Tzatziki Salad & Greek Style Chicken

Refreshing is the word for the hottest days of summer. We want it easy and fast in the kitchen, and we want the results to be tasty and refreshing. 

Tzatziki salad is assembled well ahead of time--even the night before. Thinly slice cucumbers tossed with the traditional tzatziki dip ingredients. Cool. Refreshing. Delicious. This is how I get the traditional flavor without the extra steps and time of the traditional method. Greek Heritage Cooking Simplified! Here's the recipe.

Greek Style Chicken is my simplified version of a traditional spit-roasted dish called kontosouvli, which is cooked in homes on the last Thursday before Lent as a meat feast. It is also served at restaurants all over Greece throughout the year. Traditionally, it is large chunks of pork, chicken, lamb or beef, marinated and threaded onto a spit. It's different from a souvlaki because the meat is marinated and the pieces of meat are much, much larger. The name implies that the spit is short (konto), but it isn't, so maybe it refers to the meat chunks, which are shorter than the whole animal-spit-roasting of the big feast days like Easter Sunday.

To simplify, because not everyone has a large charcoal grill, using boneless, skinless chicken thighs helps cut out several steps and ensures the meat is moist throughout the cooking process. You can use breasts, but they require a little more preparation and experience with cooking so that they don't dry out. I don't recommend the breasts. The thighs are marinated with lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic. They can be broiled or grilled, and dressed with some of the same marinade ingredients once they're plated. Just make sure that each thigh is somewhat even in thickness; if not, run a knife through the thicker parts (like butterflying) to even things up.

The marinade. Put all ingredients into a mini food processor and, bam, that's done. This marinade works for 4 to 5 lbs of chicken thighs. If you don't want to cook that much chicken, you know how to use half of the ingredient amounts, right?
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Greeek oregano (Not Mexican. Taste is a bit different.)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped green pepper (large chunks)
  • 1 cup roughly chopped red onion (large chunks)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 teaspoons salt (I use Celtic Grey sea salt. Experiment with yours.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Slather the chicken with the marinade and massage gently for 20 seconds, turning everything over so it's well coated. I use a broiler pan for this. It's just the right size. Cover and set aside for up to eight hours, but no more. Personally, I'm good with one to two hours.

Cooking the kontosouvli meat is done on a charcoal grill with a rotisserie. If you're like me, you don't have one, but we can come close with broiling or grilling the individual pieces with my simplified method. You can also thread the thighs onto skewers, but do use two skewers to keep the meat from spinning. If you've had this happen, you know, but if you haven't and you're curious, ask me. Grilling, of course, adds another layer of flavor, but if you don't have a grill or are out of time, use the broiler. Get it good and hot and move one of the oven racks very close to the broiling element. As the chicken cooks, some of the juices hit the element and create a little smoke, so that you get closer to the grilling flavor.

The vegetables. Often, some of the home-style recipes call for threading peppers, tomatoes and onion onto the skewers between each piece of meat. This is to add extra flavor. What we want to do is grill or broil the vegetable skewers separately. Thread large chunks onto one or two skewers, drizzle with a little olive oil and cook the same way you cooked the chicken.

Serving is easy, but there are a few things left to do. If you used the vegetables, remove them from the skewers. Add the chicken. Squeeze more fresh lemon juice over everything, add a light sprinkling of salt and oregano and drizzle liberally with olive oil. That's it! Now, get your plate, load it up and eat.


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