Monday, March 25, 2013

Grandmother's Pasta Sauce

I’ve never been a big fan of jarred pasta sauce.  Some will do in a pinch, if necessary.  Probably I just find them too sweet, or perhaps it’s because I have been enjoying and preparing my grandmother’s sauce recipe for most of my life.  My grandmother is the best with the classics – meatballs, lasagna, manicotti, oh, and her cheese balls well, let me tell you(this will be a future post).

This thick and rich sauce is really versatile, and it is the sauce that my grandma uses for all of these dishes. It also works well as the base to cook meatballs or Italian sausage links in.  I brown my meatballs first to get a good crust on them, and then I add them to the sauce.   

Every so often, I whip up a pot and freeze it in smaller amounts to use for quick weeknight dinners as well as special occasion dinners. My family loves this sauce recipe.  I hope you will too. 

Homemade Pasta Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
28 oz. can diced tomatoes, strained
28 oz. can tomato puree
12 oz. can tomato paste (add ½ can of water)
28 oz. can tomato sauce
½ c. dry red wine 
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tsp. onion powder
2-3 garlic cloves
Fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot, combine all ingredients.  Simmer for three hours.

Note:  I use Hunt’s tomato products. You may, of course, substitute fresh chopped tomatoes.  Since I mostly make sauce during our cold Midwest winters, good fresh tomatoes usually aren’t available.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Grilled Chicken Gyros

Grilled chicken gyros are sure to satisfy the toughest of Greek food cravings. 

They are an easy prepare-at-home dinner and are great for relaxing summer evenings on the patio. 

Gyros are wonderful served with homemade Tzatziki, a cool, cucumber garlic sauce. We like to enjoy our gyros with a chilled glass of Roditis, a light Greek rose wine. 

Our favorite brands are Apelia and Tzantali, which are fairly easy to find in grocery stores with specialty wine areas. 

Serves 4
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 pitas
2 tsp. minced garlic
¼ c. olive oil
1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups plain, strained Greek yogurt
1 cucumber peeled and seeded
2 tsp. of minced garlic
1-2 tsp. of dry dill
salt to taste
2 tbls. olive oil
1 tbls. lemon juice

Sliced tomatoes
Crisp iceberg lettuce
Sliced red onion

For the marinade, combine garlic, olive oil, juice from lemon, and salt and pepper.  Pour into a sealable, plastic bag.  Add chicken and marinate for at least one hour.

Next prepare Tzatziki. If you use a strained Greek yogurt, you will leave out the extra step of straining regular yogurt. Chop cucumber and pulse in a food processor until desired consistency.  I like my sauce a little chunky.  Drain excess water from cucumbers.  Combine cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, dill, olive oil and lemon.  Add salt to taste.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Grill chicken about 8 minutes per side or until it reaches 165°.  I’ve also cooked the chicken in a glass pan in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes.  Let chicken rest a few minutes then slice. 

Warm pitas on top grill rack for 1-2 minutes.  Layer with chicken and Tzatziki and top with tomatoes, red onion and lettuce.