Milk Street: Souvlaki and Flatbread (Ep 522)
Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki and Tomato-Onion Salad
Start to finish: 1 hour
Servings: 6 to 8
In her book “Aegean,” Crete-born London chef Marianna Leivaditaki reveals that after a
recent visit to Turkey, she began incorporating fenugreek in her cooking, especially on grilled pork of all sorts. We, too, think that fenugreek, with its notes of mustard, fennel
and maple, brings intriguing and unique flavor to any dish to which it’s added (fenugreek is a key ingredient in curry powder). In adapting Leivaditaki’s recipe for an herb and spice- rubbed pork tenderloin, we sear the seasoned meat on the stovetop and finish it in a hot oven before thinly slicing it for serving (you will need an oven-safe 12-inch skillet for this recipe). To the seasoning mix, we add a little smoked paprika to evoke the flavors of an outdoor grill. “Souvlaki” often refers to meat cooked on skewers, but Leivaditaki explains that in Crete, souvlaki is meat wrapped in pita. This recipe also makes a creamy, garlicky tzatziki and a juicy tomato-onion salad for tucking into the bread with the pork.
Don’t sear the pork until it’s deeply browned. Aim for a light to medium sear so
the spice rub doesn’t scorch and the meat does not wind up overcooked. Also, be sure to
allow the pork to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. This gives the juices time to
redistribute throughout the muscle fibers so they won’t all run out when the tenderloin is sliced.
2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 3⁄4 teaspoon sweet paprika plus 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek (see headnote)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, preferably hot
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Two 11⁄4-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin and halved crosswise
1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and seeded
1⁄2 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1⁄2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 ripe medium tomatoes, cored, halved lengthwise + sliced into thin half-moons
Yogurt and olive oil flatbreads (p. TK) or pita bread, to serve
Heat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle position. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon of oregano, the thyme, Aleppo pepper, fenugreek, paprika and 1 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Sprinkle this mixture all over the pork, rubbing it into the meat; set aside at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, set a colander in a medium bowl and set a box grater in the colander. Shred the cucumber on the grater's large holes. Sprinkle the cucumber with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, toss to combine and set aside to drain. In another medium bowl, stir together the onion, lemon juice and 1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside.
In an oven-safe 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the pork and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until browned on all sides, about 4 minutes total. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast until the center of the thickest tenderloin reaches 135°F or is just slightly pink when cut into, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven (the handle will be hot) and transfer the pork to a platter. Let rest for about 10 minutes.
While the pork rests, use your hands to squeeze the cucumber to remove excess water. In a small bowl, stir together the cucumber, yogurt, garlic, vinegar and 3 tablespoons of the remaining oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
To the onion mixture, add the tomatoes, the remaining 1 teaspoon oregano and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Gently toss to combine, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Thinly slice each piece and return to the platter. Serve the pork with the tzatziki, tomato salad and pita.
Yogurt and Olive Oil Flatbreads
Start to finish: 1 hour
Makes eight 7-inch flatbreads
These soft, plush flatbreads from chef Marianna Leivaditaki are simple to make.
Yogurt and olive oil give them rich flavor and a little semolina flour adds a pleasing texture. The breads are cooked one at a time in a skillet on the stovetop (cast-iron works best for browning, but nonstick does a decent job, too) and hot out of the pan, they’re brushed with olive oil seasoned with za’atar, sumac and dried oregano. Serve them warm with Leivaditaki’s pork souvlaki (p. TK), for making sandwich or kebab wraps, as an
accompaniment to stews or braises, or for dipping into hummus and other spreads. The
flatbreads are best when freshly made, of course, but extra can be stored in a zip-close
bag at room temperature for up to three days; to rewarm, wrap the breads in foil and pop
them into a 350°F oven for a few minutes.
Don’t be afraid to add more all-purpose flour when rolling out the dough. The dough is quite sticky, so additional flour is needed to prevent it from sticking to the counter.
1 cup warm water (110°F)
1⁄4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt, room temperature
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for the bowl
293 grams (21⁄4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
85 grams (1⁄2 cup) semolina flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon table salt, divided
1 teaspoon za’atar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground sumac
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
In a small bowl, whisk together the water, yogurt and 1⁄4 cup oil. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, the yeast and 3⁄4 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and pour the liquids into the well. Using a silicone spatula, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet; once combined, the mixture should form a shaggy dough.
Dust the counter with all-purpose flour and turn the dough out onto it; reserve the bowl. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. Lightly coat the same bowl with oil, then return the dough to it. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until the dough has doubled in bulk, 30 to 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut eight 9-inch squares of kitchen parchment; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1⁄4 cup oil, the za’atar, sumac, oregano and the remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon salt; set aside.
