Food teaches you things sometimes that other things don’t. Now, remember this line as you read through this post. As promised, I want to talk more about my recent trip to Greece. Just like college-- sights, sounds, and smells from Greece will occasionally trickle into my etymological review of recipes.
My ten days (pictures of which can be seen here) was amazing when it came to visual imagery and connecting with Morgan, which was the real reason for the trip. The one qualm I had with the whole excursion, and this is a big one, I was not a fan of the food. Now, just to be clear, I’m not a picky person and I actually love exciting new foods but that’s the thing—most of the food I had— was not new. That being said, the gyros and moussaka were amazing. Mikro Politiko in Athens truly did give me a new perspective on pita, marinated meats, and most importantly the subtle flavors that a good tzatziki can enhance.
Tzatziki is a wonderful yogurt dip made with a high-fat yogurt, salted, with the added acidity of lemon juice, and the freshness of crunchy cucumbers and fragrant mint leaves. The dip originates from the Ottoman Empire and has elements that reverberate amongst almost every greek meal. Simple meals like fried calamari or feta were always served with lemon juice while the meat filling in moussaka was thickened with greek yogurt.
While the food became repetitive, it did inspire me for my aim to cook beautiful summer meals. If you have not noticed the trend on my Instagram feed, my aim for the summer is to make summer meals. Light on the palette, picnic-friendly, with a focus on tropical summer fruits. With the granitas in the bag, I wanted to make something more savory. I remembered that a while ago I made these tacos, with tortillas from scratch and a chicken filling made by pan frying chicken thighs marinated in orange juice and other spices. I decided to replicate that meal with some changes that would deviate it from being authentically Mexican to a fusion food that shares a flavor palette between Mexican, Indian, and Greek food.
The Mexican/Latin flavors come from the chicken thighs that get marinated in roasted whole spices like cumin and paprika with an additional fat supplemented by olive oil, and drenched in an acidic base, orange juice, that works to both flavor the meat and helps the skin caramelize when left to cook in an oven.
The Indian flavors are what make the tortilla. The recipe for a traditional tortilla isn’t hard. Flour, salt, water, and lard. Lard is used to keep the tortilla soft and help cook the dough from the inside as it touches a hot pan. Essentially, preventing it from becoming fried dough. The challenge in India is that you don't get a lot of animal fat and regular oil doesn't work because it dilutes the dough and makes it taste heavy. The additional challenge I put upon myself was that I didn't want to just make roti. That would be too easy and, to me, it seemed like a cop-out. The texture had me stumped for quite a while I ate homemade quesadillas at friend’s house in Bangalore. Her mom was an amazing cook who used a mix of whole wheat flour, bleached flour, and cornflour with ghee as the fat to make her tortillas. I loved them so much. The cornflour gave you the grittiness, the whole wheat added weight, and the bleached flour added the much-needed gluten, making it both stretchy and supple. After many trials, I now have my own version of this flour mix, perfect for a taco. An added Indian element of the meal are a topping of thinly sliced pickled onions made with fresh lemon juice, salt, and red chili pepper. Simple, quick, and full of flavor.
The greek flavor comes from tzatziki which I learned to cook by tasting and asking my way through Greece. There is a fundamental principle to this heavenly sauce— fat is your friend and water the enemy. This means that you must sieve everything with a cheesecloth. Ring out all the whey from the yogurt and salt finely grated cucumber to bleed any excess water out. Once you do that, its a matter of mixing the ingredients in with minced garlic, salt, pepper, and red chili powder. Done!
This fusion taco is a medley of flavors that build one on top of each other. The chicken is veiled in subtle aromas which get masked by yogurt while getting accentuated by pickled onions at the same time. The result isn’t perfect, but it's a meal that leaves you satisfied.
So what was the learning from all of this? Things are not perfect. Food teaches you not to aspire for perfection but for satiety. A perfect trip, job, life are great to strive for but you need to cherish what the trip you’re in, job that you work in, and eventually, a life that you’re living. This is what food teaches me all the time. Too fruity and disappointing? Maybe your expectations were too high.
Glimpses from the week
Today marks a whole year that I have been writing about food on my blog. A lot has changed since then, from the way I shoot pictures to what I cook (though pasta seems to be something I won’t ever give up). Sharing a picture and a link to the first ever recipe blog I wrote for pesto pasta. Thank you to the 8,000 people who’ve viewed the blog ❤️
This weekend’s cheat meal were these cherry oatmeal cream scones. They’re a product of a lot of different methods coming together. It uses a mix of a compote and fresh fruit to get the flavor just right while retaining the juiciness of the fresh fruit. Recipe on the blog soon! For now, enjoy this spam 🌝
For the marinade
500g chicken thighs boneless
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon red chili powder
2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt
Orange zest (optional)
For the taco
1 cup bleached flour (maida)
1/3 cup cornflour (makka atta)
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons cold ghee, preferably cold
1 tablespoon salt
For the Tzatziki
1 cup high-fat Greek yogurt
1 cup shredded cucumber
6 cloves of garlic minced
10-15 leaves of fresh mint, minced
Salt to taste
For the pickled onions
1 medium onion, cut into thin rings
Juice of one medium lemon
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
Add all the marinade ingredients into a bowl. Mix well and wrap with clingfilm and stick in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours. Best to leave it for at least 12 hours.
Set the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and let it come to temp. In a well-oiled baking sheet, add the chicken. Place on the middle rack of the oven and cook on one side for 5 minutes and flip for another three or until the water underneath the chicken runs clear. Additionally, you can cook at 250 degrees under a broiler for a minute to create a crispy crust.
As you cook the chicken, mix the ingredients of the taco dough and work the dough until malleable. It should be slightly sticky but should come off the walls of the bowl fairly easily. Let the dough sit for 10 minutes, cut into balls, roll into a round taco size shape. On a flat pan or cast iron pan on medium high heat cook on both sides until you get a burnt char.
Tzatziki prep requires you to take the cucumbers, place them in a cheesecloth, add salt and let it rest on top of a bowl to let the water expel out. About 20 minutes. Ring out all the water and then add them to the greek yogurt. Mix well with all the other ingredients and place the dip in the chill tray of your fridge, increasing the density of the sauce.
Pull the chicken out and let it cool for about 4 minutes. Slice thin.
Pickled onions can be made instantly. Slice a medium onion, add lemon, salt, and red chili powder. Mix well until the red color of the chili imbibes with the onions.
My favorite order to serve: taco, tzatziki, chicken, onions.