I think I should’ve been born Greek. That is the only possible explanation for this ridiculous love affair I’m having with Mediterranean cuisine.
The pita, the olive oil, the dips, the greens, the cheese, the seafood (OHMYGAWD THE SEAFOOD)… I am totally enamored by it all. Allow me to demonstrate:
I’ve blogged about the The Greek Village once before on nuts n’ berries. Unfortunately, that post was sadly lacking in pictures because I wasn’t as diligent with my photographing as I am now. Most of you guys probably don’t even remember said-post. It’s ok to forget it – I consider it ancient history.
SO. Let me reintroduce this small, local Greek eatery. It’s located smack dab in the middle of one of the larger streets in Northvale – which isn’t saying much. The Greek Village is right across from a deli, and down the street from a ShopRite, a McDonald’s, a CVS, a Panera… You get the picture. I guess you could call it the busiest street in my puny little town.
As you can see, it really is a no-frills, almost run-down restaurant. Owned by a Greek family, it probably seats a maximum of 18 people. But considering how small Northvale is, the fact that you have to wait to be seated on a weekday is a testament to how good this place is. And my family had to wait. Which we did. Ever… so… patiently…
When you walk in, the first thing that you see is a refrigerated case of meats and dips.
The Greek Village does takeout, so you’ll see people lining up not only to be seated, but to get their food t0-go as well. In the refrigerated case, you can see an assortment of yummalicious Greek foods waiting to be cooked and doled out to drooling customers.
Because the restaurant is so tiny, there’s usually only one waiter and the service is pretty slow. But trust me, IT’S ALL WORTH IT.
The menu is a laminated, single-page affair. I guess this place can’t afford to have multiple sheafs of paper as their menu, because they crammed all the dishes into a single sheet.
They also have a little dry-erase board advertising the dishes of the day.
Because we were gonna end up sharing everything, my family of four only ordered 3 dishes; my mom wasn’t feeling very peckish.
My dad got:
I didn’t try this, but does the meat not look delicious and juicy and succulent? My dad gave it a thumbs up.
This came with a side of rice and grilled vegetables, which I didn’t bother taking a picture of. Even though it looks a little too charred, the flesh of the bass was sweet and tender.. Another thumbs up, this time from all 4 members of my family.
AND I. GOT. THE BIG. KAHUNA. OF ALL OUR ORDERS. Drumroll please…
A SALAD!!! IS YOUR MOUTH NOT WATERING RIGHT NOW??
I know, I know. A salad? But trust me, that’s a pretty freaking huge salad – it could almost be served family-style. And how absolutely amazing does that look? And when I say amazing, I mean amazing as in “OMG-THIS-IS-THE-BEST-SALAD-I-HAVE-EVER-EATEN-IN-MY-ENTIRE-LIFE” amazing. It was that good.
Now granted, a lot of that amazingness is due to the huge pile of grilled seafood on top of the veggies. The calamari, octopus, and the shrimp were all grilled to perfection. And believe me when I tell you this: if you’ve never eaten Greek octopus before, it is something you absolutely have to try. Most octopus dishes are chewy and rubbery – not that that’s always a bad thing. But by some amazing method of octopus preparation, the Greeks have rendered it so soft and delicious it almost melts in your mouth. In fact, the octopadi dish is a lot more tender than some of the meat dishes I’ve tried.
Below the seafood lies a bed a romaine lettuce, tomatoes, olives, red and green bell peppers, feta cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice. All working together in perfect harmony with the seafood to attain a salad-nirvana. And for a plate that big, $15.50 is a dang good bargain.
So, after eating that kind of food, how can I not be obsessed with Mediterranean cuisine?
You guys know that I tried my hand at making hummus last week. Well, this time I ventured into the realm of tzatziki-making.
Probably one of the most popular Greek dips, tzatziki comes with a lot of the dishes served at the Greek Village – you can see it served on the kabob and salad plate. It’s pretty simple to make, so I decided to whip one up at like, 1:00 AM on Friday.
