8/11/09

Chicken Souvlaki or "Grilled Chicken on Pita's with a creamy cucumber sauce"

Souvlaki. Growing up in the heartland of the Midwest I can guarantee that I never once heard this dish uttered not only in my own household, but my friends, extended family or even saw it in any of the cookbooks that I surrounded myself with. Now, a couple decades later it very well has made it's way to the bread basket of America and small town life. It's even served at local county fairs... but you probably haven't heard it called Souvlaki.

If I asked you if you've had it you might say 'no'. If I ask you if you've had grilled chicken on pita bread with tomatoes, onions, and a cool yogurt and cucumber sauce you might say "Oh! Yes I've made that!" or "I just had that at the local fair last week!"

And you would be right.

We are possibly having guests from out of town both Wednesday night and Sunday. If the sunshine holds out and the weather is perfect for grilling this is going to be a delicious summer meal to serve with a glass of wine or even a non-alcoholic raspberry or cranberry drink.


Chicken Souvlaki

2 cups plain yogurt
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise, peeled, seeded, and grated
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 clove garlic, minced
Fresh-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4), cut into 1-inch cubes
4 pitas
6 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
2 tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
1/3 cup black olives or Kalamata, halved and pitted


First make the delicious cucumber/yogurt sauce; Put the yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a paper coffee filter and set it over a bowl. Let drain in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. In a medium glass or stainless-steel bowl, combine the cucumber with 1 teaspoon of the salt; let sit for about 15 minutes. Squeeze the cucumber to remove the liquid. Put the cucumber back in the bowl and stir in the drained yogurt, the garlic, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, and the dill.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, oregano, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Toss the chicken cubes in the oil mixture and thread them onto wooden skewers you have soaked in water or on metal skewers. Grill the chicken over high heat, turning once, until done, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Spread both sides of the pitas with the butter and grill or broil just a couple minutes,turning once, until golden. To serve, put the pitas on plates and top with the onion, tomatoes, and chicken skewers with any accumulated juices. Serve with the tzatziki and olives.
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