Shawarma Meatball Wrap with Pickled Cherries

We may have not just saved the world from an alien invasion, but hey, we all deserve some shawarma, right?* This wrap takes wonderful Middle Eastern flavors, puts them in a meatball, and wraps them all up in a pita.
Shawarma is a mass of meat (chicken, beef, pork, goat) that is flavored with warm, Middle Eastern spices and cooked over a fire spit.  It is then shaved into thin slices and devoured with tahini, a yogurt sauce, or hummus.  I was inspired when I saw someone take this dish and turn it into a meatball.  I love a good Italian meatball sub with cheese and tomato sauce, so I figured I would also love a wrap with  meatballs and yogurt sauce.  And I was right. And I am figuring you all will love this too.

I topped my meatball wraps with caramelized onions and some pickled cherries.  I have always wanted to experiment with pickling, and remembering an old episode of The Chew where Michael Symon explained how to pickle, I felt inspired.  I thought some juicy, sweet, and slightly vinegary cherries would compliment the flavor of the shawarma well.  Some pickled peaches or nectarines would also work well in this wrap- it’s a perfect time to take an opportunity to enjoy your summer fruits in a new way if you are new to pickling like me!

(* I consider this vague enough not to be a spoiler, and besides I feel like everyone and their brother have seen this movie already… right?  Or am I a bad person ruining movies when you just wanted to hear about food?)

Shawarma Meatballs Adapted from Cara’s Cravings
Pickled Cherries Adapted Slightly from Michael Symon
For the Pickled Cherries:
20 cherries
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cinnamon stickFor the Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
4 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
Pinch of salt

For the Meatballs:
1 pound ground lamb (beef or turkey)
1/4 red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
Pinch of salt and pepper
3 tablespoons bread crumbs

For Serving:
3-4 pitas
Caramelized onions
Goat cheese


For the Pickled Cherries:

Prick each cherry several times with a fork and place in a glass jar.

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, orange zest, and the cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes. Pour over cherries, until they are completely covered. Cool completely at room temperature. Chill for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.

For the Yogurt Sauce:

In a small bowl whisk together the Greek yogurt, garlic, cumin, and salt. Chill for at least 30 minutes until ready to use.

For the Meatballs:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl combine ground lamb, red onion, garlic, cinnamon, cloves, lemon zest, Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, and bread crumbs. Stir together until just combined. Coat a baking sheet lightly with olive oil. Working with about 1 tablespoon a mixture at a time, form into small meatballs. Place meatballs on baking sheet. Bake for 17-19 minutes, until cooked through.

For Serving:

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Warm pitas,about 1-2 minutes per side. Spread yogurt sauce on pita bread. Stuff with meatballs and top with chopped pickled cherries, caramelized onions, and goat cheese if desired.

Serves 3-4.

Greek Burrito

I have been in a serious food rut lately.  Nothing I have been making turns out good.  Actually, it is not just not good- it turns out awful.  It has gotten so bad that I can’t even finish my plate (and I have eaten some seriously gross stuff before).  If you don’t believe me, I ate green and blue onions last night (bad experiment with baking soda).  So the reason for low activity here is because food is not bringing me any inspiration and my time in the kitchen lately has been sparse.
These Greek styled burritos were the last good thing I whipped up- ah, the memories of good food.  The Tex-Mex burrito is filled with Greek flavors.  A delicious dinner is something to be truly appreciated.  Go home today and thank whoever made you a great dinner.
On a side note, today I will be interviewing at my first clinical psychology PhD program.  Wish me good luck!
Inspired by KokoCooks
1 cup dried wild rice
Olive oil
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
20 ounces ground lamb (or turkey)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried cloves
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 ounces goat cheese
1 tomato, chopped
6-8 flour tortillas
Prepare rice according to instructions.  Keep warm and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat,  add enough olive oil to coat the pan.  Add red onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and tomato paste.  Cook for 1 minutes.  Add ground lamb and cook until browned, about 6-9 minutes.  Drain off grease, if needed.  Add rosemary, marjoram, and dried cloves.  Cook for an additional minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Wrap tortillas in wax paper.  Microwave for 30 seconds, until warm.  Fill each tortilla with rice, lamb mixture, tzatziki, goat cheese, and tomatoes.  Fold the bottom of the tortilla over the filling then fold over the sides.
Serves 4-5.

