Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Usually when I alter a recipe, it’s to cut corners, but here’s a rare instance where I made something about 10 times more complex—and it was worth the extra effort!

When I saw this quinoa hash at a Cozy Kitchen, I was really intrigued by the idea. A still isn’t a quinoa fan, but he makes an exception for quinoa fritters, and I thought maybe a hash could replicate some of that crispy, toasty goodness he enjoys. I tend to have bad luck with hashes, though; apparently I just don’t have the knack for frying potatoes. By the time they’re cooked through, they’re overbrowned and sticking to the pan, and then they break apart and everything devolves into a starchy mess. I know this can be avoided by cooking the potatoes through first and then browning them, as in my corn hash recipe, where they’re microwaved. But since squash would also be involved, that made me think of roasting, so I decided to coat the vegetables with the spices (I used smoked paprika instead of regular, to play up the roasty flavor) and throw them into the oven, on separate baking sheets in case one cooked faster than the other. By this time the whole process was starting to seem ridiculously awkward, and I wasn’t even done complicating things yet.

The original recipe boiled the quinoa right in the skillet, but I’m not sure my cast-iron is that well-seasoned, so I opted to cook it as usual, in a separate pot. Then of course it seemed like a great idea to add bacon, so I browned that in the skillet and removed it, then cooked the shallot and garlic in the bacon fat. (I can take or leave big pieces of bacon, but anything fried in bacon fat? Sign me up.) Since I wanted my quinoa to be as toasted as possible, I tossed it in with the shallot mixture and let it fry as long as I could. It didn’t brown as much as I’d hoped—nowhere near as much as the fritters—probably because the pan was a bit crowded and it steamed more than frying, but it did take on a golden hue, a drier, chewier consistency, and a nice nutty taste. (If you’re not a fan of the texture of ordinary quinoa, I highly recommend trying it pan-fried.) Then I added back in the bacon and the roasted vegetables. The original recipe had just cooked eggs right on top of the hash, but since I’m addicted to poached eggs I made those separately and set them on top when I was ready to serve. And finally, for a bit more color, I served the whole thing atop a bed of arugula.

So basically, the original recipe was a true one-dish meal, with everything from the quinoa to the eggs cooked in the same skillet. I had to go and add a separate appliance (the oven) and million extra dishes and steps. I realize this sounds like a pain, and if you want to try the original instead of my version I completely understand, but I swear to you, my method didn’t end up being too hard, and it paid off big time. In fact, it was pretty much a masterpiece, if I do say so myself, joining the ranks of my favorite quinoa dishes ever. The tender, spiced roasted vegetables were delicious enough to eat on their own, but when combined with the peppery fresh greens, the smoky bacon, the nutty grain, and the creamy egg they were even better. I would happily eat this delicious, satisfying dish for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and A enjoyed it enough to have leftovers the next day, which for him is really saying something where quinoa is concerned. I’m tremendously pleased that all my tinkerings ended up being improvements and not fussy time-wasters or grievous errors. Could it be that after so many years, I’m finally learning to improvise in the kitchen?

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups water
1–1½ teaspoons salt, divided
¾ pound red potatoes, cubed
½–¾ pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
4 slices bacon, diced
1–2 shallots, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup minced fresh chives
4 large eggs
About 4 cups arugula

1. Place the quinoa in a saucepan with water and ½ teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and spread quinoa in a thin layer on a large plate or a baking sheet to cool.

2. While the quinoa cooks and cools, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the cubed potatoes in a large bowl and toss with ½–1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, and coarse salt to taste. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread the potatoes on it in a single layer. To the empty bowl you just used, add the cubed squash and toss with ½–1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon smoked paprika, and coarse salt to taste. Line a second baking sheet with parchment and spread the squash on it in a single layer. Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and crispy outside, tender within, about 20–30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. When the vegetables are about halfway done roasting, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove from skillet with a slotted spoon, keeping the skillet on the heat.

4. Add shallot to the skillet and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Place the garlic atop the cooked shallot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the quinoa to the skillet and fry, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is a bit browned, slightly dry, and smells toasted, about 15 minutes.

5. Add the potato, butternut squash, and bacon to the skillet and cook another 5–10 minutes until everything is warm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Meanwhile, poach eggs.

7. Place a handful of arugula in each of four shallow bowls or plates. Divide the hash among the dishes, placing it atop the arugula, and top each with a poached egg. Garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon chives.

Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good; just don't poach the eggs or add the arugula until you're ready to serve.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I do feel like I’m reaching max capacity for pureed orange vegetable soups here (five carrot, four butternut squash), but I have no recipes of any kind of that combine butternut squash with corn, and the juxtaposition intrigued me when I spotted this recipe (originally from Everyday Food) at Ezra Pound Cake. It seemed like the perfect transition food between summer and fall—which is finally, finally starting to happen here in SoCal.

The soup comes together like most other pureed vegetable soups, with a quick sauté followed by a boil in broth and then a spin in the blender, and I’m afraid that at first it tasted like any old soup to me, too. Many such recipes I’ve tried are perfectly adequate but never quite rise above the sum of their parts, and despite the presence of curry, which I’d been excited about, this one threatened to underwhelm. When I tasted it at the end, it needed something, so I squeezed in some lime juice, which was exactly the ingredient that revived the curried coconut carrot soup I tried last fall (and now adore). It really helped, but as I ate, even though A kept commenting how good it was (which is rare for him, with soups), I had already decided I wouldn’t make this recipe again; it was fine, but so similar to other recipes I make regularly, it just wasn’t worth it.

Then I ate the leftovers the next day and really actively liked them, not just tolerated them. If there had been more, I would have eaten it the next day, too. I know soup often tastes better the next day as the flavors develop and meld, but this was a dramatic improvement—or maybe I’d just been cranky and palate-distorted the night before. Now I’ll certainly make this again. It’s easy, it’s wholesome, it has a beautiful bright mustard-yellow color, and I love the unique texture; the corn kernels don’t quite blend smoothly, reminding me of a yellow lentil dal (I didn’t want to bother with only blending half the soup, so I just stuck my immersion blender in the pot but only blended semi-thoroughly, to simulate the same effect).

Aside from adding lime juice, the only changes I made were to use fresh corn instead of frozen (amazingly, corn is still in season here) and homemade chicken broth instead of vegetable broth.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 5 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
10 ounces fresh or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
1½ teaspoons curry powder
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
29 ounces (about 3⅔ cups) vegetable or chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lime (optional)
¼ cup chopped fresh chives

1. In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat; add squash and onion. Cook until the onion is soft, about 6 minutes.

2. Add the corn and curry powder. Cook until you can really smell the curry, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the broth and simmer until the squash is tender, about 25 minutes.

4. Using an immersion blender, food processor, or countertop blender, blend half the soup until smooth. Return to pot and turn the heat down to medium-low.

5. Stir in the cream, along with the lime juice if desired, and let the soup get warm before serving (do not boil). Garnish with chives.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great; tastes even better the next day, and would also freeze well.

Friday, October 19, 2012


I had nearly a full package of peanuts left over after making the peanut-lime chicken-noodle salad, so I decided to cross honey-roasted peanuts off my cooking to-do list. (What, you don’t keep one of those?) I’d long had a cardamom version bookmarked, but at the last minute I spotted this one from Confections of a Foodie Bride and switched to it because the idea of a spicy version was irresistible.

This recipe could not be any easier. A little microwaving, some stirring, some baking, a bit more stirring, and you’re there: from zero to deliciousness in 25 minutes. It was only with great difficulty that I stopped myself from eating the entire batch while it was still warm and gooey on the baking sheet. It was like some amazing peanut salted toffee confection. I don’t think it even really needed the final coating of sugar. That definitely gave it the crunchy, sandy texture of storebought honey-roasted peanuts, but for me, the added sweetness was unnecessary and overshadowed the other flavors. The recipe called for adding 4 tablespoons of sugar after the peanuts were cooked; I sprinkled on the first two tablespoons, then near the end of the third tablespoon I started thinking, “Hmm, this looks like a lot of sugar,” so I quit. I think next time I’ll try just 2 post-cooking tablespoons, but really, I can attest that these were quite tasty without any extra sugar beyond what they were baked with. I’m also eager to try the cardamom recipe for contrast, because it uses hardly any sugar at all, only 1 tablespoon total.

Still, it’s going to be pretty hard to beat these. They really reminded me of the storebought kind, but a million times better, with roasty caramel undertones that nostalgically reminded me of the peanut brittle my mom used to make for Christmas when I was a kid. (I didn’t work too hard to separate them into individual peanuts for total verisimilitude; the big chewy clumps were actually my favorite part.) The honey flavor is excellent, they’re addictively crunchy, and there’s a good dose of salt to balance the sweetness, all of which makes them so compulsively edible that I’m not going to allow myself to make them on a regular basis, because otherwise I’ll be gobbling up a pound of peanuts a week. A and I made short work of them, and A loved them so much he wouldn’t have me change a thing (he reacted with dismay when I mentioned reducing the sugar, but really, I don’t think he’ll notice when I do it next time, because they’ll still be insanely good). I do think the red pepper flakes could be increased if you want a snack that could actually be described as “spicy,” however. The ½ teaspoon that the original recipe called for added a nice savory note and a gentle heat that I really only noticed as an aftertaste, which I liked just fine, but if tasting blindfolded, I don’t think most people would really know there was spice there. I’m going to take it up to ¾ teaspoon next time for a bigger punch.

