Slapdash Souvlaki

May was an INTENSE month here at the Ali Does It household. LongJohn went to daycare a month earlier than scheduled and I had a whole four weeks to get all the stuff done on the house I hadn’t had an opportunity to do when we moved in … because of the whole having-a-baby thing. Some of those projects are still in progress but I have SO MUCH to show you when they’re ready to be shown. If May was intense, then June is even more so. I went back to work full time AT A NEW JOB. And on my first day, I had HAND surgery. Today I’m having hand surgery on the OTHER hand. So things are a little nuts, to say the least. Luckily I have a bit of a backlog of posts for you guys. Let’s start with this one for the barbecue, now that we’re officially into grilling season.

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The Pie is a huge fan of souvlaki. We’re fortunate that some of the best souvlaki in town is only a short drive away. But it’s actually pretty easy to make your own souvlaki at home, provided you have some time to prep. Here’s how you can do it.

Slapdash Souvlaki 1

First, let’s start with that most essential of condiments: tzatziki. You can always buy this but it’s easy to make as well. I rarely measure my amounts because I find they vary depending on my mood but here’s an approximation for you. Start off by grabbing about 1/2 cup plain yogurt and plopping it in a few layers of cheesecloth in a colander. Wrap it well and put something with a bit of weight on top. Place the colander over a bowl and shove it in the fridge for a few hours. I use Balkan style yogurt for this, but if you have Greek yogurt you can skip this step.

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After your yogurt has been pressed and some of the water has drained out, you can unwrap it and give the cheesecloth a bit of a rinse. You’re going to need it in a second.

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Grate up about half a cucumber. Plop the cucumber bits onto the cheesecloth, wrap it up, and give it a good squeeze over the sink and get rid of excess water.

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Now, tip that into a bowl together with the yogurt, some minced garlic, chopped fresh dill, salt, pepper, a few drops of lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Stir, stir, stir! Shove that back in the fridge for a few hours (preferably overnight) to let the flavours mingle.

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For the souvlaki we’re going to create a marinade. Start by finely chopping up a small red onion. I’m being smart here and using a large red onion because I’m making the recipe twice and chucking half of it in the freezer.

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Throw the onion bits in a large Ziploc freezer bag and tip in about 1/2 cup olive oil,

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2 tablespoons red wine vinegar,

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and 4 tablespoons lemon juice.

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Next plop in about 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried (or fresh) oregano, and of course salt and pepper to taste.

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Wrangle yourself a decent-sized pork tenderloin (you can do this with chicken breast too). Don’t be tempted to use a pork shoulder or any other cut for this, as they’ll be too gristly when cubed. Trust me. I did it once when they were on sale and I regretted it. Pull the tough membrane off the tenderloin and trim any excess fat.

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Cut it into cubes.

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Chuck those cubes into your freezer bag.

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Seal the bag carefully, give it a good smushing together, and bung it in the fridge for several hours. While you’re waiting, grab some wooden skewers and plop them in a tray of water to soak for at least thirty minutes before you grill.

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When you’re set to start, shove the cubes of marinated meat onto your skewers (I like to use two skewers per so that they’re easier to flip) and grill until cooked through and at an internal temperature of about 145°F.

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Serve over rice with a hefty side of your fresh tzatziki and enjoy the summer!

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Wingin’ It Wednesday: Tomato Mint Salad

Tomato Mint Salad 10

LongJohn’s Nana, Mrs. Nice, has been coming into town to spend some time with him once a week so that I can do things that necessitate the use of both hands (in fact, she’s here right now so that I can use both hands to type this post – yay for Mrs. Nice, and grandparents everywhere!).

When she was here last I whipped up this salad of things that were in my fridge: normally when I make a tomato salad with feta I use balsamic vinegar and fresh basil but I didn’t have either of those so I went with a little twist, and I hope you like it.

Start with some tomatoes, naturally. I’m using grape tomatoes here but you can use whatever you have.

