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Posts Tagged ‘Greek food’

gyro meatloaf

Whether from a vendor on the streets of New York City or from a takeout counter in Monastiraki Square in Athens, Greece, my family loves to eat gyros. Delicious memories of warm circles of pita bread wrapped around flavorful slices of meat, tomatoes, onions and french fries, drizzled with a wonderfully refreshing Tzatziki sauce, prompted me to search for a homemade version. Normally gyro meat is slow-roasted on a vertical spit, but this recipe simplifies that by baking the meat in a loaf pan. Then, after some time in the refrigerator, the meat is thinly sliced and pan fried or grilled to give it a crispy texture – as if it’d been on a rotisserie for hours. A platter of gyro fixings would make for a fun family dinner or make great Super Bowl party fare.

Favorite Meat Loaf Gyros
Recipe from Taste of Home

Ingredients:
1 egg, lightly beaten
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons dried oregano
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef

TZATZIKI SAUCE:
1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

GYROS:
8 whole pita breads
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
16 slices tomato
8 slices sweet onion, halved

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine the egg, garlic, oregano, kosher salt and pepper. Crumble lamb and beef over mixture; mix well.

2. Pat into an ungreased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

3. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until no pink remains and a meat thermometer reads 160°.

4. Cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

5. For sauce, in a small bowl, combine the yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

6. Brush pita breads with 1 tablespoon oil; heat on a lightly greased griddle for 1 minute on each side. Keep warm.

7. Cut meat loaf into very thin slices. In a large skillet, fry meat loaf in remaining oil in batches until crisp.

8. On each pita bread, layer the tomato, onion and meat loaf slices; top with some Tzatziki sauce. Carefully fold pitas in half. Serve with remaining sauce.

Yield: 8 servings.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. This was an easy recipe, but it does require some planning ahead. The meat loaf needs to be refrigerated for a couple of hours to allow it to be firm enough to slice into thin slices.

2. Although the meat was flavorful, it seemed a tad dry to me. The next time I try this recipe, I will chop my own beef and lamb, so that the mixture is more coarse – resulting in better flavor and texture. I’d also like to try making other meat versions of gyros. Here are links to other versions to try:

Pork Gyros
Chicken Gyros

3. The next time I’ll also experiment by adding chopped onions, ground rosemary, and ground thyme to the meat mixture.

4. I fried the meat slices in a nonstick frying pan, so no additional oil was needed.

5. I doubled the recipe and gave some to my son and daughter-in-law, so they’d have one less dinner to cook during the week!

ENJOY!

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“Tzatziki, please,” is what my family found ourselves saying every time we ordered a meal in Greece. Tzatziki is a refreshing blend of yogurt, cucumbers, and garlic. It’s a healthy and versatile mixture that can be used as a dip or a spread, as a fresh-flavored salad dressing, or as a condiment for grilled meats, especially homemade gyros and souvlaki (skewered meat). Tzatziki would also make a nice accompaniment to salmon. For the very best results use a creamy and thick Greek yogurt.

Tzatziki – From the cookbook 300 Traditional Recipes: Greek Cookery with minor adaptations by Linnell

Ingredients:

2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt*

1 English (hothouse) cucumber, peeled

4 cloves of garlic, mashed to a paste or very finely minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt

Pinch of pepper

A little vinegar

Fresh dill weed, finely chopped

A few ripe olives

* If you cannot find Greek yogurt, you can substitute drained plain regular yogurt.  To drain yogurt: Line a sieve with cheesecloth, place sieve over a bowl, pour yogurt into the sieve, and place sieve and bowl in the refrigerator for eight hours.

Directions:

Grate the  peeled cucumber using a coarse grater. Squeeze out as much liquid from the cucumber as possible. Mix the cucumber with the rest of the ingredients. For the best flavor, let the mixture sit for about two hours before serving. Garnish with the olives.

Serves 6

Opa!

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It’s all about the food. Sometimes the best way to learn about a country and its culture is to learn about its food and its cooking traditions. Lucky for me, my daughter, who was a student in Greece for nearly five months, was not only my tour guide to the ancient sites, but also my culinary guide.

From dining in little tavernas that speckle the narrow side streets of Athens to eating fresh-caught fish off the coast of Santorini, I was introduced to the exquisite textures and flavors of Greek food. Sampling inch-long baby okra cooked in a light tomato and onion sauce, devouring tiny fried whitebait fish – head, tail, spine and all, and spreading pureed dried yellow peas on bread, were just some of the opportunities I used to discover the gastronomic resources available to the Greeks. I learned that some of the varieties of legumes we eat today are the same ones once eaten in ancient times.

And because the sun shines most of the year and very little rain falls, Greek tomatoes and peppers are exceptionally sweet. The freshness of Greek ingredients cannot be denied. Most foods are simply delicious because they are prepared with fresh and few ingredients. Very few over-processed foods ever made it to my table while I was in Greece.


Scorpion fish or grilled octopus, anyone? The seafood in Greece was as good as I had anticipated. The subtle lobster-like flavor of the Scorpion fish and the chewy texture of the fresh octopus were both delicious, but it was the fried calamari that really got my attention. Maybe it was the freshness of the squid or the very lightest dredging of flour or the addition of exactly the right amount of salt, but this Greek version of fried calamari was by far the best I’ve ever tasted!

The Greeks love their sweets. The sweet scent of freshly baked pastries found me following my nose into more than one local bakery. Even before I left home, my daughter had warned me about this temptation. I’d heard her stories about Bougatsa me Krema and was looking forward to my first taste. It did not disappoint. How could warm layers of buttery, thin phyllo sheets filled with creamy custard, and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon be disappointing? Before the introduction of sugar, ancient Greeks used honey to sweeten their food. Thick, creamy, Greek yogurt and honey is a traditional treat and Greeks like to make sweet syrups from honey to pour over their cakes and fried sweets. Many Loukoumades or Greek donut balls coated in a honey-syrup called out to me.

Now back at home, I wanted to try my hand at making the memorable Bougatsa me Krema and I found a recipe online. Flakey, buttery and filled with custard – mine was pretty darn close to the deliciousness I experienced in Greece! I share this temptation with you.

Bougatsa me Krema or Creamy Custard Phyllo Pastry

-Courtesy of Nancy Gaifyllia of About.com with comments by Linnell-

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients:

* 4 1/4 cups of whole milk

* sliced peel of 1 lemon

* 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar

* 3/4 cup of semolina (durum wheat flour which I found in my local grocery store)

* 4 eggs

* 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract

* 12 sheets of commercial phyllo dough

* 6 ounces of butter, melted

For the topping:

* confectioner’s sugar

* ground cinnamon

Preparation:

Warm the milk and lemon peel in a saucepan. Stir in semolina with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thoroughly blended and thickened. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla until light and add to the pan, stirring over medium-low heat until it reaches a creamy custard consistency. Remove from heat, take out and discard lemon peel, and allow it to cool completely. Stir occasionally to keep the custard from forming a skin on top.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Lightly brush a baking pan (13 X 9 X 2 or equivalent) with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with 8 sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet well with the melted butter. Add the custard filling. Fold the excess phyllo that overlaps the pan in over the custard. Top with the remaining phyllo, brushing each with butter. Use a scissors to trim the top sheets to the size of the pan. Spray the top lightly with water and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon while hot, and serve warm.

Serving tip: In Greece, Bougatsa is cut with a pizza cutter.

Enjoy!

Adventures in Greece – to be continued . . .

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