Opa! Lamb Meatballs, Homemade Pita, Tzatziki Sauce with Marinated Red Onion, Feta, and Tomatoes
It’s no secret that I love Greek food (I’m glad you can’t see my saddlebags, sorry for the imagery). My mouth waters thinking about a gyro, specifically one from Basil’s Pizza in town or King Gyros in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I would drive an hour to pick up a gyro platter from King Gyros. (I’m stopping by while I’m home.) I don’t know where they get their feta, pickles, marinated onions or tzatziki sauce-probably homemade and amazing. The meat is seasoned and crisp (not too greasy) and I am longing for one of these pronto. I had a decent gyro at the Akropolis, Parthenon and the newer Captain Gyros while attending Purdue University in Lafayette/West Lafayette, Indiana. I was lucky enough to live by two of these places for a year. Get ready to pour some ouzo (a licorice tasting liquor), light some flaming saganaki (a type of frying pan and dish with Kasseri cheese lit with brandy) and yell opa!
I don’t dare even try to make one without a rotisserie but I can make lamb meatballs with a tasty seasoning and creamy yogurt sauce on homemade pitas (my first attempt and worth another try but not quite what you get in Greek restaurants), add some local feta (not the chunk from the King but still good), tomatoes, marinated red onion and a pickle and that is taste bud heaven comrades. Greg was as close to jumping up and down as he gets when I asked if he wanted me to make this meal. He became a fan long ago when I took him for his first gyro which I would like to think ranks closely to the memory of his first kiss or when he gave up his path towards a Chemistry and Chemical Engineering degree (in his junior year) for something he loves, wood engineering .
Lamb Meatballs with Homemade Pita, Tzatziki Sauce, Marinated Onions, Tomatoes and Feta
Lamb Meatballs from Amy Wisniewski on Chowhound
Makes 25-30 meatballs
1 lb. ground lamb
¼ cup white onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp salt
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp fresh black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl with your hands and form into balls (about 2 tsp each) and place on a baking sheet. Bake until no longer pink, about 15 minutes. You can serve these on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, feta, tomatoes and red onion, perhaps with some hummus, a pickle and olives on the side.
Pita Bread from ishotthechef.com (adapted from Baking with Julia)
Makes 16 pitas
1 tsp dry yeast
2 1/2 c tepid water (80-90 degrees, F)
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 to 3 c unbleached all purpose flour
In a large bowl, stir the yeast and water together. Using a wooden spoon, add the whole wheat flour, about a cup at a time until the mixture looks smooth. Rest the dough covered with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes, although it is best if it can rest longer, up to 8 hours. (I only did this for 4 hours but I would allow it to go as long as you can.)
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and then stir in the olive oil, mixing well. Add the flour a cup at a time, mixing until the dough is too stiff to mix with a spoon. Scrape into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes. The dough will be moderately firm. Rinse the mixing bowl, dry and coat it lightly with oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until it doubles in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 450. Place a baking stone, sheet pan or quarry tiles in the bottom rack of your oven. Deflate the dough by kneading it briefly and divide it in half. Keep the other half under plastic wrap or a cloth while you work. Cut the dough into 8 pieces and with hands floured, form the pieces into balls. Keep them under plastic wrap while you work on the others. On a well floured surface, flatten the balls into a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Cover but do not stack the rolled out breads.
Place the dough on the preheated stone or pan and bake for 3-5 minutes, until the bread resembles blown-up balloons. Don’t worry if you get seams, dry spots or less than full balloons (your tiles might not have been hot enough) – the bread will still taste good. As the breads come out of the oven, place them together in a large kitchen towel. Finish baking the bread, repeating the steps.
Makes 16 pitas
Pita Chips (using leftover pita bread)
Preheat oven to 400. Cut bread into triangles, drizzle with olive oil, salt, other herbs or cheese you would like and bake 10 minutes until golden and crisp.
Tzatziki Sauce (Cucumber Yogurt Sauce)
Makes 1 cup
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
½ tsp sea salt
12 oz. Greek plain yogurt (Fage is my pick)
½ juice of a lemon
2 tsp fresh dill
2 tsp fresh mint
1 tsp cilantro
1 clove of garlic
sea salt/fresh pepper
Peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise and remove seeds using a spoon. Place in a strainer and add the ½ tsp sea salt to set for 30 minutes which releases the moisture so that the sauce won’t be thinned out. Pat it dry when this time is up and place all ingredients in a food processor to pulse until well blended. If you chose another brand of yogurt, you might need to strain it to thicken the sauce. You can strain it by using two coffee filters inside the strainer. Season to your taste and refrigerate for at least an hour to blend flavor. I like this sauce with feta and pita chips (see recipe above).
Marinated Red Onions
½ large red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar
dash of red pepper flakes-optional
Slice the onion very thin and combine all other ingredients in a bowl and add onion, mix well and cover in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 45 minutes.