Weeknight Shorts: Going Greek

While there's no guarantee that we won't see a few more blasts of arctic weather, winter is definitely out and spring is here. It's time to look for ways to freshen our lives up a bit and enjoy the new season that's upon us. For me, there are few better ways of doing this than looking to fun ethnic cuisine that can be taken on the road for a picnic:

Behold, Greek Kofta Pitas. These little packages pack an amazing flavor and texture punch. Filled to the brim with tender, seasoned beef, tangy rice, crisp Greek salad, creamy yogurt dotted with feta, and my favorite kalamata olives, they are wonderful whether you're sitting down to dinner at the table or packing everything up for the first picnic of the season.

Even though there are a lot of little dishes to assemble for these pitas, everything comes together quickly — especially if you have a rice cooker — and this ends up being a dinner you can make in less than 20 minutes. That's a lot to love when things get busy and you still want a healthy dinner that your whole family will love. You could even save a bit more time by mixing the meat and seasoning and forming the patties beforehand. The salad and the sauce could also be assembled the day or morning before you wish to serve this dish.

As for what to have with it, it seems like everything is already in the pitas! I just opted to slice some beautifully juicy oranges and have them alongside the pitas. They were a good match for the complex flavors in the pitas and they really looked bright and cheerful on our plates. Maybe it just felt a bit like the promise of brighter, warmer days to come. Happy spring!

Greek Kofta Pitas

  • 1 c. jasmine rice
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. dried mint
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 T. garam marsala
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach
  • 1/4 c. thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 c. plain, full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 whole wheat pitas, halved

To prepare the rice, combine the rice, lemon juice, and dry mint in a rice cooker. Add water according to your rice cooker's instructions and set the rice to cooking.

Meanwhile, season the ground beef with garam marsala, salt, and pepper. Divide the beef in half, then in halves again, then one more time until you have eight pieces. Roll the seasoned meat into cigar-shapes and then slightly flatten. Sauté the kofta pieces in a hot, nonstick skillet. The meat should have a slightly browned outside edge and be cooked through.

To make the salad, coarsely chop the spinach and toss with the red onion and cucumber. Set aside.

Combine the feta cheese and yogurt in a small container to make a flavorful sauce.

To assemble, stuff the pita halves with the rice, meat, salad, sauce, and olives. Enjoy!

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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