Tomato Mint Salad 1

Then, finely chop up an onion. This is a shallot. A red onion would also be nice.

Tomato Mint Salad 2

Nice and small. We want the IDEA of onion rather than holy-wow-there’s-a-lotta-onion-in-this.

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Grab some mint. I grew this monstrosity from three stalks I got out of a box at the grocery store.

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Crumble up some nice firm feta cheese.

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Assemble!

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I made a dressing out of grapeseed oil, honey, and a bit of lemon juice, and drizzled it over the whole shebang.

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It was lovely!

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Watermelon and Feta Salad

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Mrs. Nice made this delightful dish for us when we were over for lunch last week and it really hit the spot during that blasted heat wave. She learned it from a man at the grocery store who had been setting out samples and she was immediately hooked.  After tasting it, so was I, and so I made it for a further lunch (on my family’s side) the following weekend.

A note in advance: keep all your ingredients chilled and separate until just before serving or everything will go mushy.

Start with a decently-sized seedless watermelon (or mostly seedless, as was the case here).

Watermelon Salad 1

Crack that puppy open by cutting off the ends and paring off the rest of the rind.

Watermelon Salad 2

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Cut it into slices and then chop those up into cubes and chuck them in a large bowl.

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Chop up as well a large red onion.  That can be pitched into the bowl as well.  You might want to start tossing the ingredients together with your hands so you don’t destroy the watermelon.

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Grab yourself a bunch of fresh mint.

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Pull off the leaves and chop those up finely as well.

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Sprinkle those over your watermelon.

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Finally, haul over a good-sized hunk of firm feta cheese and cut that up as finely or as coarsely as you like.

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Dump that in the salad as well and toss to mix it all up.

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Juice a lime and pour the juice into a bowl.

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Add in about 1 tablespoon (a glop) olive oil and whisk to emulsify.

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Drizzle that over your salad and eat it all up!
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Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

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This warm bowl of rosy goodness reminds me a bit of my winged red soup from ages ago (which I may try to recreate in the future) and it’s just as easy.  I made a heckuva lot of this, mostly to freeze for Krystopf and Atlas for after the baby comes, so feel free to cut this recipe into thirds for more reasonable servings.

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You’re going to need 3 heads garlic;

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3 red onions;

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24 ripe roma tomatoes;

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and about 18 large red peppers.

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Preheat your oven to 450°F.  Peel the garlic and cut each clove in half.  Chop up the onions as well and chuck them in a roasting pan (I divided them between three roasting pans).

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Chop up the tomatoes and red peppers and put them in the pans as well.

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Drizzle with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.

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Roast the vegetables for 25-35 minutes, or until they are soft and starting to char.

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Meanwhile, bring a pot with about 2 litres stock (chicken, vegetable, whatever) to a boil.

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When the vegetables are ready, chuck them in the broth and give it a good stir.  Add several dashes of Tabasco Sauce and remove it from the heat.

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Have a go at it with an immersion blender and then season with salt, pepper, and more Tabasco as desired.  Serve hot (or cold).  The flavour intensifies over a couple of days and it freezes great.

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Three Bean Mexi Salad

Three Bean Mexi Salad

This is a quick and colourful summery salad you can serve at any time, as a side dish and as a standalone meal. It’s easy and appetizing and full of flavour. And, as it’s Labour Day, you should take a break, and enjoy this simple salad.

Start with your beans. Crack open a can each of black beans, red kidney beans, and white navy beans. Or whatever beans you like, really.  Drain them and give them a rinse in a colander. Set that aside while you chop up some veg.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Chop up 2 red peppers into whatever size you think is appropriate for a bean salad.  Who am I to tell you what to do?

