Summer’s Bounty…

 

I’ve been telling you all for weeks about the produce my Dad’s garden is producing.  Over the weekend, he came for a visit, and brought even more.  Check it…

And since there really isn’t much there for scale, that is a 6.5 pound bowl of cucumbers!  My thumb has not been that green, unless you count these green onions, but I don’t.  I have no problem, though, accepting the fruits of someone else’s labours, and I will do it with a smile.

Since I have such an abundance of cucumber, I decided to make my favorite cucumber food, after pickles, that is.

Tzatziki, is the cucumber sauce that Greeks put on gyros, and I love me some gyros.  What made me fall in love with gyros, and tzatziki was a trip to New York City.  I went with a school trip, and we happened upon a Greek festival.  We got lunch at one of the tents, and it was truly love at first bite.  I think I would have drank the sauce had I been alone.  I’m pretty sure I licked the drippings off the wrapper.  You won’t tell anyone, will you?

I’ve mentioned before that I make pita bread all the time, it’s super simple, but I’m not sure I’ve ever posted about it, and I know I’ve never posted about tzatziki.  Heck, I’ve never even made tzatziki.

So, armed with my camera, I photographed the entire process.  I know, I’ve really been trying to step it up around here.

I’ll start with the tzatziki, mostly because I’m tired of typing the word, and want to get it out of the way.

I found a recipe online, but then I didn’t really follow it.  I’m a rebel like that.

The basics for tzatziki are Greek yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and salt, and if you ask me, the amounts are really up to you.

I sorted through my cucumbers, and chose the ones that looked like they needed to be used first, so they aren’t the prettiest.

The recipe said to skin, de-seed, and shred them.  I didn’t.  Whoops.  Instead, I cut the ends off, cut them in half, de-seeded them, and tossed them into the food processor.  I find the easiest way to de-seed anything is with a grapefruit spoon.  It’s so easy even a three year old can do it.

A grapefruit spoon really is an indispensable kitchen tool.  I stole mine from my grandmother’s kitchen – she wasn’t using them anymore, don’t worry.  I use them to clean out peppers, squash, and now cucumbers.

Once they were tossed into the processor, I set my little sous chef to work.

I really believe in getting kids into the kitchen, it’s good for them, and if it all works out right, I will have perfectly trained servants in the near future.  meuh-HAHAHAHA…..

Anyway, while he chopped away, I added only two of the suggested four garlic cloves, an entire tub of Fage yogurt (17.6 oz I think), salt, and two tablespoons of olive oil, oh, and enough vinegar to make it taste good and tangy.  But it still wasn’t right.  It needed more cucumber.  Yay!  I added another small, not too pretty cuke, and all was heaven.  Son wouldn’t stop eating it out of the bowl.

And now for the pita bread.

Pita bread is one of the most simple breads to make, next to flour tortillas if you ask me, and the flavour for the time put in is ridiculous, but you will need to start in the morning, or maybe the night before, if you are pressed for time.

In a large bowl, combine 2.5 cups of warm water with 2 tablespoons of instant yeast, and stir to dissolve.  Then, mix in 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time.

Now when I do this, I break from the original recipe (I know, you can’t believe it can you) and use only 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of 3 to 4, and finish off with regular unbleached white flour.  I have found that the extra wheat flour makes the pita bread a bit bitter to me, but then again, I think “hoppy” beer is bitter, though I’ve been informed that it is in fact not, so you may want to up your wheat.

Once the 3 cups of flour are mixed in, stir the mixture (really called a sponge) 100 times in the same direction.  This will activate the gluten, and it’s a great workout for your arms.  Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside for 30 minutes to 2.5 hours – the longer you let it sit, the better the flavour will be.

After the 2 hours, sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt (I like it heaping) over the sponge, pour in 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, and begin mixing in more flour, one cup at a time, until you can no longer stir the dough in the bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface, and knead for 8-10 minutes.  I add flour during this time until the dough in no longer super-sticky, and only tacky if I let it sit.  You will know you are done kneading when the dough begins to toughen up, becomes smoothish, and springs back when you poke it with your finger.

