~A Greek Affair!!

Yesterday (April 28th 2016) was my 30th birthday!! Yes, I know I know, I am 30 now! The big 3-0!!

Well, for the most part I am kid at heart so I am excited. I have a feeling this decade is going to be an awesome one, rest of which time will tell 🙂 On the eve of my birthday, the hubby surprised me with 30 balloons and flowers which made my day! To top it all off, he even cooked dinner!! Talk about being pampered! I am a lucky girl!!

I will be recapping my birthday celebrations in a separate blog post, but in the meantime wanted to share the recipes the hubby made that evening for dinner.

These recipes are not my original. We attended a couple’s cooking class at Sur La Table this past January (I’ll be talking about our experience in that class on the blog soon) and the hubby followed their recipe for the most part making some tweaks along the way. So the recipes below are the ones with our modifications.

Serving size for the dishes shared below is 2-4 adults.

Warm Rosemary and Garlic Olives with Pita Bread

This is a pre-dinner snack. The olive mix can be made in bulk and stored covered, in the fridge for about 4 weeks. We bought the Pita Bread from Phoenicia and popped them in the oven just before eating. The warm pita bread went perfectly with the olives.

To make the olive mix you will need:

  • 3 cups Kalamata olives, or a mix or olives, rinsed well (we prefer the pitted ones, but that’s up to you)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Method:

1) Pre-heat the oven to 300F

2) In a Pyrex bowl (or any oven safe bowl) mix together olives, garlic, orange zest, rosemary and olive oil. Bake in the oven until the oil is bubbling, stirring halfway through. Usually takes 30 minutes. Once done, take out of oven and let the olives cool to room temperature (still warm though) before serving.

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Warm Rosemary and Garlic Olives with Pita Bread

Greek Village Salad with Pita Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 1 bell pepper (capsicum) of any color, cored, seeded and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 cup finely chopped green onions
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped romaine lettuce
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 pieces of Pita Bread, cut to bite pieces, toasted – these are the croutons!

Method:

In a large salad bowl, combine the bell pepper, cucumber, green onions, lettuce and the herbs. In a small bowl mix together garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk well. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients. Add tomatoes, cheese and pita croutons and toss well to combine. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as per your liking. Your salad is ready!

 

Tzatziki Sauce

This sauce is delish you guys!! It’s just so refreshing and yummy! Even though it’s a Mediterranean dish, it can be paired well with Indian food too, if you want a twist to the ever green Indian Raita! I myself will be trying this out instead of the Raita with Biryani or some other dish that needs to paired with raita I make in the future.

Tzatziki Sauce is traditionally served as a dip for various appetizers and grilled meat options. It’s applications are seemingly endless!

Ingredients:

  • ½ cucumber, peeled
  • ½ teaspoon of salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 2 cups whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon of basil
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1) Grate the peeled cucumber and transfer to a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Toss it with ½ teaspoon of salt. Let it stand for 10 minutes and the press the cucumber with the back of a spoon to discard any excess liquid.

2) In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients and stir to combine. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper as per your liking. Your sauce is ready to serve! You can cover it and put it in the fridge to make it last for close to 2 days.

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Tzatziki Sauce

Chicken Souvlaki Skewers

Ingredients for the marinade:

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
  • ÂĽ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Other Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs, trimmed to discard fat, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • Skewers (If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes prior to use)
  • Oil for spraying (we used PAM)
  • 1 medium tomato thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion thinly sliced

Method:

1) In a medium bowl add all the marinade ingredients and mix to combine. Add chicken and toss to coat the chicken with the marinade evenly. Cover and put the marinate in the fridge for atleast 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

2) When ready to make, preheat oven to 375F. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray cooking oil.

3) Put chicken on skewers leaving ÂĽ inch between pieces

4) Place the skewers on the oiled baking tray and drip any leftover marinate on top of the pieces. Spray oil and put it in the oven for a total of 45 minutes, turning halfway through. Keep an eye out for the chicken might start to dry while cooking, in which case spray some more oil.

5) Take them out of the oven and place the skewers on a dish, served with cut tomatoes, onions and Pita bread along with the earlier prepared Tzatziki Sauce!

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Chicken Souvlaki Skewers

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Yummy in my tummy!!

While I was boring and just had water with lemon and mint, the hubby paired his food with red wine (Becker Vineyards Malbec) and really enjoyed the pairing. Now you are all set to enjoy the Mediterranean flavors in the comfort of your own home! Enjoy and do let me know how you liked these dishes.

TGIF!! Have a great weekend y’all 🙂

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~ Paneer Tikka!

Paneer Tikka is made of cubes of Paneer (fresh cheese commonly used in Indian cuisines), diced bell peppers (capsicum), tomatoes and red onions seasoned with yogurt based marinade, lemon juice and grilled to perfection.

This is a popular tandoori snack which can be easily made at home. It is an all time favorite vegetarian starter. Whenever we go out for dinner to a restaurant, Paneer Tikka is a default choice for the starters. This is not to be confused with Paneer Tikka Masala as that is a gravy dish served in main course whereas this is a dry dish, mainly an appetizer.

There are many variations to make this yummy dish, below I am sharing the step by step recipe on how I make Paneer Tikka. You can make this on a grill, in the oven or on stove-top. The preparation procedure remains the same, the method and cooking time varies. I have included the directions for all 3 methods below.

