I’ve been hoping to try my hand at making pita ever since I got back from Greece a year and some months ago and started missing delicious gyros for lunch and/or dinner. Based on my observations, I can say that the “traditional” method of making a gyro is as follows:
1) Grab a pita (and swipe it across the grease and meat juices below the giant rotating kebab for maximum tastiness).
2) Slice some of the meat off into the pita you’re holding.
3) Add red onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki.
4) Stuff with fries.
5) Sprinkle a little bit of paprika or sumac on top.
Personally, I’m on board with every step except 4; I would either ask for a gyro χωρίς πατάτες (without potatoes) or pick them out and donate them to a fellow student. However, I don’t have a giant, slow-roasting kebab machine, so actually making gyros at home is slightly out of reach. Fortunately, there’s also souvlaki, i.e. the familiar “bits of meat grilled on a stick” format, which is served with pita in almost exactly the same way, minus the swiping of the pita in grease. It has the benefit of being significantly less greasy, particularly without fries. So I was all jazzed to make mostly-traditional σουβλάκι με πίτα for the family.
However, as I was getting reading to make them I realized that I’m not generally into eating large amounts of bread with my meals. Neither is anyone else in my family. So we decided that, rather than stick strictly to tradition, we could just have some marinated souvlaki (i.e. the bits of meat grilled on a stick), pita, tzatziki, and vegetables (leftover grilled onion, peppers, and zucchini from last night) as mezes* with olives and a χωριάτικη σαλάτα (village salad, which is what usually gets called “Greek salad” in the US). It was absolutely fantastic.
Long story short, I have 3 recipes in this post: tzatziki, chicken souvlaki, and whole-grain spelt pita. You can follow the directions at the top of the post if you want a traditional souvlaki pita wrap, or make them totally separately, or anything in between.
Adapted from here.
1.5 c Greek yogurt
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 small Armenian cucumber (about 6 inches)
Olive oil for serving (semi-optional)
Whisk together the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and zest, dill, salt, and pepper. Quarter the cucumber lengthwise and remove the seeds.Slice very thinly or coarsely grate (if the second, press and drain most of the liquid). Stir into yogurt mixture. Chill at least 30 minutes. Before serving, drizzle the top lightly with olive oil.
Adapted from Rosemary Barron’s Meze.
Serves 5 (or 4 with leftovers) as a main course.
10 chicken tenderloins (thawed, if frozen)
Juice of 1 lemon
12-15 (about 1/4 c packed) fresh sage leaves
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
1 Tbsp honey (Greek, if possible)
4 Tbsp olive oil
4-5 dried bay leaves
Ground black pepper to taste
Cut chicken tenderloins into approximately bite-sized pieces (each will yield 4-5 pieces). Drain any excess water, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over them and let sit.
Cut the sage leaves into thick ribbons and break bay leaves into similarly-sized pieces. Mix together remaining lemon juice, mustard, honey, and 3 Tbsp oil then add sage and bay leaves and stir until well mixed. Add to chicken along with black pepper to taste and stir so that leaves are evenly distributed and each piece of chicken is coated. Let sit for 1 hour on a countertop or up to 1 day covered in the fridge.
Remove leaves and thread chicken pieces onto skewers (wood and metal are both fine; if using wood, soak skewers in water for 30 minutes). Brush remaining marinade over skewers. Brush grill pan or grill with olive oil and grill skewers for 4 to 5 minutes, turning once, or until chicken is golden brown. Remove from grill and serve with pita and tzatziki (or however you like).
Whole-Grain Spelt Pita
Recipe barely changed from here.
Yield: 12 mini pitas or 4 large pitas
3/4 c warm water
2.25 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp honey
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice
1.75 c plus 2 Tbsp whole grain spelt flour, plus more for rolling and kneading
In a bread bowl, mix warm water and yeast and let rest for 5 minutes. Add honey, olive oil, salt, lemon juice, and 1.5 c flour and stir until combined, then stir in remaining flour. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead about 5 minutes, until smooth.
Divide the dough into either 4 or 12 pieces and roll into balls. Leave on the floured surface to rise, covered with a towel, for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with a flat baking sheet or pizza stone inside. Roll out the dough balls to 1/4-inch thick (or about 4-5 inches across for mini pitas). When they are all ready, place as many as will fit (3-4 mini pitas) on to the baking sheet in the oven.
Bake until puffed up, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with a towel. Repeat for the remaining disks of dough. If not using right away, let cool completely before storing.
*Mezes are the Eastern Mediterranean version of Spanish tapas, a selection of small dishes served together.