Weekly Menu Spotlight: Greek Out

by . on June 15, 2011

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I’m a little Greek. Half to be exact, a fact that I am equal parts proud of and ambivalent towards. I didn’t get the benefit of olive skin or dark hair and I sunburn like an albino (I can thank my mother’s Scottish genes for that one). I do however love Greek food.

New Orleans is severely lacking in the category and while it does possess a handful of mediocre Mediterannean leaning restaurants, I always find it better to recreate my favorite dishes at home. Usually this involves baklava, fried zucchini or lamb, but I recently came across an excellent recipe for homemade Falafel on Food 52 and had to try it out for myself. Before you say anything, I acknowledge that Falafel is traditionally served in Middle Eastern countries, but it has expanded into the Mediterannean category as a whole, and I’m going with it. You should to. The Greeks do prepare something called a revithokeftede, made from similar ingredients, but much more difficult to spell. Let’s stick with the Falafel.

While I poached the falafel recipe from another site (I blame my total ignorance of falafel cooking techniques) I paired it with tzatziki and Greek salad that are entirely my own. Tzatziki is an excellent accompaniment to almost any salad, meat or bread and this version is thick, lemony, and really stands up to whatever foods you pair it with. As for the Greek Salad, it always bothers my when restaurants, usually diners, load up on iceberg lettuce and banana peppers. We strip it down to the bare essentials: tomatoes, olives, cheese, cucumber and onion. No more, no less and no fillers.

Falafel with Greek Salad and Tzatziki (serve 4-6)

Falafel (from Food 52)

2 cups dried chickpeas, rinsed well and soaked overnight
1 small yellow onion
1 bunch mint, washed
1/2 bunch cilantro, rinsed and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 egg (optional)
1 piece bread
2 pinches salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 lemon, juiced

If you are using dried chickpeas, soak overnight, rinse and let dry two hours. If you use canned, rinse and let dry. Combine all ingredients in a Cuisinart and blend until thick and smooth. Make sure that there are no clumps of bread as it will create difficulty when making the patties. Form patties with the dough about the size of a crab cake. Pour one cup of canola oil into a saute pan and heat on medium high heat until it shimmers. Add each patty and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes per side.

Greek Salad

2 cups cucumber, cubed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup kalamata olives, halved
1/2 small red onion, chopped
8 oz feta, cubed
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
pepper to taste

Chop your ingredients, throw in bowl and toss. Because of the feta and olives you will most likely not need to add salt. Pepper to taste. It’s that easy.

Tzatziki

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced (preferably using a mandoline)
1 tbsp salt
1 lb yogurt (the good stuff, buy Fage)
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
handful of mint, diced
pepper to taste

Thinly slice your cucumber with a mandoline. Place in a mesh sieve and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 2 hours so as to allow the liquids to drain from the cucumbers. When ready to prepare the tzatziki combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. You will most likely not need to add more salt, but be sure to pepper for taste.


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