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Do the same with 2 jalapeños.  Be careful not to touch your eyes while you’re doing this.  I like to mince mine up super fine.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Chop up as well 1 red onion.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

And slice up about 4 green onions.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Huck all those things in a bowl with your beans, and add to that about 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

For the dressing, start by mincing up a huge bunch of fresh cilantro.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Drop that in a bowl with a few cloves minced garlic and the juice and zest of 1 lime.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Add to that 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, a dash of salt and pepper, another dash of hot pepper sauce, and 1 tablespoon ground cumin.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Mix that all together, then add in 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup red wine vinegar.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Dump that on top of your salad and toss until well combined.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

This salad is best if you cover it and leave it in the fridge overnight to let the flavours mingle.  Serve it cold.

Three Bean Mexi Salad

Chicken Orzo Salad

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The Pie’s parents, Mrs. Nice and Papa John, are in town on a visit for the Pie’s graduation (B.Sc. Honours in Geography and Computer Science, booyah), so I get a good number of opportunities to cook new things that I think might appeal to them.  This one I made with Mrs. Nice in mind, and reminds me somewhat of that amazing orzo salad we had at Ferryland a few years ago.

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Prep your vegetables.  Dice up half a large red onion, 1 red pepper, and half a large cucumber (I cut out the seeds).  I also halved 250g grape tomatoes and defrosted 1 cup each frozen corn and frozen peas.

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Prep your dressing.  In a small jar (or other container with a lid), dump 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 2 teaspoons dried savoury (or basil, or oregano, or whatever you want), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil.

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Close the lid tightly and give that a shake.  Let it sit for a while.

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Fill a large saucepan with about 4L of water and salt it generously.  Put it on to boil.  When it’s boiling, remove the lid, turn the heat down a bit, and pour in 450g orzo pasta.

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While that’s on the go, cut up about 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts into small cubes and  pitch those in a frying pan or skillet with a bit of vegetable oil.

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Sauté those until fully cooked and browned on the outside.  Remove from the heat.

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Drain your orzo and plop it in a big bowl. This bowl was not big enough.

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My peas and corn were still a little frozen so I added them to the still-hot chicken pan to let them thaw properly.

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Then I chucked in the rest of the vegetables and stirred that around.

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Then you just add your veg to your pasta.  Give that a good stir.

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Give your dressing another shake and toss that with all the rest of your salad (don’t worry about the amount — it will be absorbed into the pasta) and serve warm or cold.

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The Family Sammy

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You may not like this sandwich.  It’s a bit of an acquired taste.  It’s also freaking weird.  But bear with me.  It’s really good once you get past the weirdness.

So this sandwich is actually a family recipe that goes back a few generations, to one set of the great-grands on my mother’s side.  Maybe even back to Scotland.  Hard to say.  Origins shrouded in mystery and all that jazz.

Family Sammy 1

Legend has it that my mother made this sandwich for my father as a token of her love back when they were first together.  She packed it into his lunch and sent him off on his day.  When he discovered this — thing — in his lunch he was absolutely horrified.  My mother was offended that he would be disgusted by such a beautiful sandwich.  Forty years later, it’s one of my dad’s favourites.

(Is any of this making you want to try this yet?  I thought so.)

So first you take some rye bread.  I like the swirly stuff, which is pretty mild but you can get a hint of the rye.  My parents prefer the super dense stuff that slices about a centimetre thick.

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On one slice of bread, spread some nice mayonnaise.  On the other slice, some peanut butter.  Crunchy is best, but we have smooth on hand for Papa John so that’s what is on offer.  Don’t worry, it’s gonna get weirder.

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Slice up a tomato and slide that onto a slice of rye.  Garnish with salt and pepper.

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Add a few pieces of red onion (I usually forego this part but I’m sticking with tradition here, just for you).

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Then a few thin slices of cheddar cheese.  The cheese, like the onion, is optional.  The main essence of the sandwich is mayo, peanut butter, and tomato on rye.  But I like it with cheese.

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And that’s the sandwich.  I know it seems rather icky, but if you are on the lookout for something a little bit different, I suggest you give it a try.  The combination of tangy mayo with crunchy earthy peanut butter, the burst of flavour from a good tomato on the faint bitterness of rye is actually quite good.  Give it a shot, I dare you.

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What’s your favourite weird sandwich?