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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 26

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 2

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 15

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 17

Slapdash Souvlaki 18

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 19

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

Slapdash Souvlaki 20

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 4

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

Slapdash Souvlaki 5

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar,

Slapdash Souvlaki 6

and 4 tablespoons lemon juice.

Slapdash Souvlaki 8

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

Slapdash Souvlaki 9

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 10

Cut it into cubes.

Slapdash Souvlaki 11

Chuck those cubes into your freezer bag.

Slapdash Souvlaki 12

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 13

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.

Slapdash Souvlaki 23

Slapdash Souvlaki 24

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

Slapdash Souvlaki 25

Advertisements

Make Your Own Yogurt — The Easy Way

Yogurt 4

I may have mentioned to you before that my new sister-in-law, Atlas, has the coolest mom, who may very well be my new hero.  This woman runs her own business, runs her family, runs the kitchen … essentially, she’s in charge of everything, but she does it in such a way that you don’t even notice.  And always with a big smile on her face.  Anyway, she gave me a recipe for making my own yogurt that doesn’t sound intimidating at all.

Yogurt 2

I remember my mother trying to make yogurt with that weird little machine and the starter and all that stuff, and how I hated what came out of it.  It had a weird skin on it and was super runny.  But this stuff?  Not the same.  So much easier.  So much better.   In fact, my own mother has adopted the process and there’s always a huge tub of fresh yogurt in her fridge as well.  The recipe I’m going to give you below has been halved, because there are only two of us in our little house.  However, now that I’ve made it and I see how quickly we use it, I will probably make a full batch next time!

So what you need is a large pot, a spoon, 2L homogenized milk, 500mL half-and-half (“blend cream” is what they call it here), and about 1/2 cup plain yogurt (with no gelatin) as your starter.

DSCN4211

In the pot, stir your milks together and bring them to a boil.

Yogurt 2

When they boil, they will foam the heck up, so stir vigorously for a minute before removing the pot from the heat.  Mine may have boiled over.  Twice.  I may have shouted some choice four-letter words.  Several times.  Note to self: next time, use a bigger pot.

Yogurt 4

Leave the milk to cool to a nice warmer-than-room temperature (Atlas’s mom says somewhere between 40°C and 50°C). She says to stick your finger in it to feel if it’s warm. I decided, in the interests of science, to use a thermometer to confirm.  For your edification, 114°F is about 46°C.

Yogurt 7

Mmm, milk skin … you can just get rid of that.

Yogurt 6

Then add your 1/2 cup yogurt and give that a stir.

Yogurt 9

Put the lid on the pot (or pour it in a container with a lid), wrap the whole thing in a blanket, and put it somewhere warm for 6-8 hours (or overnight).  Atlas’s mom puts it in the turned-off oven with the oven light on, but our oven doesn’t have a light, so I put it in our living room on top of the Pie’s computer.  It seemed to do the trick.

Yogurt 10

Yogurt 11

And you can easily turn this into strained yogurt (“Greek” yogurt) by straining it for a few hours through a cheesecloth.  After 8 hours on top of the computer, I lined a colander with cheesecloth and dumped the yogurt in.  I let it sit over another bowl overnight in the fridge to drain off the whey and this thick loveliness is what came out of it.

Yogurt 6

Goes great in soups and stews, in dips like tzatziki, on breakfast cereals, with a little honey and some strawberries … you name it.

Yogurt 1

Quick Mini Dips: Tzatziki and Chipotle Mayo

Quick Mini Dips

I get into trouble often with the Pie for making too much of something, which means we are left with leftovers well past the time when such leftovers retain any appeal.  As a result, I’m trying my best to cut down on the size of things I make, even if I’m not using a recipe.  I have discovered, when it comes to dips and sauces, the best way to keep them small is to actually construct them WITHIN the container in which you plan to serve them.  It even saves you having to wash an extra bowl.

Quick Mini Dips

These two dips can be made in minutes, and they provide a great side for fried or baked chicken, potatoes, burgers, na’an … you name it.  Making them in sealable containers meant that we could take them outside for a Victoria Day picnic.

For the Tzatziki:

In your container, place a dollop of minced garlic (about a teaspoon) and another of fresh chopped dill (this stuff came in a tube, so it’s a generous squirt, if that helps with your measurements).  I wouldn’t use dried dill, if you can avoid it.  I don’t think the flavour would be strong enough.  Then you want to grate up about 4 or 5 inches of cucumber.  It gets messy.

Quick Mini Dips

Squeeze your grated cucumber to get out the excess water and plop it in your container.

Quick Mini Dips

Fill the rest of the container up with Greek yogurt.  You can use plain Balkan-style yogurt but the Greek is thicker.

Quick Mini Dips

Give that a stir and let it sit for a little bit.  Yum!

Quick Mini Dips

For the Chipotle Mayo:

In your container, plop a few shakes chipotle seasoning, together with a couple drops tabasco sauce and a dollop of minced garlic.

