer sauce to a bowl. Cover and let sit in the fridge until ready to use.

Now for the pitas. You can buy them from the store if you really don't want to make them. I have always wanted to try it. They were very easy to make and they are soooo moist and delicious compared to storebought. I highly recommend making them.

In a bowl, put 1 1/2 cups warm water, 1 tsp sugar and 4 tsp (2 pkgs) yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast is nice and foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, put 3 cups all purpose flour, 3 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 tsp kosher salt. Mix with a spoon.

(No pictures of this next step because my camera died)

Make a well in the center of the flour/salt and add the water/yeast, 1 Tbsp olive oil, and 1 3/4 cup warm water. Use a dough hook and allow the dough to come together. If it's too dry and not pulling together, add a little more warm water until it's forming a ball.

Pull from the bowl and knead on a floured counter for a minute. Drizzle some olive oil into the mixing bowl. Put the dough back into the bowl and rub it around. Then flip the dough over so that the oily side is facing up.

Cover with a towel and let rise until double (approx. 1 hr).

Punch dough down. Knead on a counter.

Divide the dough into 12 equal parts.

Roll each ball out into a circle. I think I made these too big. They were the size of dinner plates. LOL

You might want to make them slightly smaller.

Spray cookie sheets with PAM and put the rolled pitas on them. I only made 6 pitas and put the rest of the dough in the freezer so I can make them later.

Cover and let sit for another hour. They'll get bubbly but won't double.

Bake in a preheated 500! degree oven for 4-5 minutes. When you turn on the oven, make sure you put the rack on the lowest level in the oven.

They should be slightly golden on top. Pull from the oven and let cool.

You can store these pitas in your fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 6 months.

Once the pitas are done, spark up the BBQ!

Aren't these skewers awesome? I got them from my husband for my birthday. Love them.

Skewer the marinated lamb onto the skewers. Don't overcrowd otherwise they might not cook all the way through. Put on the bbq and grill until they're cooked.

Cut up some lettuce.

Slice up some red onion. We want to use the outer rings. Discard the insides.

Dice up some tomato. Ignore the Frankenstein job I did on these. The baby was being very fussy tonight so I had to chop up one handed. NOT an easy task!

Here's how our platter looked. I brought out some feta cheese and kalamata olives to enjoy with our souvlaki. See how honkin huge those pitas turned out? We wound up cutting them in half and then making our "gyros". Paige doesn't understand all of these fancy words so I told her they were like tacos.

We enjoyed our souvlaki with some couscous. I would have really loved to make loukoumades, which is a donut like dessert. Fried dough with honey drizzled on top, dusted cinnamon, and sesame seeds but I just didn't have the time or energy once I got dinner made.

Looks like I'll have to make those another time and share them with you!

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Stephanie said...

Oh Suzanne! That meals looks wonderful! We love Greek food as well.We were in Greece two years ago. Their Gyro's were incredible- (fast food)! Some of them even had a couple of french fries inside.

I have never made the pita's from scratch before. I am going to try your recipe. Good for you for doing it all from scratch. Even your tzatziki, which I will admit, I buy! But I really should try to make my own. Thanks for the great recipe!

I have a good Baklava recipe though. I bought the book in Santorini. I'll share it if you want?

Thanks again.

Your favorite sister said...

Your blog makes me hungry!

Ronda said...

YUMMY! I am hungry for greek food now! My friend took me to one in Kent that was good. I loved the Hummas and Pitas. I bought some and brought them home. I tried making Hummas but it didn't turn out very good. Maybe you have a good recipe??? Wish you lived a little closer so I could just pop in and have some leftovers! If there is any left?

Joanne Brown said...

Mmmmmmmmm yummy! My DH served his mission in Greece and we went there for a reunion back in 2000. The gyros there are delicious. I've made my own tzatziki before but not souvlaki but I might have to try it now. My DH would love it!! thanks for sharing :)

heidigoseek said...

Looks so good, Suzanne. I had been contemplating making falafel real soon. Not that its the same thing, but it reminded me none the less. Question?? If I use greek yogurt, do I strain it? Our Wal-Mart actually has it:0
Glad you liked this pics of Gracie on my blog!!

squillen said...

Heidi, you still need to strain the yogurt if you use the Greek kind.

I really hope you guys try this. It was so delicious! There's a restaurant called Tantalus that we go to whenever I'm back in Seattle. Amazing Greek food.

squillen said...

Ronda, there are no leftovers. LOL
I could have marinated more lamb, but for the three of us, I didn't want to do too much since we're trying to watch our portion sizes and stuff.

Catherine said...

I love tzatziki! I put garlic and a little olive oil in mine though. Yum! I'm craving a good gyro now!

Anonymous said...

I'm making this tonight using chicken. I have the chicken marinating and the yogurt straining now. I can't wait - I love chicken gyros!!

We don't like dill, so I think I'll replace the dill with garlic in the tzatziki sauce (I believe that's how our local gyro place does it too because I LOVE their tzatziki).

Thanks Suzanne!!