"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki

It started with the spanakopita...I had to make more Greek food. Next up, a delicious street food, the gyro is a Greek dish made from meat, tomato, onion and tzatziki served with pita bread. I added in an Israeli salad of cucumber, tomato and kalamata and a Moroccan carrot salad to add some extra oomph to the gyro. Since I don't have a vertical spit in my apartment to make the proper shawarma meat, I opted for shawarma seasoning and grilled chicken breasts. I learned that Gyros were introduced to the United States first in Chicago in the 1960s. It's a delicious food combination of fresh and flavorful ingredients and takes on a slightly different variation in each country surrounding the Mediterranean. My good friend and I were strolling the East Village when we decided to make Gyros for dinner. The only part we did not make from scratch was the actual pita which we bought from a street vendor on 11th street and 1st ave who always has delicious smelling gyros. For some added inspiration of what we could use as toppings for our gyros, we strolled into a shawarma and falafel shop on 1st ave and I took at peak at the salad bar and instantly got some ideas for a Greek influenced Israeli salad and a Moroccan carrot salad. Disclosure: this meal is very garlic heavy. The flavor of the shawarma chicken, with the spice of the carrot salad and the creaminess of the tzatziki is an incredible combination! You can pick up shawarma seasoning at ethnic or Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki

Chicken tenderloins
Shawarma seasoning
Olive oil
Moroccan carrot salad
Israeli salad

10 ounces yogurt, preferably Greek yogurt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 large cucumber, thinly sliced and then chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Cut chicken tenderloins into strips and place in a zip lock bag. Drizzle olive oil in the bag and add a generous amount of shawarma seasoning (I use the Perez brand). Seal the bag and gently mix the ingredients so that the chicken is evenly coated and seasoned. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.
2. For the tzatziki, put the yogurt, garlic, cucumber, red wine vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until everything is evenly incorporated. Cover and let chill for at least 2 hours. Tzatziki can be made 1 day in advance.
2. Heat an indoor double burner grill, flat side up, over high heat. Spray grill with cooking oil. Cook the chicken strips on the grill, about 4 minutes per side (I like to use wooden tongs). Remove strips when fully cooked and heat pita in on the grill. The pita will get some of the great flavor from the shawarma chicken.
Serve warm with heated pita, Israeli salad, Moroccan carrot salad and tzatziki.

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