Food + Wine

Greek (Inspired) Beef Skewers with Tzatziki and Israeli Couscous

I am convinced I was Greek in a past life.  I have always loved the food; and am fascinated by the people, the culture and the land.  I could live solely off of Spanakopita and Greek yogurt alone.

No, but really.

OK, maybe a lil Malagousia too.

Throughout all of my childhood, my family would go to the Greek Festival in the city and it was probably one of my most favorite things we ever did.  It was my first introduction to the culture, and although I now know the food there isn’t exactly what it should be… the memories I have of it will never weaken.

Once I entered into momhood and we began to cook at home more than go out, Greek food was something I had to learn how to make myself if I wanted to eat it… along with everything else I loved (’tis why this here blog was started, yeah?).

The first time I made Spanakopita in our little beach house oven, I cried happy tears.

Then I ate the whole pan.

I still don’t think my husband has tasted my Spanakopita… there’s just never any left for him.  ‘Tis also why none of you have seen me post it before… it has a tendency to suspiciously disappear while someone with a very burnt tongue is licking their lips in the corner.

Soon, I’ll deliver.  Promise.

*she says with grinch grin, remembering there is phyllo dough in her

needs-to-be-cleaned-out-before-moving freezer*

But the other day, when I was craving the flavors of Greek food, and wanting to keep things more on the lighter side, I threw this meal together.  It is so good!  It’s very easy to do, and the flavors are spot on with hitting that savory Greek craving.  You’re using both dried and fresh herbs in the meat marinade, so it really packs a punch.  There’s a fair amount of acid in it as well, making the beef incredible tender.  Once the beef is grilled after hanging out in that zesty mix of yumminess, and you get to dip it into the tzatziki…

game over.

(Make sure you’ve got some pita bread to warm up and you’ve got one killer lunch the next day!)

This is the perfect meal to make when you’re entertaining, or just want an outdoor meal on the sunshiny patio.  It’s bright and beautiful, hearty yet keeps you light on your feet… there’s nothing better this time of year!

Looks like the weather is warming back up again around here, so I look forward to making this again… how ’bout you? 😉

MEDITERRANEAN BEEF SKEWERS WITH TZATZIKI AND ISRAELI COUSCOUS

serves about 4

Before I begin, note that you can absolutely use this exact same recipe with bite sized chunks of lamb instead… I just happened to have the beef on hand.  Also, chicken, pork or a firm white fish would work well too!

For your beef marinade- in a large glass casserole dish, combine the following…

  • 4 splashes red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup evoo
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or ‘grated’ on a microplane
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
  • 2 handfuls fresh oregano, leaves removed and chopped

Mix well.

To marinate your beef- into the dish with the marinade, add…

  • 2 1/2 lb ‘lean stew meat’ (or chuck roast, or beef tenderloin cut into bite sized pieces)

Toss well and coat all the beef in the marinade.  Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight or all day… 8-12 hours.  If you only have a couple hours, it’ll still work!  I like to go in and flip the meat around a bit when I’m marinating for this long… just whenever I think about it and have the chance.  This way, I’m sure to have an even absorption of the marinade.

When you’re about 30 minutes away from ready to cook, remove the marinating beef from the fridge and allow it to come up to room temperature (20-30 min), while you skewer the beef onto long wooden or metal skewers.

(*note- if you’re using wooden skewers, it’s important to soak them in water for about 15 minutes so they don’t burn on the grill)

You can get around 8 pieces of beef onto each skewer.

Preheat your grill to med-high.

When it’s up to temp, place your skewers onto the hot grill and let them cook, without moving for 4-6 minutes.  They should have a dark golden brown color and a nice char before you flip. Cook on the other side until desired doneness… 3-4 more minutes, or more if you like it above med-rare/med.

Remove from the grill and allow to rest a couple minutes before serving.

Top with pomegranate arils and fresh oregano leaves.

Serve with…

TZATZIKI SAUCE

(this can be made ahead)

To make the tzatziki, combine the following in a small bowl…

  • 1 cup greek yogurt (I prefer Fage brand, always… I’ve used the 2% and also the full fat, both with lovely results.)
  • about 1/4 of an English cucumber (grated, using a cheese grater, into a kitchen towel… then all the liquid squeezed out before adding)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or grated using a microplane)
  • handful fresh dill, finely chopped
  • zest of 1/2 lemon (*reserve other half for couscous and also to finish the dish)
  • salt to taste

Adjust seasoning as needed… you want it equally zippy and salty and tangy and creamy.

And I like to serve this with a side of couscous… But rice, or any other grain would work just fine.  Pictured above is a simple but lovely Lemon Parsley Israeli Couscous… but it’s a fairly blank canvas and you can add chopped, toasted nuts in the end, with or without dried fruit (apricots or golden raisins are nice), with dill and mint, with cumin, with orange zest… just play around with it!

COUSCOUS

In a medium stock pot, bring to a boil…

  • 2 1/2 cups water or chicken stock (if using water, be sure to salt well after the boil)

Add…

  • 1 cup couscous (I love the larger pearls labeled as ‘Israeli Couscous’, because of its size and also because it’s toasted instead of dried, so the texture is more exciting… but standard couscous also works!)

Stir then cover pot with a lid and remove from heat.

Allow 5-8 minutes to steam/cook the couscous off the heat and have it soak up all the liquid (*if your couscous is tender to your liking, but there is still liquid remaining, simply drain off the liquid.)

Fluff up with a fork when fully cooked and season with…

  • handful parsley leaves, chopped
  • zest of half lemon*
  • squeeze of lemon juice*
  • splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • anything else you want 😉

Just taste as you go and stop when you like it!

Serve everything family style with some fresh lemon wedges or slices.  And all of the meal components are great served at room temperature, making it perfect for an outdoor setting.

thanks for reading, y’all! x

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