Time to marinate: 4-5 hours or overnight in the fridge. You could marinate it for as little as 2 hours if running short on time, but the longer it marinates, the richer the flavors get. You can use homemade Paneer, but I use store bought (Nanak Paneer, available at any Indian grocery store).

Serving: 2-4 people

Ingredients:

Paneer – 400 grams cut into 1 inch cubes

1 big Red Onion cut into 1 inch pieces

1 big Green Bell Pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

2 medium size Tomatoes cut into wedges

You can add Red and Yellow Bell Peppers, Mushrooms or any other veggies as per your choice, but I would recommend not skipping the onion and the bell pepper as they add crunch and fresh flavors to the otherwise soft paneer.

Cooking Spray (I use PAM)

1.5 – 2 cups yogurt to marinate

Wooden or Metal Skewers – if you are using metal skewers, grease them beforehand. If using wooden skewers then soak them in water for 20 minutes prior to use, to prevent them from burning during cooking.

Coriander/Cilantro for garnish

Spices for the marinade:

Either use 4 tablespoons of Tandoori Spice (in which case this is all you need along with adding salt to taste. MDH is a good brand and available in any Indian Grocery Store) or you could use individual spices as follows:

1 teaspoon Ginger-Garlic Paste

2 teaspoons Turmeric

1 teaspoon Red Chilly Powder

1 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder

2 teaspoons Dhaniya (Coriander) Powder

1 teaspoon of Kasturi Methi (Fenugreek leaves)

1 teaspoon Dried Mint Leaves

1 teaspoon Chaat Masala

1 teaspoon Amchur Powder

Salt according to taste

Juice of 1 small lemon (adjust according to taste)

** You can find all these spices at an Indian Store or in the spice aisle of Kroger or Walmart**

Preparation Procedure:

1) Cut all veggies and paneer as desired

** The bigger pieces of the veggies and paneer make it easy to put them on the skewers without breaking. **

2) In a big bowl, whisk the yogurt and mix spices, add kasturi methi and mint leaves as well. Then add all the paneer cubes to the mix

3) Refrigerate for 4-5 hours (as I mentioned earlier, you can also marinate overnight, the longer the time, the more tasteful it gets but I find 4-5 hours does the trick for me). Make sure to take it out of the fridge an hour prior to cooking to bring it to room temperature

4) Put the veggies and paneer on to skewers – you can change the order of how you skew the vegetables and paneer but keep paneer in the middle to ensure it is cooked thoroughly. Leave enough space between veggies and paneer cubes on the skewer so that they get cooked evenly.

Cooking Methods:

In the Oven:

– Preheat oven to 350 deg F / 180 deg C

– Take a baking tray and line it with foil, spray cooking oil and line up the readied skewers on the baking tray and spray/brush cooking oil on it

– Bake the paneer tikka for 20-25 minutes and then turn the skewers, brush/spray some more oil and return to the oven

– Bake further for 10-15 minutes or until you see the desired crusty look on the paneer and veggies

– Take out and line it on a plate, garnish with coriander leaves. Your paneer tikka is ready to be served!

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Paneer Tikka cooked in the oven.

On the Grill:

– Start the grill as usual, clean it before starting to grill

– Spray well with cooking oil to eliminate the paneer and veggies sticking to the grill. Be careful when spraying oil on the grill to avoid fire or burns

– Line up the readied skewers on the grill and spray/brush cooking oil on them

– Grill and turn the paneer tikka till you see the desired charred look on the paneer and veggies, usually within 15 minutes

– Take out and line it on a plate, garnish with coriander leaves. Your paneer tikka is ready to be served!

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Paneer Tikka cooked on the grill.

Stove-Top:

– Brush the veggies and paneer with oil from all sides

–  Heat a non-stick pan on low or medium flame. When it’s hot, place the skewers on the pan, shallow fry them. Turn it and cook all the sides till it is golden brown about 2-3 minutes on each side. You can also fry the paneer and veggies directly (not on skewers)

– When one side gets browned, turn them over, but be gentle so as to not break the tender paneer pieces.

– Since the paneer gets cooked faster than the veggies, if you want to cook the veggies till they are either well done or charred, it is best to cook the paneer and veggies separately

– Take out and line it on a plate, garnish with coriander leaves. Your paneer tikka is ready to be served!

** This method of cooking results in paneer tikka which is crispier on the outside than the oven/grill version. **

Some tips:

– You can even marinate the veggies if you would like to. I have made this dish either way and it comes out just as yummy! If you decide to marinate the veggies also, double the quantities of the spices and yogurt mentioned above which making the marinade.

– Chaat Masala and Amchur Powder can be added to the marinade or sprinkled on the readied dish, before serving, either way works just fine.

– If choosing the stove-top method for cooking, you can also add two tablespoon Besan (Gram Flour) to the marinade (this prevents paneer from sticking to the pan and will give a nice taste).

– Over cooking the paneer makes it rubbery, so keep to the mentioned time and temperature and the paneer should be soft.

Paneer Tikka is best served hot with mint chutney or coriander chutney, some even prefer ketchup! Enjoy your dish and I hope you like it!!

This was my first time sharing a recipe so please pardon if I have missed explaining any step and feel free to ask your questions in the comments or even give me feedback on how I can make recipe sharing easier/quicker. And definitely let me know how you liked it!!