I am married to a man whose ancestors were the first Middle Eastern settlers in the Indianapolis area. When I married him, I don’t know that I’d ever tried hummus, nor would I have been able to feel secure in my pronunciation ordering a gyro at a state fair (is it “guy-ro”, “yee-ro”, “gee-ro”?). Five years later, I love anything and everything Mediterranean. Chad’s family is Lebanese, and when that side of the family gets together, there will inevitably be at least three dishes that would never have been in my family meals growing up. But how can you go wrong with briny, salty, crunchy flavor bombs in your mouth? You can’t. That’s my opinion.
For me, Memorial Day is the quintessential holiday. No gifts are needed or desired, so you can celebrate without selfishly wondering if you’re going to get something, and financially wondering how to pay for it. It’s not Thanksgiving, which I also love, but frequently feel eaters’ remorse for; it’s not the fourth of July, which is also one of my favorites but somehow also feels like a signal that summer is almost ending. It’s just a wonderful doorway for summer to enter. It’s like the moment right before the sun rises, where its lovely light is illuminating but not yet totally seen. It’s the hope of summer, the very conception of all things youthful. I LOVE IT!
This year I won’t be able to host the big bash I wish I could, because I’m in a wedding half a country away from home. It will still be a grand way to shake hands in greeting with summer, but I will be sad to not host a party. Will you host one for me? I’ve made it easy on you, and I’m submitting my own recipes for your use. Host a Mediterranean BBQ Memorial Day for me, would you?
What does a Mediterranean BBQ look like, you ask? It’s so simple, but looks so elegant. It’s basically a gyro bar, complete with homemade tzatziki sauce and pita chips, grilled chicken and beef kofta kabobs, and a smattering of topping options. You will look like Susie Homemaker, without extending too much effort. The best part is that my side of the family, whose palettes aren’t exactly adventurous, still love this meal too. People will love it. I’ve made these recipes to feed 4, but you can easily double them for a bigger party.
Memorial Day Mediterranean BBQ Menu
First, whip up some tzatziki sauce and the Mediterranean BBQ chicken marinade to keep in the refrigerator until party time.
Mediterranean BBQ Chicken Marinade:
1 8oz container of plain Greek yogurt
2 crushed garlic cloves*
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
salt to taste
*If you like things to be really spicy, then add another clove of garlic, just for kicks. Garlic has this uncanny ability to bring a HUGE bang for its relatively small buck, so if you hate it, go easy with just one clove. I add three. I like to face life head-on.
Mix all of these ingredients and then let them marry together in the refrigerator for a few hours, or overnight before your Mediterranean bash.
Here comes the meat!
I love to offer both ground beef and chicken options, but if you’re feeling especially ethnic, than go grab some ground lamb to go with your chicken. You’ll be so legit.
Mediterranean BBQ Chicken:
3 chicken breasts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp honey (or sugar)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
Whisk all of these ingredients together, pour over the chicken breast, and let it marinate for at least 2 hours ahead of time. I occasionally like to buy pepperoncinis to put on the gyros, so I use 1 tablespoon of that juice, or the juice of kalamata olives from the olive bar to the marinate as well. It gives it an extra little kick.
Mediterranean BBQ Ground Beef Kofta Kabobs:
( kofta is traditionally a mixture of different types of meat, and my absolutely FAVORITE! It’s going to look more like little meat patties than the thin, long slices that are traditionally found in gyros; but it works better on the grill, and I don’t own a spit to turn my meat on to achieve the freshly shaved look. If you do, knock yourself out.)
1 pound ground beef
3 crushed cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried onion powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
Mix all of the seasonings into the meat gently, and then roll the meet into meatballs and skewer them–elongating the individual meatballs until they are about two inches long each. Then, go find some beastly man to carefully grill these for you, unless you like to grill on your own. I’m kind of obsessed with grilling myself.
Next, I love making homemade pita chips. Yes, you can buy them at the store. Yes they taste good either way. But for me, it’s more cost effective to make my own. So I buy at least 20 whole pitas. Depending on the size of the bags you purchase, you should be able to tell what you need for your party. For four people, I’d reserve 6 whole pitas for the actual gyro and slice them in half for stuffing.
With the remaining pitas, I can make a ton of pita chips. First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees; slice each whole pita into halves; and slice the halves into three triangles, peeling the top layer off the bottom so you end up with 6 thin pita chips from each pita half. I take all of those little thin triangles, put them in a bowl, and whisk up a simple olive oil, salt, and oregano coating for them.
Olive Oil Topping:
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
Coat the pita chips with the olive oil coating, and then place them on a lined baking sheet, baking them in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden brown or crispy. Once they’ve cooled, I pile them in a good-looking bowl and serve them up with some hummus.
For the gyro topping bar, I love the following:
1 container cherry tomatoes, halved
1 container of roasted red bell pepper, sliced thinly
pepperoncini pepper slices
kalamata olives, sliced
1 8oz container of crumbled feta (you may want more cheese, we like it really cheesy at my house)
1 container of hummus
1 bag of prewashed spinach leaves
I love to lay these toppings out on a platter, next to the bowl of tzatziki sauce and the hummus; slice up the chicken and halve the kofta meatballs; and let people assemble their own gryos inside their own pita. It’s so much fun! It’s so yummy! It’s so easy!
This Mediterranean BBQ is perfect for a delicious Memorial Day.