Welcome to Life at the Holman's.


Within this blog, you will find everything from recipes to school ideas to everyday fun stuff and things we have learned along the way. From time to time you will find just a chronicle of our journey here in Oklahoma. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What's for Dinner? Gyros, Homemade Pitas and Tzatiki Sauce

Greek anyone?  A gyro is a Greek dish traditionally made of lamb meat (sometimes other types of meat such as pork) that is cooked on a spit, sliced, and served in a pita pocket topped with various toppings of choice.  At our house we do not have the big spit to cook a rack of lamb, so we improvise.  We use a roast (because it is much cheaper and with the proper seasoning and taste very similar) that has been very thinly sliced/shaved in to strips about 2 inches long.  A couple of hours before you cook the meat, sprinkle the meat with the following seasoning mixture and place it in the refrigerator.

Gyro Seasoning
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. thyme

Combine all the ingredients and store in an air tight container.

Pan fry the meat on high heat in about 1 tsp. of oil until cooked.  You can add as much seasoning as you like to the meat.  It is more of a taste preference.  I also like to sauté bell peppers and onions in another skillet to have as an additional topping.

Second, you will need pita pockets.  While we prefer the homemade variety, you can also purchase pita pockets at most local grocery stores.  For those adventuresome cooks, here is the pita pocket recipe we use.

Homemade Pita Pockets
1 1/8 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tsp. white sugar
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Directions:
Combine warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and allow to stand for 10 minutes to allow time for the yeast to activate.  Mix in flour, salt and oil.  Kneed the dough until a smooth dough is formed.  Allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled.  

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll and stretch the dough into a 12 inch rope. With a sharp knife, divide dough into 8 pieces. 

Roll each into a smooth ball. With a rolling pin, roll each ball into a 5 to 7 inch circle a little over 1/4 inch in thickness.  Be careful not to work with the dough too much or it will not "puff" and make the pocket area in your pita.  Set rolled pitas aside on a lightly floured counter top and cover with a towel. Let pitas rise about 30 minutes until slightly puffy.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (260 degrees C). Place 2 or 3 pitas on a wire cake rack or cookie rack. Place cookie rack directly on oven rack. Bake the pitas 4 to 5 minutes or until puffed and the tops begin to brown. 

Remove from oven and immediately place pitas in a  cover them with a damp kitchen towel until soft. (Take a clean dish towel and put it under the water briefly to get some of the towel wet.  Then make sure you wring it out and leave it just slightly damp.  Lay it out on the table and as you finish each batch of pitas, open the towel and place the new pitas in the stack!) 

Once the pitas are softened, either cut them in half or split top edge for half or whole pitas. They can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for several days or in the freezer for 1 or 2 months.

Finally, all you need is to prepare your toppings.  We like lettuce, tomatoes, melted and shredded cheese, and Tzatkiki.  One of the items that my garden has decided to produce in abundance this year is cucumbers.  Tzatkiki is a Greek cucumber sauce that is very easy to make and a great way to use those extra summer cucumbers.

Tzatkiki Sauce
16 ounces Plain (not vanilla) yogurt
1-2 cucumbers peeled, seeded, and finely chopped or grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients and allow to sit for a couple of hours before serving.


Tips:
  1. When slicing/shaving your roast, slice it partially frozen.  A good sharp knife will slide easily through the meat and the mead is more solid so it does not "give way" while you are slicing it and enables you to get a thinner slice.
  2. If your cucumbers for the tzatkiki are very "liquidy," you may need to drain the cucumbers on a paper towel to get some of the extra moisture out.  If not you will have a very watery sauce.  
  3. Also, I do use the dried parsley for my tzatkiki.  I just sprinkle about 1/2 tsp. and stir it it.  
  4. Mint and nutmeg are two other seasonings that are commonly used in making the gyros.  However, we do not add these seasonings because of taste preference.  Just another idea to help change up your flavors if you are particular fond of the mint and nutmeg!
  5. You can make the pita pockets a little healthier by substituting some of the flour with whole wheat.  However, my family does not like the texture of whole wheat so we only make the white unhealthy but good pitas.