June 2010

Make Your Own Gyros

Once you've made tzatziki, it's pretty much a given that you're going to start thinking about making your own gyros. For those of you thus far unfamiliar with the gyros, it's a Greek "fast food" sort of dish. The name refers to the large turning spit containing a roast; (gyros is cognate with Modern English gyrate, to turn). Slices of the moist-but-crispy meat are combined with tazatziki, Greek yogurt-dill-and-cucumber sauce, on a pita. Other ingredients, like tomato, or feta, or lettuce or even pepper, salt, and paprika, are optional. In Greece gyros are common fare at small cafes and street carts.

Shrimp Pasta Salad

Small, local "baby" or bay shrimp are appearing up and down the Oregon and Washington coasts.

I'm seeing fresh, never frozen shrimp between $3.00 and $4.00 a pound at both local fish markets and chain grocers. Quite often they're already cooked, but these will cook in a jiffy in some boiling lightly salted water; it's pretty much a matter of dip them in the water, wait three or 4 minutes, and cool them down with running cold water. You want to watch the shrimp carefully; they'll change color when they're cooked, and you want to remove them from the water immediately, and cool them down so they don't over cook and become rubbery.

Hops

Hops are largely associated

with beer today but in terms of the history of brewing beer they are a modern addition, since they date to sometime in the middle ages, probably sometime around the late tenth or early eleventh century. It's hops that give beer that characteristic hint of bitterness, sometimes with a nod at citrus. Hops contribute to the aroma, as well as the taste of beer. It's generally assumed that hops were initially added to beer as a preservative, and an antibacterial. There was a long tradition of adding other herbs as preservative before hops, but the theory is that some brewer somewhere noticed his hoppy ale stayed fresh longer. One of the interesting and important qualities of hops is that while they are naturally antibacterial, they do not destroy the yeast that is so very vital in terms of fermenting the wort, the grain and water base, that all beer begins with.

Tzatziki: Greek Yogurt and Dill Condiment

I'm exceedingly fond of Greek food.

Truth be told, I'm fond of the entire of Greek/ Lebanese/ Turkish suite; there are, for some obvious geographic and historic reasons a fair amount of cross-over in terms of the Mediterranean cuisines. Greek immigrants have carried their traditions with them, and are found all over the Pacific Northwest, especially in Washington. There are a number of Greek festivals in Washington, including Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma, even San Jose, California.

Mediterranean Diet: Northwest Style

The commercially-presented

version of the "Mediterranean diet" does not, alas, mean "eat all the Mediterranean food you want," but rather, it's based on some assumptions about why people whose diets feature olive oil, yogurt, feta, fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, red wine in moderation, fresh fish, and low amounts of salt, processed foods and sugars, and red meat tend to have better overall health, particularly in terms of lower rates of obesity and diabetes. A lot of the positive effects are attributed to the low saturated fat percentage in terms total calories consumed, largely because of the emphasis on olive oil, and the high percentage of fruits and vegetables.