Doing it Greek-style

In Recipies on July 7, 2011 at 8:35 am

Mrs. Phyne Dyner tells of an interesting encounter at a recent business meeting.

The from-out-of-town meeting host inquired about a “good place to get sushi”.  A bubbly twenty-something immediately offered up the name of a local, trendy seafood place.  Mrs. Phyne Dyner did not say a word.  She related her thoughts to me later:

“I fought back the urge to ask the young lady where one would get bad sushi.  After all, if you know the places for good sushi, you will probably know where the bad stuff is served.  If not, you do not eat much sushi and merely coughed up the name of the trendy place for its currency in the status department.”

And there is the point.  If you can make great food in your own kitchen, why pay someone a premium price just for the sake of “hip” or “trendy”?  Are you eating good food?  Or, are you paying a premium price so others can think you know good food?

Reality tells us that the people seeking to impress others by eating where they are “seen” probably do not know good food from slop.  But, hey, it is their money.  It is “hip” and “trendy” to buy things you cannot afford…to impress people you really do not like.

I love Greek foods!  But I do not need to know the name of a “good” Greek restaurant when I want Greek-styled cuisine.

Which leads us to the recipe(s) of the week.

It is, of course, Greek!

After a month of meatless shugyo, we were craving something grilled.  So, we decided to start with a Greek barbeque using a mild meat.

Greek food has all of the flavors I adore.

Copious amounts of lemon juice fires up flavors without the need for salt.  Garlic adds those delightfully pungent tones to Greek dishes.  Mint, thyme, rosemary, and oregano round out the herbs.  Then, cooking the foods over a wood or charcoal fire brings out the authenticity of many Greek dishes, especially meats and vegetables.

What’s not to like?

We will start with the meat for our Greek feast:

Greek-style Grilled Chicken Thighs

4 large chicken thighs, skin on

1 C olive oil

½ C lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried mint

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp dried thyme

½ C (packed) fresh mint leaves

½ C (packed) fresh oregano leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a deep glass dish, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, dried mint, dried oregano, and dried thyme.  Lay the chicken thighs in the marinade and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.  Marinate for six hours, turning pieces over every two hours.  About an hour before cooking begins, add in the fresh oregano and mint leaves (Save some for sprinkling on the Greek salad you will serve with your grilled meat.)

The Vegetables

1 very large, sweet onion, cut into large chunks and broken down into leaves

2 large red, sweet peppers, cut into large pieces

1 lb large, white mushrooms (cleaned)

1-2 peeled carrots per person

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS zatar (or za’atar, or zaatar)

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

Bamboo skewers (or metal)

Skewer onion, whole mushrooms, and sweet peppers on skewers.  Grill the carrots un-skewered.  If you are using bamboo skewers, you should pre-soak them for about an hour prior to cooking time.  I prefer the metal skewers for their convenience.  Mine have square shafts that help keep the foods on them from spinning.


One piece of pita bread per person

The Cooking Begins

Build a hot charcoal or wood fire, leaving a small area absent of fuel for a “safe” zone.  Throw a few big chunks of aromatic wood on the fire that have been soaking in water for at least thirty minutes.  While the fire is getting ready, assemble all of your tools and grilling necessities.  When ready, the fire should be hot…but not overly so!

These include:

Two small bowls of olive oil, one-half of a large onion skewered on a long fork, tongs, heavy gloves, and do not forget the marinade!

After cleaning the grill grates with a wire brush, dip the onion half into one of the bowls of olive oil and rub it on the grates to lubricate them.  Do not worry if there is a brief flare-up.

Now, place the chicken pieces over the hottest portion of the fire.  Brush a bit of marinade over each piece.  Move the pieces to your ‘safe zone’ if they appear to be cooking too rapidly or begin to scorch.  When the skin is deep brown with some charred areas (4-6 minutes), brush some oil on the chicken and turn it over.  Now, baste the chicken with a bit of marinade.  Be sure to scoop up some of the mint and oregano leaves and lay a spoonful on top of each chicken piece.  Practice food safety!  Do not use the marinade for further basting.  When the skin on the bottom side is also deep brown, you are ready to finish grilling it at a lower temperature.

Move the chicken to a cooler zone on your grill.  Brush each skewer of vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle them with zatar.  Place on the hot portion of the grill.  Very heavy, leather gloves are best to handle skewers on the grill.  When

Lean in, take a whiff!

the edges begin to char, turn them by ¼ of a turn.  Repeat until the vegetables have a nice, uniform light char all the way around them (about 15 minutes, total).  Season with kosher salt and pepper.  Move the vegetable skewers to the cooler part of the grill while you toast your pita.

Re-lubricate the hot portion of the grill grates with your oil-soaked onion.  Now, brush a bit of oil onto one side of the pita and place the bread over the hot portion of your grill.  Toast for 1-3 minutes.  Then, brush oil on the top of each pita and flip them like pancakes.  Grill the pita to your desired level of “doneness”.  We enjoy ours deeply golden in color and almost crisp in texture.  Move the toasted pita to the coolest part of the grill while you check your chicken for doneness.

Wait for it!

Use an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each piece of chicken (not next to the bone).  The internal temperature should be about 180 degrees.  If needed, you can move the chicken back to the hotter part of the grill to finish cooking.  A far more subjective way to check, is to be sure any juices from the chicken are running clear.

De-skewer the vegetables on a bed of basmati rice, along with the chicken.  Serve with the pita and a Greek salad.


I have used this marinade with boneless lamb and goat instead of chicken.  It is astoundingly good!  Be sure not to over-cook the lamb if you use it.  Goat is just, plain good any way you cook it.  If you have never tried goat meat, this is the best recipe for exploring this often-forgotten meat of antiquity.

At last!


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