Souvlaki and Rice

Every time I go to the grocery store, I check the mark-down meat bin. Whenever there isPork Souvlaki - done cubed pork on sale, I buy it because I can make either Pork Green Chili (I’ll have that recipe for you soon) or Pork Souvlaki. That’s the beauty of pork – it’s flavorful but also basic enough that it can adapt to different types of ethnic cuisine such as Mexican and Greek in this case.

One of my best tips is to buy a large pork loin (not the smaller tenderloin) from your “big box” store. I divide it into thirds and keep 1/3 for a pork roast, 1/3 gets sliced into pork chops that are very lean and 1/3 gets cubed – 3 meals from one bug hunk of meat!

Here’s how I make my family’s favorite pork souvlaki with rice.

Pork SouvlakiPork Souvlaki - cooking

1 pound cubed pork (you can also cube your own from thick-cut pork chops or pork loin)
3 cloves of garlic roughly sliced (not diced)
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup lemon juice (bottled is okay but fresh is always better)
1 TBS dried oregano, divided
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Put all of the ingredients including 1 tsp of the oregano in a zipper bag. Seal it and squeeze out the air. Smoosh things around making sure all of the ingredients get distributed well.

2. Put the bag ‘o pork in the fridge for six to eight hours. (You could prepare the bag before you go to work and then cook it for dinner). Don’t leave it much longer than 10 hours or the lemon causes the pork’s texture to get a little weird.
3. Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet and heat it up until the oil starts to shimmer. Carefully pour the contents of the plastic bag into the skillet. Distribute it evenly over the bottom of the pan.
4. Let the meat cook, turning it over with a large spatula, as it browns. If your pan was hot enough and you waited long enough before turning, the meat will turn over easily, will be nicely browned and you won’t leave a layer of nice meat crust behind.
5. As you are cooking the meat, sprinkle some more oregano over the meat, crumbling it between your fingers as you do to release more flavor.
6. If there isn’t any marinade liquid left in the pan, add a little more olive oil and lemon juice to make some liquid.
7. Finish off by adding a little more crumbled oregano. I do this often with herbs and spices because they change as they cook. I want multiple layers of flavor from herbs! Serve the souvlaki over the rice, being sure to drizzle the liquid over the combination. 

To accompany the meal, make a nice Greek Salad with greens, tomatoes, cucumber and an olive oil/lemon juice dressing. The crisp coolness adds a nice counterpoint to the meat and rice.

Rosamarina Rice

Coconut Curry Chicken

Every time I make rice, I make it this way, with rosamarina because it just tastes so darned good!

1/4 cup rosamarina, also called orzo, found in the pasta section of the store
2 cups rice
4-1/4 to 4-1/2 cups water (or chicken stock)* 
3-4 bouillon cubes (if using water instead of stock)

Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter in a pot. Add the rosamarina and stir almost constantly until it starts to brown. At this point, it will burn quickly so before that can happen, pour the rice over it and stir to prevent the rosamarina from continuing to sit on the bottom of the pan. The butter that’s still in the pan will lightly coat the rice/rosamarina, adding some flavor.

Add the water/bouillon and stir. Let the mixture come to a boil. As soon as it does, cover the pot, turn the heat to low and let it sit to start absorbing the liquid. This usually takes about 20 minutes so I try to time the coordination of making rice with making the entree so they are done around the same time. Resist the urge to lift up the lid or stir the rice because it will affect how the rice turns out.

* Normally, you would use twice as much liquid as rice. But because the 1/4 cup of rosamarina is over and above the rice amount, I increase the liquid. Start with 4-1/4 cups of liquid but then check the rice as it starts to absorb all of its liquid. If it isn’t done, add that other 1/2 cup of liquid. Rosamarina and rice cook at slightly different rates, which accounts for the variations in liquid at the end. 

Drizzle a little olive oil over the rice – it’s so good that way!

Good eats with international flavor By Edan Goode

Pete’s Gyros Place

2819 E. Colfax Ave. (at Detroit)/303-321-9658

The other day, as my children and I gave our mouths a final napkin-wiping, it occurred to me that I have never written a review of one of our favorite, standby family restaurants, Pete’s Gyros Place. How had so many meals and years of reviewing  gone by without me ever thinking I should let other families know about this little treasure? Was I subconsciously trying to keep it a secret? That’s pointless. Pete’s Gyros is an institution, as are the six other restaurants run by the friendly and white-haired Pete Contos.  Three of Pete’s restaurants are within steps of each other (including this one) and because of that (and I’m sure because of Pete’s long-standing presence in the restaurant industry in Denver), that stretch of East Colfax is called “Greektown”.  Shame on me for trying to keep the secret because this Pete’s is too good to keep to oneself.

Pete’s is a great place to take the kids for many reasons: 1. The food is consistently good and reasonably-priced 2. There’s a good kids’ menu  3. The same waitresses have been there forever and call you “honey” or “darling” whether this is your first time in the place or your 50th 4. The clientele is diverse 5. The mood is low-key with an old, greasy-spoon feel but not greasy-spoon cuisine. 6. It’s a great way to introduce kids to mediterranean food.

Having grown up on Greek food, I couldn’t wait to introduce my children to the wonders of things like Gyros meat (seasoned lamb and beef mysteriously pressed and placed on a large spindle which the cook then shaves off with a sickle of a device), souvlaki (marinated, cubed pork), Greek salad with feta cheese, Greek olives or warm pita bread.

When we first started going to Pete’s some 15 years ago, when the kids were little, I could get them to nibble at small amounts of meat or chicken as long as it was cloaked in warm pita bread followed by some perfectly crispy french fries. Nary an olive, bite of salad or anything at all adventurous would pass their lips. Now, however, their palates have matured enough that they will order the Gryos Sandwich and slather cool yogurt-based Tsatsiki sauce all over it and dig in. They’ll slurp lemony Avoglomono soup or chow down on the tangy Greek salad (get the dressing on the side or it will come drowning the greens).

On our recent visit, after having asked me for weeks to return to Pete’s, my daughter took the first bite  and exclaimed  “it’s a dream come true!”. Wow, when have you ever heard a kid say that…about a sandwich? Never!  The Greek specialties range from $7.50 for a Gyros Sandwich (with fries) to $15.95 for the Big Greek Combo (with a variety of traditional Greek dishes).

Before the kids became enraptured by the Greek food, they focused on breakfast standards like pancakes, omelets and platters, some of which get the Greek touch by adding Gyros or Souvlaki meat to them ($3.75 – $8.95). We’ve also tried the burger, Rueben and grilled cheese ($4.50 – $9.50) sandwiches which are more what you’d expect from a diner type of place.  Because of the American offerings, there is something to please everyone.

The Children’s Menu, for ages 10 and under includes Micro (“small” in Greek) versions of the Gyros, Souvlaki and grilled cheese sandwiches with fries or a breakfast combo for $3.95 each. A drink and cookie are included. You’ll have to remind the wait staff to bring the cookie because they routinely forget for some reason.

Go to Pete’s on the early side or for a late lunch or you’ll be left standing in the cramped entry area right next to where the waitresses butter toast and pick up orders.

Note: I have no tempting photo to entice you with in this blog because we ate everything before we thought to photograph it. Sorry. Let this Greek flag suffice until you go to Pete’s yourself.