1 pound cocktail peanuts (mine were salted)
⅓ cup honey
½–¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup sugar or to taste, divided
½ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

2. Place peanuts in a large bowl.

3. Microwave honey and red pepper flakes in a small bowl for 30 seconds and pour over the peanuts. Add ¼ cup sugar and the salt, stirring well.

4. Spread peanut mixture onto the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

5. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes and then stir the peanuts, scraping the honey from the parchment/silicone to coat the peanuts. If desired, sprinkle with 1–2 tablespoons sugar and stir again, then sprinkle with 1–2 tablespoons more sugar.

6. Let cool completely, then break up the peanut clumps into smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.

Yields: About 3 cups
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least five days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


A quick search of my blog archives confirms that this is the time when, like clockwork, I habitually complain that autumn in Los Angeles doesn’t really get started until late October or even November, leaving us sweltering in 100-degree temperatures while the rest of the nation merrily goes apple picking in cozy sweaters. Apparently I am freshly surprised/enraged by this every year. You just get used to having enviable weather, you know? And fall, traditional fall, is so fleetingly lovely and nostalgia-laden that it’s frustrating to miss out on it.

This September seemed especially brutal, with several record-breaking heat waves, and I never thought I’d admit it, but I actually grew tired of tomatoes, corn, and peaches. Luckily, lime, cilantro, and cucumber were still on my cravings list, so it seemed a good time to bust out this refreshing-sounding Asian-inspired salad from Smitten Kitchen. I’d been putting it off because it sounded complicated, and I’m not gonna lie, it is. Amazingly, this is the simplified version, streamlined from the New York Times original, and it still has you making two sauces, marinating and grilling chicken, cooking noodles, and chopping lots of vegetables. It calls for a whopping 21 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice, which for me worked out to nearly 10 limes and a serious case of hand cramps. It also involves more than half a cup of fish sauce, the foul-smelling concoction that I only grudgingly came to terms with the week before and had never used in such quantity, filling my kitchen with an odor that brought the cats running with eager interest while my appetite withered away. At a certain point, I ran out of counter space for the many different bowls, pots, cutting boards, grills, blenders, measuring cups and spoons, and ingredients this recipe demanded, and I began to question my sanity.

But all told, it really didn’t end up taking as long as I’d feared. All the individual tasks are simple, and many (such as the sauce-making and marinating) could be done ahead of time. Most important, the end result was seriously, seriously delicious. There’s a lot of ingredient overlap with last week’s banh mi, but whereas we were ambivalent about those, we flat-out loved this. It’s such a complex layering of flavors and textures, all incredibly fresh and vivid (and not really fishy, thank goodness). It’s substantial and satisfying while still feeling light. The leftovers were even better. Despite the hassle, it’s a keeper, and since I have a half-package of rice noodles left over in the cupboard, you can bet I’ll be making it again soon, without any modifications.

It’s a bit confusing that one of the sauces is called a "dipping sauce" when you never dip anything into it, but I couldn't think of a better name, so dipping sauce it remains. I used jalapenos instead of Serranos or Thai chiles, which was partly due to laziness and partly due to wimpiness in the face of spice, but I reasoned that jalapenos are great with similar ingredients on the banh mi, and they were just fine here. Every now and then I’d get a spicier bite, but for the most part the salad wasn’t very hot, which suited me just fine. Since the Smitten Kitchen post mentioned wanting more vegetables, I doubled the carrot and cucumber quantities. Deb suggested maybe adding sweet red pepper and thin blanched green beans, which would be nice, but then someone in the comments mentioned using edamame and that sounded perfect to me—as, indeed, it turned out to be. A claims not to like edamame, but even he enjoyed them in this context. Winner winner noodle dinner!