Greek Pizza


This weekend I tried to make my own pita bread for a gyro.  And failed.  It turned out more like a big pita chip instead, which I turned into a makeshift gryo tostada. Ah, well. I have put pita bread back on my to do list.  The mishap left me with an open package of yeast and leftover tzatziki sauce.  What to do….make pizza of course!

Unlike the pita bread, the pizza was a success.  The Greek flavors are bold and delicious. Some recipe notes: if you are on a college student budget like me, you can substitute ground turkey or ground beef for the ground lamb.  Here is how I made my tzatziki sauce, it tasted even better leftover from the night before.  Also, if you are one of those people who like tomatoes (I am not), some sun dried tomatoes would be a great compliment to the other ingredients.

From Cinnamon Freud

For the Pizza Dough:
1 package active yeast
1/2 cup water, 110 °F
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Pizza Toppings:
6 ounces ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon dill
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Half red onion, sliced
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
2 ounces Asiago cheese, grated
Tatziki sauce


Preheat oven to 475°F.

Dissolve yeast in water.  Stir in granulated sugar. Let sit 10 minutes until foamy. In a medium bowl combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until soft dough forms. Knead dough on floured surface for about 5-10 minutes.  Let rise 30-40 minutes in a warm place.

In a small skillet over medium heat combine ground lamb, rosemary, and marjoram.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, then add red wine vinegar.  Add red onions.  Continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, until ground lamb is browned, red onions are soft, and red wine vinegar has evaporated.  Remove from heat.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray or prepare a pizza stone.  Roll out pizza dough to desired thickness.  Spread a little olive oil over pizza.  Top with mozzarella, Asiago, ground lamb, and red onions.  Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 10-14 minutes, until crust is golden brown.  Spoon dollops of tatziki sauce on top.

Serves 2-3.

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki

Greek food is new food to me.  (Or, Greek food is all Greek to me.)  I am just discovering the wonders of gyro pitas, spanakopitas, and baklava. The only thing I can say is: why did I not try this sooner?  My favorite of all the Greek food I have tried so far is definitely the gyro.  Spiced, delectable shaved meat served in a warm pita with cool tzatziki and crunchy onions? Sign me up.

This recipe does take planning ahead (for both the meat and the tzatziki) and some special kitchen gadgets, but the work is worth the results. The meat tastes exactly as if you bought it from your favorite Greek joint.  This is definitely a weekend treat dinner- something to enjoy on a special occasion or just a really cold Sunday.  The meat can be made to make the pita sandwiches or just eaten as is.  Just make sure you serve it with the tzatziki- it takes the dish to another level.

This meal and post is dedicated to our small food processor who lost the fight against this meat.  It’s sacrifice was not given in vain but in the name of good food.

From Alton Brown

1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds ground lamb
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tabespoon dried majoram
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Special tools: tea towel, loaf pan, brick wrapped in foil
Tzatziki, for serving (recipe below)


Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a food processor, process onion for 10-15 seconds.  Remove onion from processor and transfer to a tea towel.  Squeeze onion to remove excess water (there will be a lot of water).

In a large bowl, combine onion, garlic, lamb, rosemary, marjoram, salt, and pepper.  Transfer to food processor (in small batches if needed).  Process for 30-45 seconds, until paste-like.  Press mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to remove all air pockets.

Put loaf pan in a 9×13 baking pan.  Fill the 9×13 baking pan with warm water.  Bake for 50-65 minutes, until loaf is 170°F.  Remove from oven.  Drain off grease from the loaf.  Place brick covered in foil on top of loaf and let sit for 10-15 minutes, until loaf is 175°F.  Slice thinly.  Serve with tzatziki sauce.

To serve as a gyro sandwich:
Heat a medium pan over medium heat.  Heat pita bread, about 1 minute per side.  Top warm pita with gyro meat, tzatziki, sliced tomato, and thinly sliced red onions.

Adapted from Elly Says Opa
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill
4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Special tools: cheesecloth, tea towel
Secure a cheesecloth over a measuring cup.  Spoon yogurt on top.  Refrigerate and let yogurt drain for at least 3 hours.
Place cucumber on a layer of paper towel.  Salt cucumbers and let sit for at least 20 minutes.  Transfer cucumbers to a tea towel and squeeze to remove water.  Transfer drained yogurt from cheesecloth to a large bowl.  Add cucumbers, red wine vinegar, dill, and garlic.  Mix to combine.  Drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.