I have been to Greek restaurants ….once or twice, in Dallas. To say that my knowledge of Greek food is limited is an understatement. (I am learning now through visits to Kalofagas. ca, Kopiaste, History of Greek Food,Tobias Cooks and En Direct d’Athènes).
There is a Greek church in Dallas and when they hold their three-day festival in the fall, traffic stops at four street corners and people go nuts! From what I hear, thousands line up for hours to gorge on the food, eating till they drop. Greek food is very popular.
In fact, for the longest time, when middle-eastern folks were opening small cafés, they would advertise it as Greek food. (Confusing).
One time, years ago, propelled by curiosity, I spotted a package in the middle-eastern grocer that said GYRO meat. It was in the freezer section. I thought ” I am going to find out about this famous Gyro for myself!”. Inside were little rectangular pieces of a brown substance with the texture of the sole of a shoe. I could not tell if it was meat or a synthetic material. I fried it and still the taste was inconclusive. I decided right then and there that this could not possibly be authentic Greek food; and that I would either eat the real thing, or nothing! (I threw away the package!)
All I know is that this Gyro sandwich is a very popular one in the US. In fact, my friend Phoebe would sell thousands of these at her Egyptian church festival and use the processed meat I mentioned earlier; she has told me time and again that it was an amazing money maker for her church.
The other day, a well-intentioned friend brought me some Gyro bread.
I was perplexed: What do I do? Feed it to the ducks? Get a recipe and make the real thing?
Since I am Lebanese and a tad lazy, I opted for a Lebanese kaftasandwich, open-faced, with Lebanese yogurt salad and Lebanese-style herbs.What is Kafta?
Kafta is our all-purpose meatloaf, eaten baked or grilled in a kebab, or served in pita sandwiches for a mezze (appetizer). It is ground lamb with chopped onion, chopped parsley and the usual seasoning of allspice and cinnamon.
If eaten as a sandwich, it is placed on aparsley, onion and sumac mixture. Served with tomatoes, yogurt sauce or laban w khyar.
NOT FANCY. More like street food, or food you buy at the butcher in Beirut, already cooked and eat at home.
MAKE THE KAFTA and the Herb salad at the same time:
INGREDIENTS: For the kafta:
- 1 pound of ground lamb
- 1 onion
- a handful of parsley
- salt, pepper, allspice and cinnamon (1 teaspoon and 1/2 teaspoon), Aleppo hot red pepper (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes, drained of their juices (optional)
For the herb salad:
- 1 bunch of Italian or flat-leaves parsley
- 1 red onion
- 1 Tablespoon of sumac powder
For the yogurt dressing:
- 2 cups of lowfat yogurt
- several Persian cucumbers or several sticks of celery
- 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
- a dash of dried mint
- Using a food processor, chop the onions for both the meat and the herb salad.
- Place the onions for the herb salad in a bowl. Take the other half of the onion and fry in a little oil for 10 minutes.
- Chop the parsley in the processor; take all the parsley minus 1/4 cup or so and add to the onion salad in a bowl. Add the sumac and mix well with a spoon.
- Add the meat and the fried onion to the remaining parsley and process for a few minutes, adding the spices, until the mixture is pasty and hold together well. Add the tomatoes last (if using) and process a few seconds.
- Place the breads on a cookie sheet lined with foil; Drop a generous portion of the meat mixture on the bread, spreading it with the help of a plastic wrap placed over it. Heat the oven to 400F.
- Bake the meat covered breads in the oven or on a grill for about 10 minutes until the meat is cooked.
- While the meat cooks, prepare the yogurt dressing: chop the cucumbers, mash the garlic, add it to the yogurt with a dash of mint.
- Serve the gyros with the herb mixture on top and some yogurt; serve tomato slices on the side if you like.
NOTE: I added some diced and drained tomatoes to the meat; this is done when the kafta is served in a pita bread for an appetizer; however, the classic kafta does not have any tomatoes. (You can also add dried tomatoes).
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