Dipping sauce:
6 tablespoons fish sauce
6 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
6–8 small Thai chiles or 1–2 Serrano chiles (I used 2 jalapenos), thinly sliced

Peanut dressing:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ cup + 1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1.5-inch chunk ginger, peeled and sliced
6 tablespoons natural creamy unsalted peanut butter (I used salted and it was fine)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Pinch of cayenne

Chicken and noodle salad:
1¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
8 ounces dried rice vermicelli or other rice noodles
4 small Persian cucumbers, cut in ¼-inch half-moons
4 medium carrots, thinly julienned
1 cup cooked, shelled edamame
1 handful each chopped fresh basil, mint, and cilantro
4 scallions, sliced
¼ cup crushed or chopped roasted peanuts
Lime wedges for garnish

1. To make the dipping sauce, whisk ingredients in a small bowl, making sure to dissolve the sugar. Let sit for at least 15 minutes. (Can be done ahead; refrigerate and use within a few days.)

2. To make the peanut dressing, in a blender or small food processor, puree all ingredients to a smooth sauce, about the thickness of heavy cream. (Can be done ahead; refrigerate and use within a few days.)

3. To marinate the chicken, stir together about half the dipping sauce and one-third of the peanut dressing in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add the chicken to the mixture and toss to coat. Let marinate at least 15 minutes.

4. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain when noodles are al dente, and cool under running water. Fluff and leave in strainer to drain well, stirring periodically to keep them from sticking together.

5. To cook the chicken, grill it on an outdoor grill or a stove-top grill pan (I used the George Foreman), or run under the broiler until cooked through and nicely browned, about 3 to 4 minutes a side. Let cool slightly, then chop roughly into ¾-inch pieces.

6. To serve, toss vegetables with 1 tablespoon dipping sauce in a small bowl. Divide the cooked noodles among 4 to 6 bowls. (If your noodles stick together a lot, you might find it helpful, as I did, to toss each portion of them with a tablespoon of dipping sauce now, instead of adding it after the vegetables and chicken; it really loosened them up for me.) Top each bowl equally with vegetable mixture and chopped chicken. Toss each bowl with 1 tablespoon of each the dipping sauce and dressing, or to taste (we used more). Add the herbs, peanuts, and scallions to each bowl and serve with additional dressing and dipping sauce on the side, plus lime wedges to squeeze over the top.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 2 hours
Leftover potential: Great. I was worried because Deb mentioned storing all the ingredients separately, but I pre-mixed all the portions and they stayed as good as (or better than) new, at least for the couple of days before we devoured them all. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


This recipe (from Bon Appetit via Dinner With Julie) had been sitting in my Delicious bookmarks for nearly a year, intimidating me. I love banh mi and stalk the Phamish truck (now sadly on hiatus or possibly defunct, I guess?) to get them whenever possible, but making them at home seemed like a huge undertaking. Also, I am secretly afraid of fish sauce. But finally, the hot September weather wore me down until the cool crunchiness of cucumbers, cilantro, and pickled carrots seemed like the only palatable foods in the world.

I’ll cut right to the chase and say I liked these sandwiches but didn’t love them. I used a new brand of mayo (Trader Joe’s ) and it imparted an off taste; I should really have made my own, but that seemed like overkill for an already-complex meal. And if time were no object, I really should have tracked down some rice-flour baguettes for optimal texture; mine, ordinary French bread from Whole Foods, were far too tough and chewy. Most tragically, I didn’t enjoy the texture of the pickled vegetables that I had so been looking forward to. Following the Epicurious directions, I coarsely grated them, and they just ended up kind of sad and soggy. It looks like most banh mi recipes call for julienning them, which is labor intensive but would indeed be better. In my mind, what I had actually been craving was crisp, paper-thin slices, so I might try that in the future. I also used ordinary radishes because I couldn’t find a daikon, which I suspect didn’t help matters.

However, despite the dreaded fish sauce (which smells like holy hell but really, as everyone promises, doesn’t taste specifically fishy in the finished dish, just nicely savory), the meatballs were fantastic, the stars of the whole show. I had never seen a meatball recipe that calls for cornstarch before—I’m guessing it’s replacing egg as a binding agent—but it really gave them a unique, firm, uniform texture that was ideal for a sandwich, where you don’t want your meatballs crumbling and falling apart whenever you take a bite. I’m just not sure I really like meatballs on a sandwich; it all seemed too overwhelming to me somehow. (Maybe I should have tried this in the winter, when heartier foods are more appealing.) I’m intrigued by Julie’s comment that “there must be salad potential here”; the meatballs on or next to a mixed-green salad with cucumber, cilantro, the pickled vegetables, and some sort of Asian-esque vinaigrette would be more my speed, I think. I could also see these as skewers or sliders. Meanwhile, I’d like to try making banh mi with some sort of lemongrass chicken instead.

