My first encounter with Greek food was in Chicago during a trip that seems like forever ago now. My friend, Renee, had been living there for a few years and I flew my pregnant self to Chicago for a “last-hoorah” kind of girls’ weekend. We went all over the place, but my favorite place was this little Greek restaurant around the corner from her apartment. We dodged angry drivers and suicidal bicyclists to cross the street and enjoy the most wonderful and authentic Greek food of my life. The place was covered in the patriotic blue and white of Greece. All the people in the kitchen were yelling at each other in what I assume was also Greek. The flatbreads were fresh, the smell of roasted lamb filled the air while the tang of copious amounts of yogurt wafted off of each diner’s plate. I, of course, ordered a gyro (pronounced year-o) and quickly dove into what would be a craving that I would have for the rest of my life.
A traditional gyro is a sandwich (actually, more of a wrap) that is filled with thinly sliced lamb “meatloaf” (for lack of a better word) that is cut from a twirling vertical spit, tzatziki sauce (which is made from yogurt and cucumber mostly) with tomato and red onion. The best word to describe it is unctuous. It is by far my favorite way to eat lamb and it is a refreshing meal in the middle of the day.
Of course procuring lamb at a reasonable price in the South is impossible. There aren’t a lot of lamb eaters south of the Mason-Dixon. And there aren’t a lot of Greek restaurants down here either, so fulfilling my craving for those traditional Greek flavors falls in my own lap.
These mini gyros are a great party appetizer, but could also easily be turned into a fantastic lunch. It is a refreshing bite to ring in the New Year!
For the chicken:
- 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 1 t . dried oregano or 1 T fresh
- 2 cloves garlic minced or put through a press
- 1 T extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
For the Tzatziki sauce:
- 1 cup plain yogurt Greek is best
- ½ a cucumber peeled , seeded and grated
- 3 cloves garlic minced or put through a press
- 2 t . red wine vinegar
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 2 T freshly minced parsley
- Salt and pepper
- Pita or flatbread
- leaves Spinach
- Feta cheese
- In a large bowl, mix together the chicken ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. In a medium bowl, mix together the Tzatziki sauce ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. In a medium bowl, mix together the cucumber salad ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To assemble: Cut the pita or flatbread into wedges and place on a serving tray. Top each with a spinach leaf, then a spoonful of chicken, then the cucumber salad, tzatziki sauce and sprinkle with feta cheese.
- Serve and enjoy.
- Tip: The sauce, salad and chicken can all be made a couple days in advance and then assembled just before serving.