Not All Gyros Wear Capes


Pru says that when I’m on a mission, it’s best to stay out of my way.  He has become adept at recognizing all the telltale signs: I stop talking mid-sentence, then get this faraway look in my eyes right before I launch into a series of non sequiturs, muttering to no one in particular.  It happened recently while working on an intense work project with someone I’m lucky enough to have as my friend and self-proclaimed bossy big sister.  This one’s for you Sally.  ‘Cause you’re my gyro.

My Middle Eastern menu consists of beef gyros with tzatziki sauce and tahini dressing.  The tzatziki  is easy to make and requires very little effort beyond procuring the ingredients and slicing the cucumber paper thin, a task made easier with the use of a mandoline.  For the tahini sauce, tahini paste comes in a jar, found in Middle Eastern grocery stores or Whole Foods.  Or you can make your own.

The beef gyro was a little intimidating at first, but use the food processor to ground your meat to the pasty texture it’s intended to be and you will make this part of your regular dinner repertoire.

Beef Gyro

Ground beef, 1 lb
Salt and pepper to taste
Oregano, 1 tsp
1/2 onion
garlic, 3 cloves
bacon, 3 strips


Combine ground beef, salt, pepper, and oregano in medium bowl. Mix with hands until homogeneous. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to over night.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 300°F. Place cold mixture in bowl of food processor with onion, garlic, and bacon. Process until smooth puree is formed, about 1 minute total, scraping down sides with rubber spatula as necessary.

Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. With moist hands, form meat mixture into rectangle.  Pat it tightly to avoid air pockets in your meatloaf-like brick.  Bake until center of loaf reads 155°F on an instant read thermometer, about 30 minutes. Allow loaf to rest at room temperature for fifteen minutes.  Then refrigerate for a couple of hours as this makes it easier to slice thinly.

Adjust broiler rack to highest position (about 1 1/2 to 2 inches from broiler element) and preheat broiler. Slice loaf crosswise into 1/8th to 1/4-inch strips. Lay strips on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and broil until edges are brown and crispy, about 2 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil.


1 c Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, thinly sliced

Mix all ingredients and allow flavors to blend together for a couple of hours.

Tahini sauce

Tahini is ground sesame paste and you can find it at Whole Foods or Middle Eastern markets.   It’s like peanut butter but without the sweet nutty taste.  You can probably get away with omitting it but you’ve come this far, you might as well take another tahini step. Sorry I’ll stop punning now.

Finely mince or 2 cloves of garlic and mix with 1/2 cup of tahini paste, some lemon juice and olive oil to taste.  The mixture should be something like very runny peanut better.  When you first crack open your jar of tahini, you will find a layer of oil on top which is not only normal but awesome because of all that rich and creamy goodness.  Just stir it well before using.

Stuff pita pockets with beef gyro and spoon tahini sauce and tzatziki over the beef, serve with cucumber and tomato salad.



He’s Such a Crepe


So…well…umm there are no excuses.  I’ve missed this blog.  There have been times when my cursor hovered over my favorites toolbar and I came close to clicking on it but the discomfort of seeing my last post from almost five months ago was too much to bear.  So I’ve kept my distance.  No, that is not a metaphor for how I deal with issues; not always, anyway.  But like a homing pigeon, I will always have an instinct to come back home to keeping it eel.

OK.  Enough therapy.

A couple of weeks ago during Easter week-end, I epitomized the adage ‘those who can’t do, teach.’  I had this awesome idea of hosting a cooking class and making crepes, inspired by our recent cooking class at Sur La Table.


Greek pistachio cigars


The planning was fun and here are some tips to get you started:

  • Plan a menu fitting for the occasion you’re hosting.  Easter brunch may call for a variety of crepes; a dinner party is more suited for 3 courses of appetizer, main with side dish and dessert.
  • Assign courses and ingredients so you are not saddled with the responsibility and cost of trying to take care of everything.  For someone who has a hard time asking for help I’ve learned over the years that guests are most satisfied when they contribute something–their time, effort or a dish–to the meal.  It gives the party a sense of community that you don’t otherwise get when you do everything yourself.  No one’s trying to be Joan of Arc here and you’ll wind up looking just as haggard as her if not more.
  • If you don’t have a big stove, invest in these single hot plates  so your students have ample room to maneuver on their own personal stove.
  • Have snacks available for guests to nosh on.  Depending on your students’ cooking chops and how many cooking disasters you’ll have to struggle through, you may not eat for hours.  No judgments here just being realistic.

Our crepe making party was actually a success.  But–and here’s a big but–just because you know how to make something and cook it well does not mean you can teach others how to do it.  Por ejemplo, when your student asks, “How do I know when my crepe is done?”  The answer should never be “I don’t know, I usually just use the force.”  People who don’t cook need clarity, step-by-step instructions, actual answers that don’t invoke Star Wars references or tea leaves or magic.  What really helps is a printed copy of recipes that your students can follow along on their own and your role as a teacher is to guide, answer and course correct, say, when there is an unmanageable open flame that has risen to distressing heights.  Our clean up crew–actually, clean up Pru–wound up taking over and the students turned out technically perfect crepes.  Whatever.

Lastly, invite people who you actually like, people who love you and people you know won’t get mad or dissolve the relationship when they get yelled at or ridiculed, “You call that a crepe?  It’s as thick as a manhole!”  or “How much is one table spoon in your world?  In the end, when you partake of your creations together, you’ll remember why you invited these people in the first place.  And why you love cooking.



The Shalissa: Crepes with nutella, strawberries, bananas and almonds


The MissyMark: Cheese blintzes with blueberry sauce


The JayGo: Savory crepes with chicken, feta, pesto and provolone