It was January 20, 2010 and I (Rachel) was about to embark on a life-changing adventure. The adventure=Athens, Greece for the whole semester!! It was one of the best semesters of my entire life. I made so many wonderful memories and friends while I was there. For many reasons Greece will always hold a very special place in my heart.
That being said, this one year anniversary of my send off was yet another excuse to celebrate with food. Greek food is amazing! I have been meaning to make an extravagant Greek meal for my friends all year, so what better time than this special day. I knew that I couldn't pull of this wonderful meal without some great helpers, thank goodness my dear friends Becca and Elizabeth love to cook and were so willing to help. I went to Greece with Becca and Elizabeth, I knew this would be important to them as well.
There are many tasty Greek dishes, however, I chose just a few of my favorites (I apologize in advance for the lack of step by step pictures for this post). Here is the menu:
Frozen Mint Lemonade
Chicken Gyros with homemade Pita Bread
Roasted Garlic Hummus
*All of these recipes came from Annie's Eats http://annies-eats.net/2009/06/02/chicken-gyros/, except for the Frozen Mint Lemonade
We started with the pita bread since the preparation would take the most time. Here is what you need:
When you are finished kneading, lighly grease a clean bowl and form the dough into a ball. Roll the dough ball around the bowl to lightly coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with saran wrap or a damp towel for an hour and a half or until it doubles in size.
While we let the pitas rise, we began making the chicken, hummus, and tzatziki sauce. I will start you off with the chicken, though. Here is what you need for the chicken.
Ok, there are a lot of steps, but it is all worth it in the end. Now, it time to make the tzatziki. First start by letting the yogurt strain using cheesecloth (or in my case a coffee filter). You want to let the yogurt strain for several hours or overnight. You want as much moisture to to release as possible so the tzatziki is not watery.
Now time for the hummus! You need LOTS and LOTS of garlic for this recipe, but that's what makes it so delicious. Take 2 heads of garlic and remove the papery outer skins. Then, wrap both of them in foil and place in the oven to bake for an hour or until tender. While the onions are roasting, heat olive oil in a skillet until warm. Add 2 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced. Cook until golden browned. Remove the garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a plate covered with paper towels. Make sure to save the oil because you are going to need it! In a separate bowl, mix the lemon juice and water together, set aside. In another separate bowl, whisk together the tahini and reserved oil. In a food processor, squeeze the roasted garlic out of their skins, add the chickpeas, the remaining clove of garlic, salt and cayene pepper and blend until finely ground. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. Steadily add the lemon-juice water while the food processor is running. Once again scrape down the sides of the bowl and process about a minute longer. Finally, add the tahini and oil mixture in a steady stream as well. Transfer the hummus to a serving dish and drizzle with oil and fresh chopped parsley. You can eat it now or refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
The only things left to prepare for the gyros are the french fries (we chose seasoned crinkle fries, but plain fries are great too) and cut up a couple tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions.
The final part of the meal was the Greek Salad. Cube up some tomatoes and cucumber. Slice half of a red onion, chop up about two handfuls Kalamata olives, and throw in about 2 packages of crumbled feta. I also like to add some oregano and olive oil. You can add salt, pepper, and vinegar as you prefer. Toss all ingredients together and voila! This was one LARGE Greek feast. I was definitely satisfied at the end of the meal, and I think I can speak for the rest of my friends as well.
For the tzatziki sauce:
16 oz. plain yogurt (not nonfat, if possible)
1/2 hothouse cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil
For the chicken:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 lbs. chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
Fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
Red onion, sliced thin
To make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl. Let strain for several hours or overnight, if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible.
Shred the cucumber. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Whisk together until mixed well. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.
Cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler. (I butterflied the chicken breasts and then cooked them under the broiler.) Once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into strips.
Heat pitas (I sprayed with some spray oil and then popped them in the toaster oven for a few minutes). Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes and cucumbers, french fries and sliced onions. Serve immediately.
Roasted Garlic Hummus
2 heads garlic, intact
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup water
6 tbsp. tahini
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp. salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Remove the papery outer skins of the garlic heads, leaving them otherwise intact. Chop off the top quarter of the head so that all of the cloves are exposed. Wrap the garlic in foil and bake until very tender, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sliced garlic cloves and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the cooking oil. Set aside. Once the roasted garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves from their skins (you should have about ¼ cup).
In a small prep bowl, combine the lemon juice and water. In another bowl, whisk together the reserved garlic cooking oil and the tahini. In the bowl of a food processor, process the chickpeas, the roasted garlic puree, the remaining clove of garlic, salt and cayenne until the mixture is finely ground, about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the machine running, add the lemon juice-water mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. Scrape down the bowl and process for an additional minute. With the machine running, add the oil-tahini mixture through the feed tube in a steady stream. Scrape down the bowl and continue to process until the hummus is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, top with toasted garlic slices and minced fresh parsley, if desired.
2 medium cucumbers, cubed and peeled
3 medium tomatoes, cubed
1 medium red onion, sliced
2-3 handfuls kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 small packages feta, crumbled
2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. oregano
salt, pepper, and/or vinegar to taste