My 14yo stepdaughter is here for her spring break and we bond over dinner preparation. She teases that I just enjoy having an indentured servant at my disposal. Well, I do miss having a sous chef. (For those unfamiliar with restaurant hierarchy, a sous chef performs a lot of the drudge work in a professional kitchen) Alas, our household budget doesn’t come close to including hired help. Her enthusiasm usually increases when she is given the opportunity to help plan the menu. With that in mind, I had her check out BeefitsWhatsforDinner.com, where she chose the Mediterranean Beef Pitas.
To round out the meal we also prepared a Greek salad and cucumber sauce, like tzatziki, for those who may not care for hummus. As my in-laws are also visiting, we laid out a buffet rather than filling individual pitas for everyone. I doubled the beef recipe to serve 8.
Recipes and commentary are after the jump.
This cucumber sauce recipe is quick and easy, but you need cheese cloth or a clean flour sack type towel to drain the cucumber.
Cucumber and Garlic Sauce
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 TBSP white vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
If you can’t find Greek yogurt, substitute plain yogurt, but it needs to be drained before use in this recipe.
To drain plain yogurt line either a sieve or a colander with a piece of cheese cloth and set over a bowl. Place the yogurt on the cheesecloth and put the whole contraption in the refrigerator. The longer the yogurt drains, the firmer it will be.
Grate the cucumber over a square of cheesecloth or a floursack towel.
Once the cucumber is grated, fold the towel over the pile and squeeze firmly to remove the excess liquid.
My kids are a little on the odd side and think the cucumber juice is a huge treat. I really can’t make this stuff up, I swear.
In a food processor or blender combine all of the ingredients: drained cucumber, yogurt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and salt/pepper. Blend or process until smooth. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. This allows the flavors to marry and it’s well worth the wait.
Basic Greek Salad
This is a simple Greek salad recipe. I have a recipe for Greek vinaigrette to post in the future. This meal was prepared in a time crunch and bottled works quite well.
- 1/2 head iceberg or green leaf lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
- Equal amount of romaine lettuce, leaf tips and stems discarded, torn into bite size pieces
- 1/4 red onion sliced thin
- 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
- 1 tomato sliced
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 4 – 6 pepperoncini peppers (optional)
- Greek vinaigrette to taste
In a large bowl toss the lettuces, red onion, cucumber, tomato, and olives. Set aside until just before serving. When the meal is served add the dressing, toss to coat thoroughly and garnish with crumbled feta and the optional peperoncinis.
This makes 6 – 8 side salads.
And now for the star of the meal.
Mediterranean Beef Pitas
- 1 pound beef round tip steaks, cut 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
- 4 pita breads, cut crosswise in half
- 3/4 cup plain or seasoned hummus
Sliced cucumber, tomatoes, red onions
Stack beef steaks; cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1-inch wide strips. Combine beef and lemon pepper in medium bowl. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1/2 of beef; stir-fry 1 to 3 minutes or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. (Do not overcook.) Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining beef. Season with salt, as desired. Fill pita pockets with equal amounts of steak, hummus and toppings, as desired.
And here is how the recipe actually went down.
Round tip steak is also known as breakfast steak, tip steak, or sandwich steak. We have 1/2 a cow (by now it’s much less) in our deep freeze. I pulled out and partially thawed a round steak. This is a thicker cut, but an acceptable substitution as it is another lean cut of beef from the same area of the cow. It is appropriate for use in stir frying, the manner of cooking used in the recipe.
Beef, like chicken, is easier to slice when it is partially frozen. If you substitute a round steak, there may be some fat that needs to be trimmed while slicing. To keep the nutritional integrity of the original recipe, it is important to carefully trim the meat. My round steak was a little over 1/2 inch thick, so I sliced it into 1/8 – 1/4 inch instead of the 1 inch wide strips recommended in the original recipe.
After slicing and placing the beef into a medium bowl, I tossed it with the lemon pepper seasoning.
I do not own a nonstick pan, so I heated 1 TBSP of olive oil over medium high heat in my skillet. Once the oil was hot, I cooked the beef in batches about half a pound each time. When stir frying, it is important to not crowd the pan for two reasons, first the addition of too much meat will reduce the temperature of the pan and slow cooking. Second, the moisture is cooked off needs room to evaporate in the pan or you run the risk of boiling the meat. Ick.
The beef was cooked until just no longer pink and placed in a dish to serve.
Each pita was filled to the individual’s tastes.
How did it rate with the family?
It was a huge hit with the adults and teenager. The younger set all have their quirks, one doesn’t care for tomatoes, another wasn’t a huge fan of the meat itself, overall they ate well. We don’t cater and treat each new recipe as a chance to broaden their experience. I’d highly recommend this meal to anyone not in the preschool set. Tim has asked that it be added to our usual meal rotation, which is high praise indeed. The pitas were excellent and only took a few minutes to prepare. I spent much more time assembling the side dishes and buffet than actually preparing the main dish. If you are in a hurry, a bagged salad would be a great shortcut.
Last, let’s quickly discuss nutrition:
This is the information provided by the website. It is important to remember portion sizes as you fill your pita, otherwise you can significantly increase the calorie and fat content listed. To further increase the nutritional value of this meal consider using whole wheat pitas.