I didn’t make many changes here, except that I followed Julie’s lead in adding thinly sliced cucumbers, which was an excellent decision. And since many Epicurious commenters complained that the recipe was too sweet, I halved the sugar in the pickled vegetables and thought it was still plenty.

Hot chili mayo:
⅔ cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)

1 pound ground pork
¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 cups julienned carrots
2 cups julienned peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil or vegetable oil
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
1 or 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
Large fresh cilantro sprigs to taste

1. To make the hot chili mayo, stir all the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt to taste. (Can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill until ready to use.)

2. Make the meatballs, gently mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. (Can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill until ready to use.)

3. Toss the carrots, daikon, rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs; sauté until brown and cooked through, turning often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes.

5. Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave a ½-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with ¼ of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: OK, if all sandwich components are stored separately.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Chicken gyros have become one of our favorite meals, but I’m always stumped about what to serve with them. Granted, the gyros are generously sized, and there are tomatoes, onions, and a little cucumber on top, but I find myself wanting more vegetables, because let’s face it, Greek salads are delicious. My beloved Mediterranean pepper salad, however, in all its colorful, creamy-briny glory, already has a fair amount of overlap with the gyro ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, check, check, check. Making both seemed too labor-intensive and redundant, and A was suspicious of the idea of flat-out replacing the gyro toppings with the salad. So when I found myself craving gyros yet again and puzzling over side dishes, I decided to take my problem to Food Blog Search to see what other people usually serve with them. There, I discovered that Bridget from The Way the Cookie Crumbles had already resolved my very conundrum: How to combine this precise chicken gyro recipe from Elly Says Opa with that exact Mediterranean pepper salad recipe from Smitten Kitchen!

Noting that each time she made the two dishes together, more and more of the salad kept making its way atop the gyros, Bridget figured out a clever way to streamline the two into a single recipe. The key is to make the chicken marinade do double duty, using a couple of tablespoons of it (pre-contact with raw chicken, of course) in lieu of the salad dressing/onion-pickling brine. She also added a few other brilliant innovations, such saving a little unused marinade to toss with the cooked chicken, which moistens the meat and seriously amplifies the flavor, and halving the tzatziki quantity (we always ended up with tons left over, yet I kept on making the full amount for some reason). I added back in one key ingredient from the original recipe, the tablespoon of dried oregano, which for me really brings the Greek taste, and magically, I had the perfect gyros meal I’d been dreaming of. Our pitas are now piled ridiculously high with toppings, and yes, sometimes they collapse entirely and dump their contents onto our plates, but then we just eat everything with a fork. If putting peppers and feta on gyros is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I didn’t think I could love gyros more, but this revamped version is replacing my old one for good.

For the chicken:
¼ cup juice from 1 to 2 lemons
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt, divided
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces (thighs, breasts, or a combo)

For the tzatziki:
1–2 small Persian cucumbers
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces Greek yogurt (I use 2%)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ tablespoon minced fresh dill (optional)

For serving:
½ red onion, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 small red bell pepper and 1 small yellow bell pepper, quartered lengthwise and sliced thinly
1–2 small Persian cucumbers, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 tomato, chopped, or 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
½ cup crumbled feta
4-6 Greek-style (pocketless) pitas

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the chicken marinade ingredients except 1 teaspoon salt, the yogurt, and the chicken. Measure out 3 generous tablespoons of the marinade into a small bowl; set aside. Add the yogurt and another teaspoon of salt to the remaining marinade. Place the chicken in the marinade; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 15 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, for the tzatziki, grate or shred the cucumber, place it in a colander in the sink or over a small bowl, and add the salt. Set aside for at least 15 minutes to drain. Transfer the cucumber to a clean kitchen towel and squeeze dry. Combine the drained cucumber with the yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, pepper, and dill.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved marinade to a bowl and add the sliced onion. Set aside to lightly pickle while you prepare the remaining toppings. Mix the bell pepper, sliced cucumbers, tomato, and feta into the bowl with the onion.

4. Prepare the grill or broiler. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill/broil until cooked through. Allow it to rest for a few minutes, then slice into strips. Toss the chicken with the remaining 1 tablespoon reserved marinade.

5. Heat your pitas for a few minutes in a warm oven, in a skillet on the stove, or on the grill, or cover them with a damp paper towel and microwave for about 30 seconds. Top each pita with some chicken, tzatziki, and vegetable mixture.

Serves: 4–6
Time: 1–1½ hours
Leftover potential: Good; store chicken, tzatziki, vegetable topping, and pita separately.