Party like a Greek ... Opa!
Updated: Jun 23, 2020
Having been married to a Greek for 27 years (dang, that's a long time) my diet certainly has changed. I have evolved to embrace the Mediterranean diet including EVERY DROP of olive oil! My mother-in-law has taught me numerous Greek recipes, while others I learned on my own. Two things I know for sure are that Greeks LOVE to eat and they KNOW how to party! While many envision a Greek party as a group of Greeks dancing around lamb roasting on an open spit; in reality, this is difficult to mimic in the urban USA. So for a Greek wannabee, like me, making lamb chops on an outdoor wood-burning ceramic grill is a close approximation.
Grilled Greek Lamb Chops
Lamb is likely the most popular meat consumed in Greece. Lamb is abundant throughout the villages and is typically eaten when it is young and very tender. The recipe that I will share with you is one that I have made numerous times and is ALWAYS a FAVORITE!!! I actually learned it at my Greek "cousin-in-law's" wedding where it was served as an hors d'oeuvre. They are grilled Greek Lamb chops and I often serve them alongside Greek Salad, a warm baguette or pita bread, some Feta cheese, and Kalamata olives.
In typical "Greek fashion" this lamb chop recipe is very "laid back" in the sense that I don't have EXACT measurements, BUT I guarantee that you cannot mess this up! Greeks simply don't recognize measurements. I am convinced that it is NOT in their culinary vocabulary!
Lamb Chops Recipe:
Try to buy Domestic fresh lamb or Australian or New Zealand lamb chops. Fresh is best, try to avoid frozen.
Wash well, then cut the rack of lamb into individual chops. Salt and pepper each side.
Make a marinade using ALL FRESH INGREDIENTS. Mix together in a food processor "a bunch" of parsley, "several sprigs" of sage, rosemary, thyme, and mint, 2-3 garlic cloves, lemon zest (from one lemon), one shallot, and finally the olive oil. Add enough olive oil to form a thin paste.
Brush the marinade onto both sides of the baby lamb chops, cover, and place into the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight. (I always marinate them the night before)
Grill the chops on high heat (~500 F) and grill 1.5-2 min per side. It is a very fast cook and is best cooked to a medium-rare. Do not overcook. Ok to leave a little fat on each chop because it burns off during the high temp cooking.
If you don't have access to a grill then you can place chops on a baking tray with a drip pan to collect the fat. Roast them in the oven at about 500 F or broil for a couple of min per side until medium-rare.
These grilled chops pair beautifully with a refreshing Tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki is a sauce or dip made of yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, salt, extra virgin olive oil, and a little vinegar. Sometimes lemon juice, dill, or mint can be added. This flavorful sauce is served cold. It makes for a delicious topping over lamb or other meats such as souvlakia and gyros. It can also be used separately as a dip for raw vegetables or pita bread.
2 cups of plain full-fat yogurt (I use the Fage Total 5% milkfat)
1 large cucumber; peeled, seeded and grated
2 cloves of garlic; pressed or finely minced
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Start by grating the peeled and seeded cucumber. Let sit in a bowl for several minutes to release its juices.
Meanwhile combine the yogurt with the pressed garlic. Squeeze the excess juice from the grated cucumber and add it to the yogurt. Add the EVOO, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Mix to combine. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for about an hour to allow time for flavors to blend well. Serve cold.
Authentic Greek Salad
Through my frequent travels to Greece, I have come to learn the essential ingredients of an authentic Greek Salad ... and it does NOT contain lettuce greens! A good Greek Salad is made of high-quality feta cheese, fully ripened tomatoes (in season!!), plump Kalamata olives, slivers of red onion, fresh cucumbers, (occasionally, slices of peppers) and aromatic oregano. This combination is then drizzled with an olive oil vinaigrette. This is a salad that I typically only make in the summer because I feel that the quality and ripeness of the tomatoes will make or break the success of this salad. In my opinion, store-bought, flavorless, out of season tomatoes will completely torpedo it! I usually break the feta into smaller pieces and layer them throughout my salad, but I have seen many times in Greece where the feta is retained as one large chunk and laid on the top of the salad.
Greek salad recipe:
3-4 large RIPE tomatoes cut into chunks (or cherry tomatoes cut in half)
2 English cucumbers cut into thick slices (or 6 Persian cucumbers)
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Kalamata olives, whole or thinly sliced
2 peppers, sliced
Few chunks of feta cheese, left whole or crumbled
Greek oregano, sprinkle
Dressing: Mix 1/4 c. red-wine vinegar, 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Layer the salad ingredients in a serving bowl. Alternating a little of each and repeating.
Finish off with a drizzle of the red wine vinaigrette emulsion.
The above makes for a delicious and authentic Greek summer meal. Combine with either warm pita bread or a warmed baguette. Serve some whole Kalamata olives and chunks of tangy feta cheese on the side. Paired with a glass of nice red wine, you need nothing more!
Bon appetit, or as we say in Greek ... Kali orexi!