21 August 2009

Greek Festival...at Home!

Welcome to my kitchen! Well, as close as it gets right now anyway. Those of you who know me, know what I mean. Anyway, I had some requests for recipes the other day and I decided that I would add a section to my little space here for all things food!

I love cooking. More to the point I love eating! I also love a theme. Wednesdays are not usually the most exciting days of the week but, I see them as an opportunity to add a little energy and refreshment to the week (it helps you get to Friday!) This past Wednesday was Greek Festival Wednesday!

The recipes are not really mine but they are so good I must share them! And the more I cook with my recipes the more they become mine - through the tweaking and such. First, let me layout the Greek Festival Menu.

I decided on a more informal "Greek Platter" format than some of my other Greek endeavors:

The Menu
Gyro Meat
Heirloom Lettuce Mix
Farmers Market Tomatoes
Tzatziki Sauce
Feta Cheese
Kalmata Olives

Obviously you don't need recipes for the Lettuce Mix (you may substitute any greens you like - maybe I will blog about my forays into heirloom seeds at some point) or the Tomatoes (I already have a blog about Farmers Market.) Nor do you need them for Feta at this point (though I would love to make it) or the olives.

On to the recipes!

First, the Gyro Meat. This recipe is actually thanks to my favorite TV guy Alton Brown (Good Eats is a must watch!)


1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 lbs. ground lamb
1 Tbsp. garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp. dried marjoram
1 Tbsp. dried, ground rosemary
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

In a food processor, process onion. Place onion in a tea towel and squeeze out excess juice, discard juice. Return onion to processor and add lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt and pepper. Process all to a fine paste.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Place mix in loaf pan, pressing into sides and corners. Place pan in water bath.

Bake for 60-75 minutes. Or until mix reaches 165-170 degrees F. Remove from oven and drain fat. Place on a cooling rack. Weight meat mix with a brick wrapped in aluminum foil. Let stand as such for 15-20 minutes. The meat will continue to cook to a temperature of 175 degrees F.

My Notes:

You can do this without a food processor, but your texture will be more brittle.

Don't skip squeezing your onions. You really want a little water in this mix as possible.

I use flour sack towels for pretty much everything (such as this squeezing procedure!)

I use sea salt instead of kosher, but I like anything better than table salt for most cooking.

Bricks are actually really useful in the kitchen! I wouldn't skip this step either.

Serving suggestion: Slice meat with a sharp chef knife or bread knife. Then lay flat on a baking sheet. Place on top rack under broiler and broil until brown and crisp. (This sort of simulates the way gyro is usually cooked on a spit and finished at high heat!)

This next recipe is also compliments of Alton Brown and Good Eats!


16 oz. plain yogurt
1 med. cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped fine
pinch kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
5-6 mint leaves, minced fine

Place yogurt in a tea towel or paper towels in a stainer. Place in refrigerator for 2 hours to drain. Squeeze excess water from cucumber using tea towel. Discard liquid.

In a medium bowl, combine yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Stir to mix.

My Notes:

Draining your yogurt is not totally necessary, but totally worth it. Your tzatziki will be ever so much more creamy.

If you use a paper towel use a good quality one so it neither tears or dissolves.

I like to use flour sack towels.

Same goes for your cucumbers.

You can make this in advance and store in refrigerator (up to one week.)

This is a really intense flavor experience. Go gently if you have never had this before. And whatever you do don't shun it on your first try...it will probably grow on you!

The final recipe I got from my Mom. I don't know where she got it but - Thanks Mom!


1 package yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
3+ cups flour (I use whole wheat)
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 2 cups flour and stir. Add shortening and salt. Beat to a smooth consistency. Stir in flour as needed to make a soft dough. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 3-5 minutes.) Let dough rest 15 minutes. Divide into 12 potions and roll each into a smooth ball. Let these rest 10 minutes. Flatten each ball with heel of hand. And let these rest another 10 minutes. Roll each into a circle turn the dough over only once. Place circles on a baking sheet.

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place baking sheet in oven. Bake for 3 minutes. Turn each and bake for another 2 minutes. You will have to bake the pitas in batches.

My Notes:

If you prefer you could make white flour pitas. Or a combination of wheat and white.

After I bake my pitas I place them in a basket lined with a flour sack towel. Which I fold over the pitas to keep them warm.

You could prepare these before hand and store in plastic. Rewarming when you are going to serve.

Serving Suggestion:

This meal is fun to serve on a big platter with the pitas wrapped in their towel in a basket separately. Pile you meat in the center of a large platter and make a pile of lettuce, a pile of tomatoes, sliced onions if you like. Add a pretty bowl with the tzatziki. Place your cube of feta on with a fork to create chunks. Garnish with olives. Grab plates for each dinner and a fork. It is feast time!

Extra Fun!

Put on Greek music in the back ground.

Use brightly colored linens (such as napkins or a table cloth.)

Grab a bottle of Retsina (wine.)

Add fun extras such as dolmas, hummus and veggies, etc. All stuff you could pick up at your deli.

Finish with little glasses of Ouzo.

For dessert indulge in baklava - make it yourself - or pick it up at you local bakery!

Now this is a real Greek Festival we have going!

*I promise...I will try to remember to take pictures in the future!*


  1. i appreciate this!
    i agree, i love alton brown (c:
    the best part about living at jeff's has been quick access to internet and fun recipes, and watching foodtv (c:
    it's nice to have personal testimony to know a recipe is worth doing myself (c:

  2. You are so welcome!
    The internet is a life saver when cooking! Especially when you aren't sure what to cook! Or if you aren't sure about a recipe - I always pull up several and compare then I feel more confident! I must admit I am a bit addicted to the Food Network!