Quick Mini Dips

Fill the container up with a combination of mayonnaise and sour cream or Greek yogurt.  I used half mayonnaise, then a quarter yogurt and a quarter sour cream.

Quick Mini Dips

Stir that up well (make sure to scrape up all the goodness on the bottom) and let that sit a bit.  It’s got some kick!

Quick Mini Dips

Deep-Fried Dinner

Deep-Fried Dinner

For the Pie’s birthday dinner, we decided to try deep-frying for the first time.  We’d been putting it off because, well, it’s incredibly unhealthy, it’s a dangerous fire risk, and our kitchen has no fume hood so we’d be dealing with the aromas of cooking oil for several days.

But we needed to learn (in the same way that we need to learn everything else we do here).  So we decided to try two different methods and make Buffalo chicken strips (with blue cheese dip) and some beer-battered onion rings.  Both recipes come from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food magazine.  Both recipes involve buttermilk.

Now, though I’m presenting two different recipes here, I’m going to give the instructions to you in the order I did them, because that makes the most sense to me.  In order for you to differentiate the two recipes, I’ll preface instructions for the chicken with BCS and use OR for the onions.

BCS/OR: Turn your oven to 250°F.  Put some cooling racks on top of rimmed baking sheets and put those in the oven.  Those will be your warming and draining trays for your chicken and onions.
Deep-Fried Dinner

OR: Slice 2lb onions into thick rounds and submerge them in 2 cups buttermilk for about an hour before cooking.  The buttermilk takes the acidic bite out of the onions, making them sweet and tender.  Just a warning: following this recipe results in a heckuva lotta onion rinks, so if you don’t want to fry up a million, I suggest halving it, or even quartering it.
Deep-Fried Dinner

BCS: Crumble up 1 cup blue cheese (I used 400g here and it crumbled to about a cup) and 1/2 cup buttermilk.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Stir that around and set it aside.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Cut up some vegetables while you’re at it, why don’t you?  You’re about to consume pure fat — you should probably add in some vitamins.
Deep-Fried Dinner

BCS/OR: Plop about 1 1/2 cups flour in a shallow dish and put that near your stove.  That’s for the batterin’.
Deep-Fried Dinner

OR: Crack two eggs into a bowl.  Whisk ’em.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Whisk in 1 bottle lager or pale ale.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 teaspoons coarse salt.  Set that near the stove as well.
Deep-Fried Dinner

BCS: In yet another bowl, combine 1/3 cup hot sauce with 3 tablespoons butter.  Stir well and set that aside for now.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Slice up 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into finger-sized pieces.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Dip them in 1 cup buttermilk.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Then into that flour you have ready.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Lay them out on a baking sheet.
Deep-Fried Dinner

I think we’re about ready to start cooking.  While I’m sure you could do these two dishes at the same time, I am far from experienced with hot-oil cooking, rather prone to accidents, and I only have one large-sized element on my stove.  So I am going to cook the chicken first, as it doesn’t need to be crispy and can therefore sit in the oven for longer.

As a safety note, we had a box of baking soda handy at all times during this, in case of flareups.  Never leave hot oil unattended, and never, NEVER add additional oil of any kind or any temperature to oil that is already hot.

BCS: Heat 1/2 cup to 1 cup vegetable oil in a heavy skillet.  You can tell if the oil is hot enough for frying when a pinch of flour dropped into it fizzes rapidly.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Slide a few chicken pieces in, working in batches.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Cook for about 6-8 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the chicken is golden brown.  Remove the cooked chicken to the rack in the oven.
Deep-Fried Dinner

This was a very spatter-y process, so I wore long sleeves and kept my face averted from the pan.  My hands kept getting burned from little splashes of oil.  In the end I pulled on a pair of work gloves to protect them and worked happily after that.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Make sure to let that oil cool before you move it anywhere.

OR: In a large, wide saucepan, heat up 5 cups vegetable oil.  I know, that’s a lot of oil.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer and continuously adjust the temperature of your element to keep the oil at 375°F.  If it gets too cold, it won’t cook the onions all the way through, and if it gets too hot, well … let’s not think about that.
Deep-Fried Dinner

What was interesting was the cool pattern the oil made while it heated.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Take a ring of onion out of the buttermilk and dip it in the flour, then into the beer batter.  Shake off the excess.
Deep-Fried Dinner

Slide the ring carefully into the hot oil.  Cook in small batches, rotating halfway through, for about 5 minutes.  Remove to the other rack in the oven to drain and keep warm.  This method of frying was wayyyyy less spatter-y, if you were interested to know.
Deep-Fried Dinner

We had a lot more onions left to cook after we had cooked as many as we thought we could eat.  We figured they would keep until tomorrow and we would try again.
Deep-Fried Dinner

BCS: When everything is cooked and you are ready to go, take the chicken strips out of the oven and toss them in the hot sauce.  These will be served with the blue cheese dip we made earlier.
Deep-Fried Dinner

OR: For the onions we had a nice tzatziki dip as well as a chipotle mayo.
Deep-Fried Dinner

All told, it was pretty epic.
Deep-Fried Dinner