Let's go Greek, once again! A few weeks ago I posted about Greek lamb chops, authentic Greek Salad, and Tzatziki, but it's time to add to our Greek table. Greeks love to eat, and their table is always loaded with delicious selections. So, pull out your skewers and let's make some marinade, as we prepare Souvlakia. I'll add some Greek-style Green Beans to serve as a side.
Having traveled to Greece numerous times, I can say that souvlakia is THEIR "fast food". You can buy them at the corner kiosks, at the beach or in restaurants. In Greece, they are typically made with pork, however, the recipe can EASILY accommodate chicken or lamb. My husband and I regularly order a stick or two on the beach with a Greek salad or fries as our midday meal. It is usually just enough to tie us over until our late seaside dinner of fresh grilled fish or stuffed calamari or other Greek delicacies.
At home, in the USA, I frequently make Greek Souvlakia and usually accompany them with Greek Green beans, Greek Salad, Tzatziki, Kalamata olives, chunks of Feta cheese, pita bread, or perhaps even some Spanakopita. I plan to cover Spanakopita in a future post ... when we can, again, add to our Greek Table! I typically make them with either chicken breast or pork tenderloin. Souvlakia, though, are easy, a crowd-pleaser, and scream the Mediterranean!
Before I divulge the marinade recipe, I have to share a bit of history ... because that's just how I do it! While many would think that souvlakia are fast food originating from the Ottoman years (and may even refer to it as shish kabobs), that is not true, 'Souvlaki' is synonymous with Greek food. Archaeological findings and writings actually support the understanding that souvlaki comes from the Ancient Greeks. Small pieces of meat grilled on a spit actually date to ancient Greece. It was known as obeliskos (=spit) mentioned in works by Aristophanes, Aristotle, and others. In Archaic Greece (` ~650 - 480 BC) they skewered the chunks of meat and set them on stone sets over hot coals. Centuries later, during the Byzantine era (300-1400 AD), references describe street vendors selling souvlakia accompanied by pita bread in Constantinople. While Greeks have traditionally made souvlakia using pork, Turks and Arabs later made the comparable shish kabobs, using lamb.
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, pressed
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 - 2 lbs. meat, cubed (pork, chicken or lamb)
1 large red onion, cut into chunks
2 red or orange bell peppers, cut into pieces
Cut meat into small cubes and place them into a large sealable bag. Mix marinade ingredients together and pour into the bag, over the meat. Squeeze out excess air, seal, and place in the refrigerator. (Tip: Marinate the meat no more than 3-4 hours prior to grilling, lest the acid in the lemon juice will begin to toughen the meat.)
Prior to grilling, remove the meat from the refrigerator. Spray several 12" metal rods with non-stick cooking spray. Skewer the meat cubes onto the rods, alternating with pieces of red onion and/or, bell peppers. Grill, ideally on a hardwood charcoal grill at about 500 F, rotating the rods by quarter turns until all sides thoroughly cooked through. The souvlakia take approximately 10 minutes to cook through.
Can serve with rice, Greek Salad, or Greek-style Green Beans.
Greek-style Green Beans Recipe
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes, with juice
1/2 (6 oz ) can tomato paste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp sweet paprika
1-1/2 - 2 lbs fresh green beans, washed and ends trimmed
~ 4 cups of water (may need more as cooks)
Combine the first 10 ingredients (onion through paprika) together in a pot. Bring to boil while prepping the green beans. Add the green beans to the sauce. Then the 4 cups of water. Mix together and bring back to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer. Let cook on low for a couple of hours until the sauce thickens and the green beans become tender. May need to add a little bit more water if it boils off too quickly and the green beans are not yet done. (Don't overcook, though, lest the green beans will get mushy.) Taste and adjust salt and pepper, as desired.
Your Greek table is slowly expanding and I will add more to it, again, very soon. If you are able to travel to Greece, then I urge you to go. Eating these foods there somehow tastes even better. If that is not an option, then try to explore Hellenic festivals in your local communities or nearby Eastern Orthodox Churches. In the meantime try these recipes in your own kitchens or backyards. Greek food is delicious and Greek YiaYias cook it well!! Before long you, too, will reach star "YiaYia status!" ⭐️⭐️⭐️