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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Rachael Ray's Gyros Loaf with the best tzatziki

This is one of my all - time favorite recipes.  It makes many appearances in my menu rotations.  I saw this recipe on one of Rachael Ray's shows (either the 30 Minute Meals or maybe her talk show) at least 3 or 4 years ago.  Since then, I must have made this recipe at least 20 - 25 times.  That says a lot because recipes that I regularly repeat are few and far between.    I love Middle Eastern/Arabic/Greek food.  We live in a location where if you ask for pita, they bring out some kind of meat and say, is this pita?  (Yes, this actually happened!).  So instead of driving 1 hour to get bleh Arabic food, I just make it at home.  This recipe will give you the flavors of a gyro, but remember, it is a loaf, not a whole piece of meat slow roasted on a spit.  :)

I started off making this with the frozen spinach, as the recipe indicates, but with ground chicken instead of the lamb. Almost a whole box of frozen spinach goes into this, which makes it so full of nutrition. Believe me, both of my picky children did not mind that there was spinach in there!  Once, I wanted to make this, but the box that I thought was frozen spinach turned out to be frozen butternut squash.  So I used chopped onions instead.  This dish is usally moist and delicious, but the flavor and added moistness from the onions made it even better!  I mostly make it with the onions now, but once in a while I go back to using frozen spinach.

Rachael Ray serves this with waffle fries and gravy and her version of tzatziki sauce.  I skip the waffle fries and have my own recipe for tzatziki (which is inspired by Ina Garten.  I know, I know. I'm all about the foodnetwork in this post!).

Pictured here with spinach.  The same loaf can be made with finely minced onions, if desired.

One of the best things about this recipe is that you can make extra and use the leftovers to make something new and equally satisfying.  I call it 'leftover makeover magic'.  If you go to my facebook page (ZK Food & Family), you'll find a whole album dedicated to leftovers and how they've been revamped.  Leftovers of this gyros loaf truly lend themselves to being transformed into yummy Mexican dishes.  Think quesadillas, tacos, and nachos.  I will show you how to do this in a future post.  For now, I'm sure my wonderfully creative readers will be able to use their imaginations and come up with their own versions.

I have left the recipe the way Rachael Ray created it.  I, however, being Indian and liking things spicier and more flavorful, like to reduce the meat by half (use 1 lb. ground chicken instead of 2 lb.) but reduce the spices only a little (rather than reducing the spices in the recipe by half).  So for example, the recipe calls for 2 TB of grill seasoning and 2 lbs of meat.  If you reduce the meat by half, you would generally reduce the grill seasoning by half as well.  I want my dish to be more flavorful, so I will put in 1 1/2 TB of grill seasoning rather than just 1.  I hope that make sense!

Here is the recipe, the way it was found on Rachael Ray's site (but minus the fries and gravy).  My version of the tzatziki sauce follows.  By the way, these pictures were taken before my brother let me borrow his fabulous camera, so the quality of pics is not as great as my other posts.  I'll be sure to update the pics when I make this again (and you can count on that being very soon).

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach (or 1 cup of finely minced onion)
2 pounds ground lamb
2 tablespoons grill seasoning, a couple of palm fulls
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
1 tablespoon chili powder, a palm full
1 tablespoon coriander, a palm full
1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/3 palm full
2 to 3 pinches ground cinnamon
1 cup feta crumbles
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 small clove garlic, grated
1/4 cucumber, peeled and grated
1 lemon, juiced
2 vine ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
Hot pepper rings, sliced banana peppers, for sandwich garnish
8 pita breads

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. (Edit:  For the ground chicken, I preheat to 400 degrees F).

Defrost spinach in microwave. Place lamb in a bowl. Add grill seasoning, 2 teaspoons cumin, chili powder, coriander, oregano, cinnamon and feta crumbles. Wring the spinach dry in a kitchen towel and add to lamb. Mix the lamb and form a long 3-inch roll on a baking sheet. Coat lamb with extra-virgin olive oil and bake 20 minutes. (For the ground chicken, I only cook it for 15 minutes, and make sure the chicken is at 165 degrees F).

Mix yogurt, a grated clove of garlic, cucumber, the juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 teaspoon cumin. Slice and reserve the tomatoes, cucumbers and drain hot peppers, chop and reserve.

Soften pita over open gas flame or under broiler.

Slice lamb loaf into 1/4-inch slices. Spread yogurt on pitas and top with a 2 slices of lamb, tomatoes, cucumbers and hot peppers. Serve 2 pitas per person. (I don't use hot peppers.  I do serve it with sliced onions as well and more feta cheese on the side).  Here I am serving it with store bought hummus, but making your own is not difficult at all.  I will provide my recipe soon!

My version of tzatziki (inspired by Ina Garten)

1 pound (1 pint) plain yogurt (whole milk or low fat) (I use Greek yogurt)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled and seeded
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (I grate mine)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh dill (I often use dried dill, about 3/4 tsp)
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp sugar (optional - I add this to mellow out the tartness of the sauce. Ina Garten does not add this).

Place the yogurt in a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined sieve and set it over a bowl. (I use greek yogurt, so I skip this step). Grate the cucumber and toss it with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt; place it in another sieve, and set it over another bowl. Place both bowls in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours so the yogurt and cucumber can drain.

Transfer the thickened yogurt to a large bowl. Squeeze as much liquid from the cucumber as you can and add the cucumber to the yogurt. Mix in the sour cream, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dill, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper. You can serve it immediately, but I prefer to allow the tzatziki to sit in the refrigerator for a few hours for the flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

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