Saturday, March 13, 2010

Recipe: Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce and Tomato-Feta Salad

Souvlaki or souvlakia is a popular Greek shiskabob-type dish that is made with a variety of meats including: pork, lamb, beef, chicken or fish. It's also a food straight out of ancient history with the earliest reference of it being attributed to the Greek poet Homer. So, that puts this great dish at least as far back as around 850 BC. That's some heavy food pedigree, friends. So when you eat this stuff, you're in good company, historically speaking, because there's a pretty good chance that quite a few of history's greatest and golden munched on some kind of souvlaki! That's all the big guns of Greek history and probably some of myth and fable. Maybe even a couple of majorly influential religious personalities have eaten souvlaki (I'm withholding the names to avoid controversy because there's enough of that these days).

Souvlaki is also a versatile dish. As mentioned above you can use a variety of meats and even some vegetables. Speaking of vegetables, in Greece it is served with a wide variety of additions and sides, so bend it anyway you like. It is also served in many different ways: Right off the skewer, in a pita or other flat bread as a sandwich, atop of some pilaf, and along with fried potatoes in a more formal presentation. In all incarnations it is really delicious and healthy (Greek cuisine is considered by many to be the healthiest in the world).

In the recipe below I've opted for a sandwich, but you can go where you like with this historical recipe. It's easier to prepare than it looks and it is sure to please.

Chicken Souvlaki with Tzatziki Sauce and Tomato-Feta Salad


3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice (there is NO substitute)
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
16 cloves garlic (chopped)
2.5 lbs boneless chicken breast (cut into 1" pieces)
Pita bread or your favorite flat bread

Tzatziki Sauce

1 cucumber (peeled, seeded and grated/shredded)
1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
1/2 cup of plain, low-fat yogurt
2 Tbs lemon juice (there is NO substitute)
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1/2 tsp dried dill

Tomato-Feta Salad

1 large tomato (cut into wedges)
1 medium onion (halved and then thinly sliced)
4 ozs. good quality feta cheese (crumbled)
15 Kalamata olives (pitted and sliced)
1 Tbs Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, mix together the lemon juice, oregano, olive oil, salt and garlic. Add the cubed chicken and toss together well. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes in the fridge. After the first 15 minutes, mix again to better distribute the marinade.

While the chicken marinates prepare the tzatziki sauce by combining the cucumber, Greek and plain yogurt, lemon juice, salt, garlic and dill in a medium-sized bowl and mixing it together well. Set aside.

Prepare the side salad by mixing together the tomato, onion, feta cheese and kalamata olives in a medium bowl. Drizzle the extra-virgin olive oil over it and add salt and pepper to taste.

Take the chicken and string it on skewers (you will need 4 to 6). Set your oven to "broil" and broil the chicken, moving and turning the skewers often to ensure even cooking and charring and to AVOID BURNING. Alternatively, and optimally, you can cook the meat over a charcoal fire. In either preparation, be sure the chicken is cooked through but not overcooked or it will begin to dry out!

Serve the chicken on or in the pita bread with a good slather of the tzatziki sauce. Add a small portion of the salad as a side.

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