Pitas, lettuce, red onion, tomato, homemade Greek chicken and homemade tzatziki sauce await hungry stomachs. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

Pitas, lettuce, red onion, tomato, homemade Greek chicken and homemade tzatziki sauce await hungry stomachs. (Emily Hanson/Peninsula Daily News)

THE COOKING HOBBYIST: It’s all Greek to me … and it’s delicious

ONE OF MY sisters recently returned from a trip to Greece.

I bit back my jealousy to visit with her while she stayed with our mother before returning to her home in Alaska.

During the visit, I didn’t hear a whole lot about Greece — my sister has never been one to share much — but I was introduced to Greek food. Well, the closest we could get to it in Olympia, at any rate.

At a small café-style restaurant in our state’s capital, I had my first gyro. My sister ordered four of the Greek burrito-like dishes, but deconstructed so that each ingredient was in its own separate dish.

“This is sort of how they served it in Greece,” she said. “Except there, I was given one huge plate with all of the ingredients placed separately on it. They blended a bit in places, but for the most part they were separate.”

Although the instruction appeared to confuse the girl at the ordering counter, the restaurant came through and sent over a waitress with a tray laden with bowls of chopped-up chicken, feta cheese, lettuce, red onion, tomatoes and a sauce I’d never seen before.

“This is tzatziki sauce,” my sister told me. (I tried to repeat the word but mangled it horribly. According to the internet, it’s pronounced “sat-ZEE-key” or “cha-CHI-key” in Greece, if you care to know.)

“It has Greek yogurt, cucumbers and a few other things in it. Sometimes it has dill in it, other times it doesn’t. The Greek use this sauce on everything. You can even order it on its own so if your food doesn’t have enough sauce on it, you can add more.”

I took a cautious taste of the sauce and discovered that I liked it. I could definitely taste the dill, which is OK because I like dill, and although there’s vinegar in it, I could not taste that. Also a good thing, because I can’t stand vinegar.

And that’s how I first tried Greek food and realized it’s delicious.

As I ate and looked over the tray of remaining food, I also realized this was a dish I could probably recreate at home quite easily.

As soon as I had time to do so, I went searching online for recipes to recreate what I had tried. I was hoping to find one recipe with all the pieces included, but I found three recipes — one for the sauce, one for the chicken and one for the spices on the chicken — that each turned out to be fairly simple.

So, for the first time, I will do a dish with three separate recipes and include each here.

Tzatziki sauce from thespruceeats.com

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 cloves garlic (finely minced)

½ teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 cup ​​Greek yogurt (strained)

1 cup sour cream

2 cucumbers (peeled, seeded, and diced)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined.

Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream in a separate bowl. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well. Add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill.

Homemade Greek seasoning from thepinningmama.com

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons dried basil

4 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoons dried thyme

4 teaspoons onion powder

4 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion flakes

2 teaspoons dried dill

2 teaspoons ground pepper

2 teaspoons dried parsley

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix all spices together in a bowl until everything is easily distributed.

Store in a mason jar or other air-tight container.

Easy Greek chicken from easyfamilyrecipes.com

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast

2 tablespoons Greek seasoning

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch to 2-inch chunks. Place them in an airtight container and add the Greek seasoning, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix to evenly coat chicken and let rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken spreading in a single layer. Let it cook without stirring for 3 to 5 minutes or until it gets a nice brown sear on the side touching the pan. Flip the chicken over and cook an additional 2 to 4 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (165 degrees internal temperature).

Serve hot and enjoy.

________

Emily Hanson is a copy editor/paginator for the Peninsula Daily News. She is also a beginning baker and clumsy cook. She can be reached at 360-452-2345 ext. 560-50 or [email protected] dailynews.com.

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