Monday, February 1, 2010

Greek Style Kebabs

Greek Style Kebabs with Tzatziki and Spicy Tomato Sauces
Serves 3

For the kebabs:
1 lb. meat (I used chicken, but you could use lamb, pork, or turkey too) cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried if you must)
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (1 teaspoon dried)
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sweet paprika
1/2 cup milk (preferably whole milk if you've got it)
3 tomatoes, cut in half
1 onion, cut into eighths.
2 large cubanelle peppers (anaheim will work if you can't get cubanelle)

For the tzatziki sauce:
16oz (2 cups) of thick Greek style yogurt
4-10 cloves of garlic, minced (the amount depends on how garlicky you want it)
1/2 cup of diced or grated cucumber, peeled (English cucumber is best)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 teaspoons of lemon juice

For the spicy tomato sauce:
1 small can tomato puree (2 1/2 oz size)
1/2-1 teaspoon of salt
1/2-1 1/2 teaspoons of white pepper
1/2-1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
pinch of dried oregano
ketchup (as much as you want- more will make it milder and sweeter)

For the kebabs:
1- Mix the minced garlic, oregano, thyme, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika together in a large bowl to make a marinade. Reserve a couple tablespoons of the marinade in a smaller container to use for basting the kebabs.
2- Add the meat to the large bowl, making sure to coat it completely with the marinade. Add the milk (it's added last to prevent the lemon juice from curdling it), stirring it in with everything else, cover the bowl and put it into the fridge to marinate. Leave it in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours before cooking, but overnight is best.

3- When you're about ready to cook, cut the tomatoes in half and thread them onto skewers, cut side up (You can use bamboo or wood skewers if you want, but I really recommend investing in some metal kebab skewers. They're fairly cheap, and work so much better, particularly if you get either flat or square shaped ones.). Cut the onion into eighths, and thread onto skewers. Cut the peppers in half, remove the ribs and seeds and thread onto skewers cut side up. Set the vegetable skewers aside on a tray for later.

I know that you're thinking that kebabs should have the meat and veg on the same skewers alternating to make a pretty looking design. Get that idea out of your head! It's just plain stupid from both a food handling (cross contamination- gross) and a effectiveness standpoint. The meat and all the veggies cook differently, so they need to be on separate skewers. They can still look pretty that way, but it'll be safer and more delicious. So get the stupid ideas out of your head.

4- Make sure that your grill is clean and free of debris. Anything that's stuck on that grill will stick to your kebabs. Preheat the grill to high heat.
5- Take the meat out of the fridge and thread it onto skewers, placing each on a tray. Keep these separated from the vegetables so it doesn't cross contaminate! Try to put 1/2-1 serving of meat on each skewer, depending on the size of the skewers, leaving space at both ends to turn it on the grill.
6- Take a paper towel, or napkin, put a small amount of olive oil on it and, using tongs, use it to grease the preheated grill. Put the skewers of meat onto the grill (diagonally if possible, to prevent pieces falling in). Make sure you put them down where you want them the first time, leaving enough room for the remaining skewers, because if you try to reposition the skewers then there's a good chance chunks of meat will stick to the grill, tearing off.
7- After 12-15 minutes on high heat, turn the skewers over, brushing them with some of the reserved marinade to keep them moist. 12-15 minutes on the second side (24-30 minutes total for both sides) and your meat should be done. Remove the skewers of meat, place on a clean tray and tent with foil to keep them warm (I like to put them into a pre-heated 200 degree oven at this point to keep them warm).
8- Brush the bottoms of the tomatoes, peppers and onions with olive oil and put them on the grill. Put the onions on first, as they take the longest to cook. Make sure the tomatoes and peppers are cut side up. Coat the tops of the vegetables with olive oil. Turn or remove the vegetables as they reach your desired level of doneness. I like a bit of charring myself.
9- Remove meat and vegetables from skewers and combine. Serve with warm pita bread (easily grilled, just brush some olive oil on first), lemon wedges, fresh parsley, feta cheese and tzatziki and spicy tomato sauces. Hummus with pita chips and cucumber makes a delicious side.

For the tzatziki sauce:
1- Combine olive oil and lemon juice in the bottom of a large bowl, slowly folding in the thick yogurt (if you can't get Greek style yogurt then you can buy regular, plain yogurt and put it into a strainer that has a coffee filter laid in it, and let the liquid drain out into a bowl in the fridge for 4-5 hours), making sure to fully incorporate the oil and lemon juice into the yogurt.
2- Add the garlic and cucumber, gently combining it with the yogurt mixture.
3- Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour. The longer it sits the more intense the garlic flavour will become.
Easily made variations include adding a little finely chopped mint, or dill to the mixture.

For the spicy tomato sauce:
1- Combine tomato puree, salt, white and black pepper, basil and oregano in a small bowl. Add in ketchup until you reach your desired taste.

Another easy thing that I think really tastes good with these kebabs is a simple saffron/lemon reduction syrup.
2 1/2 cups water
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground saffron diluted in 2 tablespoons hot water

1- Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Simmer for ten minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook for ten more minutes
2- Add the diluted saffron and lemon zest (if you want the yellow color to really pop, put just a little yellow food coloring in). Continue simmering until it reaches what you think is a good thickness. Let it cool, put it in a bottle and put in the fridge. As it cools down it will get thicker.
3- Serve a little of it on the kebabs, or with anything else that sounds good (I love it with deserts- like vanilla ice cream).

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