Tag Archives: Greek food

Tzatziki, Greek Yoghurt Sauce

Wake up your meals!  Fish, chicken, lamb, beef, it matters not.  Put a new spin on lunch and dinner with this Greek classic, Tzatziki; a thick spread of tangy yoghurt, cool cucumber and the savory snap of garlic made smooth and mellow with the addition of fruity olive oil.  As someone married to a Greek, I have a tendency to overlook…almost forget tzatziki and this is one sauce which makes all your meals taste oh, so much better.  All over Greece incredibly thick, plain yoghurt is served at breakfast but come lunchtime and dinner?  It’s always tzatziki, in every kitchen, on every menu.  Incredibly good for you, this yoghurt dish is the best natural probiotic on the planet.  You won’t know how good it is for you, though, when it’s wrapped up with in soft pita bread with lamb, lettuce, tomato and french fries in a perfect gyro.  Remember how much you like gyros?

Well, it’s because of the tzatziki making everything all runny and yummy.  I’m not sure why it makes everything taste so much better but grilled fish, chicken, pork or beef on skewers, never mind shrimp are positively mind bending with the addition of this sauce.  In Greece it’s served as a side or as an appetizer with other delectable tidbits to dip into.  Fried calamari, steak tips, fried pork chunks and grilled octopus become stellar alongside tzatziki.  I served it yesterday for Easter dinner and it flew out of here.  I use only Fage 0% fat yoghurt, in the large container.  It’s so rich and thick I only like the 0% fat.  There’s a first.  This sauce is so easy to prepare plus can also be made one day in advance of serving.  With summer right around the corner you’re going to really love tzatziki.  Enjoy!

Here’s an easy tip to get ALL the excess moisture out of the cucumber.  And you want the cucumber as dry as you can get it otherwise you risk a watery, thin tzatziki,  which nobody likes.  Drape a clean dish towel over a large bowl.  Using the large holes of a box grater, grate the peeled cucumbers over the towel so the shreds fall right into the towel.  When you’re finished grating, gather the corners of the towel and, over the kitchen sink, twist and squeeze the ball of grated cucumber until there is no more liquid dripping out.  Isn’t that great?  I know.  In fact, I have one dish towel set aside that I use only for squeezing grated cukes.  This recipe is still fabulous the following day and can easily be halved.  Tzatziki is served often with a Greek olive or two on top and a quick drizzle of olive oil.

Tzataziki, Greek Yoghurt Sauce

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 35.3-ounce container of Greek yoghurt, any excess liquid on top drained off
  • 2 seedless or “English” cucumbers, peeled, grated and well-drained
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  2. Taste for salt, cover with plastic wrap and chill until serving.




Meyer Lemon, White Bean and Mint Salad

It’s the season of Lent and, for those of you who don’t know, that means no meat in our house.  For a total of 40 days and 40 nights.  It wasn’t easy when my husband and son decided to abstain but over the years we’ve kind of gotten into the rhythm of it to the point we now feel perfectly comfortable kidding around about the dish we truly miss.  It goes something like, “Oh, my gosh.  You know what I really craved today? A burger.  A great big, juicy burger with lettuce and tomato and pickles and mustard, ketchup and mayo.  With a big pile of crispy fries.”  Then the other person replies, “I know.  I’d totally kill for a chicken wing.  Super hot and covered with sauce.  I couldn’t stop thinking about them.”  Every year it’s the same song and dance.  This salad, however, alleviates some of the pain.  I won’t lie and say it’ll take the place of meat but it does fill the hole.  It’s wonderful topped with a warm fillet of fish just off the grill.  I scoop it onto bruschetta followed by a slow drizzle of olive oil for a tempting and pretty hors d’oeuvre.   White beans will never take the place of crispy, spicy sopressata on a pizza, comforting spaghetti and meat balls or a savory, homemade chicken salad sandwich but for right now, they’ll do.  They’ll do just fine.

One of the finer points of this salad is that it requires no marination time.  Once it’s prepared it can be served.  That said, it can also be put together a few hours prior to serving and it’s still fantastic.  The recipe is easily halved or doubled with perfect results.  The salad travels well to parties and picnics, feeds a crowd and is pretty inexpensive to make.  Meyer lemons are much sweeter and not as sour as regular lemons but if Meyers are not available in your area, no worries.  Regular lemons are just fine and no one will know the difference.  This bean salad can be served as a main dish or as a side.

Meyer Lemon, White Bean and Mint Salad

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 4 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 bunches of flat leaf parsley, rinsed and dried
  • 2 bunches fresh mint leaves, rinsed and dried
  • 1 small red onion, chopped and all tough skins discarded
  • 1 large Meyer lemon or 2 regular lemons
  • 3/4 cup good olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop the parsley and mint leaves and place in a large bowl.
  2. Zest the lemon then juice it, adding both to the bowl with the parsley.
  3. Add the olive oil to the parsley mixture and stir well until all the ingredients are completely combined.
  4. Add the beans to the parsley mixture and gently toss so as not to break up the beans but to completely coat the beans with the parsley mint mixture.
  5. Taste for salt and pepper.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until serving.