Return it to the bowl, and cover with the plastic wrap.  Let it sit for 8 hours, or stash in the fridge over night.  When you are ready to make your pitas, divide the dough into thirds, and then choose one of those thirds, and divide into 8 more pieces.  The other 2/3s of the dough can be placed in the fridge, and eaten on all week, and the flavour gets better each day.

The above picture is all the dough, with a few pieces simply pulled off.  You will want to roll your pieces into balls, and then with a liberally floured surface and rolling pin, begin to flatten them into rounds that are approximately 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.  And heat your cast iron skillet to medium high heat.

Don’t worry if yours don’t roll out into pretty little circles, mine never do.

Now the most important part about making pitas is the next step.  Place your flattened dough onto the skillet (I use a cast iron griddle) and count.  Yes count.  Count to 10, slowly, not like you’re playing hide and seek.  Count like you’re doing exercise.

After you get to ten, flip the pita over, and cross your fingers.  If the pita gods are happy with you, your pitas will begin to puff.

Can you tell it’s puffing?  It doesn’t always work for me.  I must have held my face just right.

Once you begin to smell baking bread, or worse, burning bread, flip the pit back over, and watch it puff up some more.  Don’t worry if you get a burn spot here and there, it will still taste ok, but turn your temperature down a bit.

If you want to keep them warm until dinner, put them into a tortilla box, or wrap in aluminum foil and towels.

For our gyros, I used some left over steak, lettuce, tomatoes, kalamata olives, and that tzatziki sauce.  I forgot the feta at the grocery store.

So, for an easy to follow recipe list…

Tzatziki

  • Cucumbers (to taste)
  • Greek yogurt (1-2 cups)
  • Garlic, minced (2-4 cloves – the more you use, the spicier it will be)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Vinegar (to taste)
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil

 

Cut and de-seed the cucumbers, peel if desired.  Place cucumbers into food processor with garlic, and pulse until finely chopped.  Add yogurt, salt, oil, and vinegar and blend.

Taste, and adjust as needed.

 

Pita

 

  • 5-6 Cups Flour (a mix of wheat and white)
  • 2 TBS instant Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 Cups warm water
Pour water into a large bowel, sprinkle on yeast, and stir to dissolve.
Add 3 cups flour, one cup at a time, stirring until blended.  Then, stir 100 times, in the same direction, to activate gluten.  Cover with plastic, and let sit for 30 mintues to 2.5 hours.
Sprinkle salt over dough, add oil, and stir.  Then mix in flour, one cup at a time, until you can no longer stir dough.
Turn onto heavily floured surface.  Knead dough, adding flour as needed, for 8-10 minutes, or until dough is smooth, soft, and springing.  Dough will still be a bit tacky, but not so sticky that you can’t escape.
Return dough to bowl, and cover.  Let rise for 8 hours, or place in the fridge over night.
Heat cast iron skillet or griddle to medium-high heat.
Divide the dough into thirds, placing two of those thirds into a bag, and refrigerate.  Divide the remaining third into eight equal pieces, and roll into balls.
Flour counter and rolling pin liberally.  Roll dough balls into 1/4-1/8 inch flats.
Place one pita on griddle, and count to 10.  Flip pita over.
Cook until you can smell the bread cooking, and then flip again.
Cook until lightly browned.
Repeat for all dough.
To keep pita warm, place in foil wrapped with towels – or a tortilla box.
I hope you enjoy my take on recipes.  How do you interpret recipes?  Do you use them as guidelines, like I do, or are you more of a “written in stone” kind of cook?
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1 Comment

Filed under Cooking, Musings, Save my Wallet, Save the Earth

One response to “Summer’s Bounty…

  1. Pamela

    Two things. One, I’m very jealous of your big supply of cucumbers. I am extremely upset that they are costing about .50 at the grocery store…I love to eat mine with chile, lime, and salt. My mouth is salivating just thinking about it. Two, that dish you made there looks DELICIOUS. I’ve been wanting to make that cucumber saucy thing ever since we went to a greek restaurant. Okay, so that was more than two things.

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