Ok. so it's not all Lebanese. But I didn't think the title should say "Greek + Arabic + Lebanese = Love". People might mistake it for some crazy movie. But in all honesty, I have all three cuisines to thank for the fantastic meal we chowed down on tonight. It was partially inspired by a Lebanese shop, Shab's Pita Stroller, by our house, and partially inspired by a friend who gave me her grandmothers recipe for Arabic potato salad. Coincidentally, the friend who gave me the potato salad recipe is actually cousins to the owners of Shab's! So I'll just throw inspiration at the family in general :) This afternoon I was trying to think about what on earth I would make for dinner. I had planned the beginning of the week, but sorta didn't think as far ahead as Wednesday. Lucky me, because if I had - this meal wouldn't have been on our table tonight. It was an easy meal, but totally out of the norm for my typical dishes. The whole thing was an experience and recipe test. I made my first batch of home made tzatziki! I made the Arabic potato salad! I made chicken pitas! Alright, so the pitas aren't the most exciting thing ever, but truth be told - I wanted to remake one of my favorite meals that I get at Shab's (I wish they had a website, but here's the yelp link!). Whenever I go, I get the simple chicken pita stroller. Basically just grilled chicken cubes, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato and onion, all rolled up into an awesome pita. I had a little time to wait on the tzatziki sauce to come together in the fridge, so I marinated the chicken. I marinated it in lemon juice, garlic, zahtar (a middle eastern spice blend of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds), extra virgin olive oil, oregano and vinegar, and then grilled them so they were nice and brown with grill marks. Then we stuffed them into warmed pitas (make sure if you heat your pitas up, if they have pockets to open the pita before you warm it in the oven. If you don't, you might have a hard time opening them after!) with a big slather of the tzatziki sauce, parsley and tomatoes. Then on the side was the delicious potato salad!
So the real fun tonight was in making the tzatziki (and thinking I botched it!). I looked at a few recipes, and as I seem to do EVERY time I read one, I sorta just used it as a guideline. My husband actually was SO delighted with this sauce, it was the craziest thing I ever saw. My husband, Brandon, does not ever use copious amounts of condiments. And VERY rarely will he eat anything that looks even the slightest bit cream based or potentially mayo based, etc. So no ranch dressing, no blue cheese dressing, no mayo usually. And he doesn't care for dips, unless it's salsa. He's a tad crazy. But this tzatziki... the man blew me away. I had left it in the kitchen, and he actually asked me to bring it out so he could put more on his pita. He was basically slathering it all over everything. When you cook dinner, you take this as the biggest compliment there is (unless of course they're slathering something you DIDN'T make all over your food!!!). Like I said, I looked at a billion recipes, and I basically ignored so many rules that I read. And you know what? It was delicious. I didn't have a day to strain yogurt, so I bought Greek yogurt. I still read you should strain that - tough. I had an hour to get dinner on the table, and I threw the rulebook out. I don't doubt that you should follow the rules laid out by all of the fantastic grandmas everywhere, but in a pinch - this recipe will do. And that is putting it mildly. We were in love with it. A quick note though, it HAS to sit in the fridge at least an hour. It tasted weird when I did the quick taste test after mixing everything together. After the hour, it was pure bliss. The potato salad was absolutely delicious! Bright and lemony and was a perfect accompaniment to this meal!!! A home run all around with tonight's dinner!
Time from start to finish: about 1 hour, give or take
1 16-ounce package Greek Yogurt
2 cloves Garlic
1 Hot House Cucumber - peeled, deseeded and chopped roughly
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice of 1 big Lemon
1 cup Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp fresh Dill
Pulse your cucumber, garlic, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the food processor, until fully blended. Pour it into a thin sieve or strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid. I found this much easier than salting the cucumbers, waiting for the water to drain, etc. The liquid comes out much faster, but is pure water. Mix cucumber mixture into yogurt and top with more fresh dill. Allow to refrigerate 1 hour.
Arabic Potato Salad
Time from start to finish: about 30 minutes
3-4 boiling Potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
1/4 cup fresh Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, grated
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put the potatoes in a salted pot, cover, bring to a boil. While the potatoes cook, make the dressing. Combine rest of ingredients (except parsley) and whisk until emulsified. When the potatoes are fork tender (anywhere from 10-20 minutes), drain, put back in hot pot and allow water to dissipate. Pour dressing over potatoes and top with fresh parsley.
Hopefully you enjoy these recipes!