The base of the tzatziki sauce is yogurt.
But this is not just any yogurt – it’s Greek yogurt. Notice how thick it is? That’s because this yogurt is actually regular yogurt that’s had a large amount of liquid drained. That means that not only is Greek yogurt wonderfully thick and creamy, it also has twice the protein of regular yogurt.
I used a little more than half the container for this recipe.
Fage is my favorite brand; I don’t exactly know why… All I know that it is very, very delicious. I frequently eat it for breakfast, actually.
The second most important component of a good tzatziki is cucumber:
Using a mandolin slicer, I shredded 3 small seedless cucs and then promptly put the entire cucumbery pile in the middle of a clean cheesecloth.
And then I squeezed/wrung all the excess water out of them.
This is a veeerrrry important step. If you don’t remove the excess liquid from the cucumbers, even with the thick Greek yogurt, your tzatziki will end up too watery.
See how much water comes out of a small pile cucumbers? If you don’t take it out, your tzatziki will probably be more like a soup then a dip. Waste not, want not – I drank the green cucumber-juice and it was really refreshing. Oddly reminiscent of watermelon actually…
I put the cucumber-ball into a bowl, and added the juice of 1/2 a lemon.
And then a handful of dill.
And then I grated 2 cloves of garlic into the mix.
Stirred until well combined…
Then I finally added the yogurt.
Then I mixed again, and added salt to taste. The final product looked like this.
Now, while this may look perfectly ready, it’s not. You actually have to put it in the fridge overnight and wait for all the flavors to meld and develop before consumption.
The next day, it looked like this.
Well, this picture was taken after I had eaten some of it… The container was filled to brim with tzatziki prior to me eating so much of it.
I was a little worried that my tzatziki wasn’t going to end up so good.. But I needn’t have worried. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think it actually tastes better than the one they serve at the Greek Village. I can literally eat it by itself. Which, as gross as it sounds, I actually did. It’s that good. Made my breath really garlicky, but it was nevertheless very, very scrumptious.
And what would go perfectly with tzatziki sauce?
THAT’S RIGHT. PITA BREAD.
Which I also tried making. Which didn’t turn out as successful as the tzatziki, but still pretty good.
Like with my bread adventure, I started with a blend of teff and whole wheat flours.
In my bread-machine bucket, I put in a mix of warm water, sugar, salt, and olive oil.
I then poured the flour to the bucket, and added the yeast to the very top.
I let the bread machine do its thing. After 2 hours, I took the dough out, but it was way too wet. Which is weird, because I followed the recipe to the letter… But I added flour to the dough while I was kneading it until it reached the right consistency.
After the dough into pita rounds, I let them rise for half an hour.
I popped them one at a time into my toaster oven, and I think this is where it went wrong. While I did set my toaster oven to a blazing 500°F, I don’t think the little guy had enough power to reach the proper temperature. As a result, my pitas didn’t puff up like they’re supposed to.
They ended up looking like this:
Notice the lack of a pocket in the pita. The flat bread is supposed to have a big empty puff in the middle from when the water in the dough explodes into steam in the super-hot oven. This is what makes pitas ideal for sandwiches – it’s a pre-formed bread pocket! Like I said, my pitas probably didn’t puff because the oven wasn’t hot enough :(
Oh well, when life gives you pocketless pitas, you make… Pita chips!
I sliced the pita rounds in half length-wise and then toasted them. After they cooled, I broke them into chip-sized pieces. Turns out they’re perfect vessels for my homemade tzatziki :D
So although my Greek adventure wasn’t ideal, it sure was a heck of a lot of fun and deliciousness. And I plan to make the pitas again. I will conquer you, whole-wheat carbohydrates!
Well, that’s it for now. There goes another uber-long post. But think of it this way – it’s only because I have so much to share with you guys :)
Life sure is good – because I’m on senior service I don’t have to go school these days. With more free time on my hands, I’ll keep trying to update regularly.
Anyhoo, ta-ta for now!