Greek Stuffed Onions, from ancient times


With our son, James, going back to school in a day or two my mind started to focus on my to-do list. Next? Vacation! And back to Greece!  I can already feel that delicious, dry heat on my face. It’s blistering hot in the sun but under a sea grape or olive tree it’s quite pleasant…especially if there’s a cold pitcher of house white wine and a few pieces of freshly grilled octopus sitting in front of me lounging in a pool of fruity, green olive oil and oregano from the field next door. Last year on the island of Lesvos in the town of Molyvos I happened to chat with the owner of a shop I was in and learned she gave cooking lessons in her home. I took several classes from her and had a marvelous time. The lessons were not demanding and quite enjoyable.

And everyone makes their own olive oil. Sigh.
And everyone makes their own olive oil. Sigh.

I was able to take away quite a bit of information from technique to previously unknown ingredients due to the fact that she tailored the classes to me. I don’t need anyone to show me how to make a spanakopita; I can make that in my sleep. This was right up my culinary alley. I loved my teacher.  She young, vivacious and pretty, she buzzed about the island on a moped. She’s incredibly knowledgeable regarding Greek cooking but, most importantly, she believes passionately in the traditional, time-honored, Greek methods. That and she’s totally laid back.  The lessons were to take place in her home, something I yearned to experience.  I asked Jimmy to stick around the morning of my first class just in case things didn’t work out. My teacher, Eleni, took us for a quick tour of her property.

Zucchini blossoms just waiting to be stuffed or made into fritters and served with a light dusting of freshly grated Mizithra cheese.
Zucchini blossoms just waiting to be stuffed or made into fritters and served with a light dusting of freshly grated Mizithra cheese.

Her daughter is grown and gone, London I think, so it’s just her husband and her. Well! The more I saw the more pea-green I turned with envy! They have, of course, the ubiquitous groves of olive trees and that’s enough to throw me into a spiral of jealousy. But to add to my covetousness, or joy take your pick, they have peach trees, pomegranate trees, cherry trees, fig trees, orange trees and grape vines. She also has a gorgeous herb garden filled with banks of dill, mint, basil and parsley surrounding a delightful koi pond her husband built for her. It’s just paradise! Towards the rear of the property is the hot-house where Eleni had figs drying…shelf after shelf of beautiful, wrinkled figs. And did I mention she had a voluptuous pot of fig and grape marmalade bubbling and whispering softly in a corner of the outside grill?

Yes, the pot was calling to me, "Just stay! Just stay!"
Yes, the pot was calling to me, “Just stay! Just stay!”

I want that life! When we met the day before she asked my what I wanted to prepare. What was it I wanted to learn? From that she put together a menu for my class. Jimmy was to come back at noon or 12:30 to join us for lunch and we would be finished by 2:30 or 3:00. She started pouring wine at 11:00am. I was one happy girl! Jimmy took off and we started prepping. For the Sougounia she said that big red onions are better. I peeled them and she instructed me to trim the stem end and the root end but not to cut the root end off completely. Carefully, so as not to cut ones self, the onion was sliced from stem to root BUT ONLY TO THE MIDDLE OF THE ONION. The whole onions are then boiled in salted water 15-20 minutes until tender. Now while the onions are simmering the stuffing will be mixed in a separate bowl. Gently break up in the bowl 1/2 pound of ground beef and 1/2 pound ground pork. To that add 1/2 cup medium grain rice, 1/2 cup ouzo (lovely flavor with the pork), 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1//2 teaspoon black pepper,1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/3 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Combine enough that all ingredients are mixed but not too much or you’ll toughen the meat.

Sougounia in the pot...not exactly an attractive dish but crazy good!
Sougounia in the pot…not exactly an attractive dish but crazy good!

When the onions are cool enough to handle peel off the layers one by one. Don’t let them cool completely or they’ll be difficult to handle and won’t roll up. The tough outer layers may be set aside to tuck into any empty spaces prior to baking. Cover the bottom of your baking dish liberally with olive oil. Take one layer of onion in the palm of your hand and you’ll see it rolls right up into shape, like the shape of a boat or a diamond! Fill the onion with a good tablespoon of the meat filling, close the opening as best you can and place into a baking dish. It’s fine to gently stack them.  When you get to the onion’s small inner layers they can be saved for another dish or chopped and mixed into the meat. Continue until all the meat has been used. Chop a tomato and scatter over the stuffed onions. Tuck any outer skins into any spaces or corners so they all fit snugly in the baking dish. In a small bowl dissolve one chicken bouillon cube in 1/4 cup of hot water. To that add 1 teaspoon of ground cumin, mix well and gently pour over stuffed onions.

Sweet, rich figs drying.
Sweet, rich figs drying.

Cover the baking dish tightly with tin foil and bake at 350° for approximately 45 minutes. This dish may also be prepared in a braising pot stove top. The preparation is exactly the same except you would cook the sougounia at a low simmer.  The flavors are wild!  You’ll pick up the deep richness of the ouzo and pork then the smoky earthiness of the cumin and paprika.  It’s like no other dish and you’ll never have to worry about someone else turning up at a party with it.  It stands alone!

You can reach up and cut off a bunch of grapes anytime!
You can reach up and cut off a bunch of grapes anytime!