Juicy pieces of pork are served with pita bread, some vegetables, and an amazing black garlic tzatziki for the ultimate dinner!
Did you guys notice how quickly this summer passed? I had so many plans and dreams for this summer, but due to work-related reasons and a recent move to a new apartment, I didn’t get the chance to do even half of it! But this summer also rewarded me, because I was nominated as a finalist for Best New Voice in the Saveur Blog Awards! If you like this blog, you can vote for me here, and also vote any other blog you like until September 6th, 2017 (thanks!!!). The good thing about September is that the hot weather is finally over, so it is much easier for us to start grilling things and also enjoy them outside, either on our balcony/terrace or in our back yard (at least those of you who have one!). The recipe for these Greek pork skewers (or souvlaki in Greek) is very easy, especially if you let your butcher do all the cutting, and it’s something that the whole family or friends will enjoy! Black garlic tzatziki is an amazing twist to the original tzatziki recipe because it has all the flavor but without the strong smell of raw garlic!
I now realize I don’t have a lot of pork recipes here on the blog. In fact, the only other pork recipe is this traditional drunken pork stew (Bekri meze). I think this has certainly to do with the fact that I’m trying to reduce the meat I eat, and also with the fact that the Mediterranean diet – at least the diet of my grandparents – included one meat dish every week or even every 15 days. This meat dish was eaten usually on Sundays, and this is the reason why we have a special word for it: “Kiriakatiko”. “Kiriakatiko” means “Sunday meal” or “Sunday dinner” and it is a hearty meal for the whole family to enjoy, almost always containing some kind of meat! In this broad sense, these pork skewers could be qualified as “Kiriakatiko”!
What is black garlic? Black garlic is just garlic that has been stored for several weeks under controlled conditions (high temperature and moisture), something that has caused it to change in color and flavor. Its taste becomes sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar or tamarind. As it turns out, black garlic has twice the antioxidants of regular garlic without the intense smell, so it’s a win-win situation! This creamy black garlic tzatziki is the perfect and healthy accompaniment to the pork skewers, making them extra tasty and luscious! Add some chopped vegetables and pita bread, and you have yourself the perfect dinner!
Souvlaki is the Greek word for “small skewer” and it usually refers to pork skewers. If you order it from the street, you have the option to eat it wrapped in pita bread, with the addition of fried potatoes, tomato, onions, tzatziki and other stuff. Here, I don’t use french fries but you can certainly add them if you like. If you want to make a pita wrap like the pros, then you must take a pita on your right hand, wrap a warm skewer very firmly, and pull out the wooden stick with your left hand in order to remove it from the meat. Since this may take some practice to make perfect, I suggest removing the pork cubes from the wooden sticks with a fork, and then placing them on the pita bread and filling it with whatever you like 🙂
Tzatziki is a yogurt-based sauce or condiment. For best results, use a thick, strained, plain Greek yogurt.
To tenderize the meat, marinate it with onions the night before (I’ve also heard of using kiwi but haven’t tried it yet).
Use meat from the leg or neck. The meat from the leg is leaner but also a bit tougher. Meat from the neck will produce more juicy skewers. You can also use a combination of the above.
If you use a charcoal grill, you can dip the wooden skewers in water for a couple of hours. This will prevent them from burning.
Do not use oil during cooking the skewers because it will burn. Use some olive oil only at the end.
If your black garlic is old and dry, soak it for 30 minutes in hot water. It will hydrate and soften.
Lightly oil and warm pita bread for easier handling.
- For the skewers:
- 1½ pound (750 grams) pork in 1-inch cubes (skin and most fat removed)
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (for marinating)
- About 2 teaspoons (10 grams) fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (for grilling)
- For the black garlic tzatziki:
- 1 cup 250 grams strained Greek yogurt, plain
- 1 medium cucumber, grated and strained
- 3-4 cloves black garlic
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or more to taste)
- 6-8 wooden skewers
- 6-8 pita bread
- For serving: chopped tomatoes, onion slices, shredded lettuce, dried oregano, sea salt flakes
- From the night before mix in a bowl the pork, onion, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and refrigerate.
- Make the black garlic tzatziki: Finely grate black garlic with a zester, or mash it in a mortar (start with 3 cloves, and if you want more, add another clove after tasting the finished tzatziki).
- Grate cucumber, put it in a strainer, add some salt, and let it strain for 10 minutes. Squeeze firmly with your hands and add it in a bowl with the yogurt, black garlic, pepper, dill, and apple cider vinegar.
- Mix well and refrigerate.
- Remove pork cubes from the marinade and pierce them with the wooden skewers (about 5 cubes per skewer).
- Grill them in a grill pan over high heat or over charcoals, until well browned and caramelized, about 5 minutes each side (you can also bake them in the oven with slightly tougher results). Brush them with some olive oil 1 minute before done.
- Serve immediately with pita, black garlic, chopped vegetables, some oregano, sea salt flakes and a drizzle of olive oil.
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