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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Souvlaki and Yia yia's rice pilaf

In Greece it is very common to spend an afternoon at the local taverna having some flat bread and skewered meats, or fish caught that day from the sea, a glass of wine and salads.

You will see old men sitting at tables clacking their komboloi (worry beads), they almost look like rosaries. They can help limit smoking and stress by keeping your hands busy. This is what I found in wikipedia - "Greek komboloi generally have an odd number of beads (usually one more than a multiple of four, e.g. (4x4)+1, (5x4)+1, and so on) and usually have a head composed of a fixed bead (παπάς "priest"), a shield (θυρεός) to separate the two threads and help the beads to flow freely, and a tassel." And what is even more interesting with the Greek komboloi is that they are generally strung with a prime numbers of beads - 17, 19, or 23. My mother always had a few in our house, mostly decorative. Greeks like odd numbers of things for superstitious reasons!

Souvlaki is found very often on the menu of a taverna, tasty skewers of meat cooked over a grill served with flat bread and rice pilaf. Below is my version of the marinated kabobs.


2 lbs. lamb or beef. Try to buy a cut of meat without too much sinew.
1 to 2 cups red wine (I use leftover bottles of wine I have.)
1 large red onion
1/4 cup olive oil
5 to 6 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper


Cut meat into approximately 1 1/2 inch cubes, put into a large bowl.

Then slice onion into large pieces and add to bowl.

Pour red wine over the meat and onions to cover, drizzle the olive oil. Add the minced garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper.

Mix well and seal the bowl. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

After they have marinated, put onto skewers. I actually prefer the wooden skewers but you must soak those first in water or they will burn over the fire. The best way to cook these is over a barbeque but you can you a stove top grill or even the broiler. Turn once and cook until done. I like grill marks on my meat and a little pink on the inside. You want the meat to be tender and succulent.

What follows is my mom's tried and true recipe for rice pilaf.

Rice Pilaf

1 1/2 cups Uncle Ben's converted Rice
1 package dry chicken noodle soup mix (with read chicken broth)
3 cups water
1 tbsp each butter and olive oil

Melt butter and olive oil in pan, then add your rice and soup mix. Mix well to coat all the rice.

Pour water over the rice, you should hear a little sizzle when you add the water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to low. It will be ready in less than 30 minutes. Fluffy Rice Pilaf, a perfect bed for your souvlaki.

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