Greek yogurt is the perfect companion for avocados in a creamy guacamole.By Diane Kochilas
There is a certain simpatico in the marriage of Mexican and Mediterranean (in my case Greek) cuisines.
There are a number of similarities in the cuisines of Mexico and Greece. Both share peasant roots; both have an affinity for sauces and condiments pounded in a mortar with a pestle; both rely on vegetable casseroles and use a fair amount of cheese.
Mexican cooks wrap and grill in corn husks; Greek cooks do similar things with grape leaves and fig leaves. What is an empanada but a glorified boureki, and what is a boureki but a glorified empanada? Both are hand-held, stuffed, savory pastries. The spice palettes are totally different, of course, but many of the techniques are similar.
Long before this fusion was trendy, I used to pop open a bira, as we call cervezas in Greek, pull off the cap of a can of La Morena chipotles, chop 'em, mix 'em with thick Greek yogurt and dip my just-toasted pita wedges into this delectable junk food. I can't share with you in print what inspired such culinary yearnings, but the munchies, at least as I interpreted them, required spice, crunch and an ice-cold beer.
At the New York City restaurant Pylos, a Greek-style grilled chicken breast morphs into a hot and spicy delicacy that fits inside rolled up pita bread as easily as it does inside a soft tortilla, if any of the guys happen to have brought some for lunch. What might have been a chile rellenos, is transformed into a feta-chili stuffed and grilled sweet red pepper.
Roasted eggplant "salad" -- the classic melitzanosalata in Greek restaurants -- is absolutely sabroso with those canned chipotles in sauce. It's great, too, with spiced chicken or shrimp inside a flour tortilla or Greek pita.
But by far the most harmonious marriage of flavors to have emerged from this unlikely Grec-Mex connection, at least to my palate, is a luscious combination of rich, buttery mashed avocado, Greek yogurt, chili peppers, lemon juice and a touch of garlic. I have coined this one Grecamole. That sounds better to my ear than Avocado Tzatziki!
Makes 2 cups
1½ large, ripe avocados
2 to 3 chipotle peppers in sauce, mashed or coarsely chopped
a few drops of classic Tabasco or of Habanero Tabasco
1 large garlic clove, peeled (or more, to taste)
⅔ cup Greek yogurt
salt to taste
1 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
1. Mash the avocados with the peppers, hot sauce, and garlic either with a mortar and pestle or in a bowl with a fork.
2. Mix in the yogurt.
3. Just before serving, add the lemon juice and salt. Serve with toasted pita wedges. Enjoy!
4. If you have any Greek yogurt left over from the guacamole dish, use it up in a slightly more traditional chicken salad recipe.
Roast Chicken Salad with Red Grapes
Makes 1½ cups, or 2 sandwiches' worth
1 cup leftover roast chicken, roughly chopped or shredded
⅓ cup chopped cucumber
⅓ cup halved red grapes
½ cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Combine everything, refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve. You can add curry powder if you want to beat that poor old fad to death. I recommend using a way, way cooler teaspoon or so of finely ground smoked black peppercorn instead.
Zester Daily contributor Diane Kochilas, the food columnist and restaurant critic for Greece's largest newspaper, Ta Nea, is also a culinary teacher, restaurant consultant and award-winning cookbook author.
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