Capture the taste of the Greek isles with this souvlaki-style chicken and tzatziki

Ann Maloney

THE WASHINGTON POST – Sometimes when I’m cooking a dish, I find myself anticipating the leftovers as much as the initial meal.

That’s the case with this souvlaki-style chicken and tzatziki.

I’ll enjoy it the night I make it, with chicken hot from the oven and the toasty pita, but I love knowing I can open the refrigerator the next day, grab a few chunks of cold chicken, a dollop of that dill-flavoured Greek yogurt dip, maybe an olive or two and tuck that all into half a pita for a delicious snack.

It’s one of those small delights in life.

When I serve this to a group, however, I like to create a pretty serving platter with a bowl full of tzatziki, salty black kalamata olives, ripe tomatoes, sweet onion wedges and whole wheat pita warmed in the oven.

I usually put a wedge or two of lemon on the platter as well, so folks can add a spritz of juice as they eat. (If you have cucumber and fresh dill, you can put them out with your platter, too.)

This platter always gets an “oh-how-pretty” when presented to guests, who then dig in with relish.

Souvlaki-style chicken with tangy yogurt dip. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST
ABOVE & BELOW: Tzatziki; and souvlaki wraps in pita bread with chicken, potatoes and tzatziki sauce

Some tear the pita and fill it with chicken, veggies and yogurt dip; others prefer to eat the meat and accompaniments with a fork.

The chicken is so easy to make. At home, I sometimes don’t use skewers, although they do make a lovely presentation.

I just cut the chicken into chunks, toss it with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano, spread it on a sheet pan and pop it in the oven, turning them about halfway through.

The small chicken pieces will dry out if overbaked, so, if the protein is done before it browns nicely, I turn on the broiler and move the rack up closer to that high heat for just a minute or two. That usually does the trick.

This tzatziki recipe, which calls for, among other things, grated cucumber, is one I learned from Ginny Zissis, who helps to put on the delicacy-filled, three-day New Orleans Greek Festival each May.

She walked me through the simple process, stressing that a key to success is squeezing as much of the juice from the coarsely grated cucumber as possible. I love cucumber water, so I like to squeeze the vegetable over a small bowl. Then, I refrigerate the juice and use it to flavour
fizzy water.

Find the thickest yogurt possible for this dip. If yours isn’t thick, you can strain it through a cheesecloth over a bowl, but it can take about an hour or so to significantly reduce the moisture.

The bright flavours in the dip come from the fresh dill and the three cloves of fresh minced garlic.

If you’re not a garlic fiend like I am, consider adding just one or two cloves.

SOUVLAKI-STYLE CHICKEN WITH TANGY YOGURT DIP

Active: 45 minutes | Total: 55 minutes

Four servings

This cool dill yogurt dip, known as tzatziki, complements the hot-from-the-oven, herby hot chicken.

Create a dinner platter by adding warm pitas and your favourite accompaniments, such as fresh onion, tomato and kalamata olives.

Note: If using bamboo skewers, soak them in a shallow pan of water for 30 minutes before cooking.

Storage Notes: Leftover chicken and dip can be refrigerated in separate containers for up to three days.

Ingredients

FOR THE YOGURT DIP

Half large cucumber, peeled

One cup plain Greek yogurt

One tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (or one teaspoon dried dill)

Three cloves garlic, minced

One teaspoon white vinegar

One tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt, to taste

FOR THE CHICKEN

One-and-a-half pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

One tablespoon dried oregano

One-and-a-half teaspoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for squeezing over chicken

Quarter teaspoon kosher salt

Quarter teaspoon ground black pepper

FOR SERVING

Whole-wheat pitas

Sliced yellow onion

Lemon wedges

Tomato wedges

Pitted kalamata olives

Steps

Make the yogurt sauce: Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and, using a spoon, scrape out the seeds.

Grate the cucumber on the coarse side of the grater and transfer to a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth.

Squeeze gently but firmly to press out most of the liquid.

In a medium bowl, combine the grated cucumber, yogurt, dill, garlic, vinegar and oil, and season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate while you make the chicken. (You should have about one-and-a-half cups of dip).

Make the chicken: Place the oven rack four to six inches from the broiling element and heat the broiler on high.

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminium foil.

Using a sharp paring knife, trim any fat from the chicken and cut into bite-size pieces, one-to one-and-a-half-inch cubes. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, oregano, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss the chicken in the seasoning until coated.

If using skewers, thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, so the pieces are touching, about six pieces of chicken on each skewer.

Place the skewers on the baking sheet and broil for eight to 10 minutes, turning them over with tongs halfway through cooking, until the chicken begins to brown. (If not using skewers, spread the chicken on the baking sheet and follow the same broiling instructions.)

Transfer the chicken to plates and squeeze the lemon over them.

Serve the chicken and yogurt sauce with warm whole wheat pitas, sliced yellow onion, lemon wedges, tomatoes wedges and olives.

Nutrition

Calories: 270; Total Fat: 12g; Saturated Fat: 2g; Cholesterol: 125mg; Sodium: 150mg; Carbohydrates: 0g; Dietary Fibre: 0g; Sugars: 0g; Protein: 38g.