When the dough is ready, dust the counter with flour, then turn the dough onto the surface. Using a dough scraper or bench knife, divide the dough into 8 pieces, each about 87 grams (3 ounces). Form each portion into a taut ball, keeping the formed balls covered with the kitchen towel as you shape the rest. Set 1 ball on a lightly floured surface and, using a rolling pin, roll it into an 8-inch round about 1⁄8 inch thick, dusting with flour as needed. Lightly flour a parchment square and set the round on top. Repeat with the remaining dough balls, stacking the rounds on top of each other, with a parchment square between the layers.
Heat a 10- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium until water flicked onto the surface immediately sizzles and evaporates. Pick up a dough round by its parchment liner, invert it into the pan and peel off and discard the parchment. Cook until large bubbles form and the bottom is spottily browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Using tongs, flip the bread and cook until the second side is golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack and brush the surface with the za’atar oil. Cook the remaining dough rounds in the same way and brush them with za’atar oil. Wipe out the pan if excess flour begins to build up and smoke, and adjust the heat as needed. Serve warm or room temperature.
Broken Phyllo Cake with Orange and Bay
Start to finish: 2 hours (30 minutes active), plus cooling
Servings: 10 to 12
In “Aegean,” chef Marianna Leivaditaki tells of her attempts at portokalopita, a cake made with dry, broken-up bits of phyllo dough in place of flour. Like many Mediterranean sweets, the cake is doused with syrup after emerging from the
oven, which partly explains the tendency toward a heavy, sodden texture. She recounts that it was a friend’s mother who baked the best, lightest version of portokalopita she’d ever had, and she obtained the recipe. The phyllo, cut into strips and dried in the oven, creates a layered structure in the cake that, when soaked with syrup takes on a moist, pudding-like consistency. Greek yogurt and oil add richness while eggs bind and lift, with
an assist from baking powder. The cake is citrusy with grated orange zest, and the soaking syrup is infused with cinnamon, cardamom and bay for added dimensions of flavor and fragrance. (Leivaditaki suggests dusting the cake with bay dust, but we put the bay into the syrup.) If you like, serve slices of the cake topped with a spoonful of lightly sweetened cream whipped with a little Greek yogurt. Leftovers will keep well wrapped in the refrigerator for up to four days; serve slices slightly chilled or at room temperature.
Don’t forget to zest the orange before juicing it. To remove the zest in strips, a Y-style peeler is the best tool. You will need two large oranges for this recipe—one to provide the zest strips and juice for the syrup and one to supply the grated zest for the cake. Also, don’t use a cake pan that’s less than 2 inches deep. In a shallower pan, the syrup may overflow the rim. Lastly, don’t allow the cake to cool before pouring on the syrup, and after the second half of the syrup is poured on, don’t be alarmed if the syrup floods the pan. As the cake cools, it will absorb the syrup.
For the syrup:
214 grams (1 cup) white sugar
Four 3-inch strips orange zest, plus 1⁄2 cup orange juice
3-inch cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, lightly smashed
3 bay leaves
For the cake:
227 grams (8 ounces) phyllo, thawed
214 grams (1 cup) white sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
240 grams (1 cup) whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1⁄4 teaspoon table salt
To make the syrup, in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, orange zest strips and juice, cinnamon, cardamom, bay and 1⁄2 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then transfer to a 2-cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl; you should have about 12⁄3 cups. Cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, to make the cake, heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Mist a 9-by-2-inch round cake pan with cooking spray, line the bottom with a round of kitchen parchment, then mist the parchment.
Roll the thawed phyllo lengthwise, then slice the roll crosswise 1⁄2 inch thick. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, using your hands to unfurl and separate the strips. Distribute in an even layer and bake until brittle and light golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, scraping up and flipping the phyllo once about halfway through; it’s fine if many of the pieces break as they’re turning. Cool to room temperature on the baking sheet. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and grated orange zest on medium until fragrant, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running on low, add the yogurt, oil, eggs, baking powder and salt. Increase to medium and beat until the mixture is well combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl as needed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, if needed, scrape any zest that is stuck to the paddle attachment back into the bowl.
Add half of the phyllo to the batter base and, using a silicone spatula, fold until the phyllo is reduced in volume and almost evenly moistened. Add the remaining phyllo and fold until well combined and no dry patches of phyllo remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer without compressing the phyllo. Bake until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. When the cake is almost done, remove and discard the zest strips, cinnamon, cardamom and bay from the syrup.
Set the cake on a wire rack. Using a toothpick, immediately poke holes through the cake’s thickness every 1⁄2 inch or so. Slowly pour half the syrup evenly onto the warm cake, then let stand for about 5 minutes to allow the syrup to soak in. Slowly pour on the remaining syrup. The cake will not immediately take in all of the syrup, so liquid will flood the pan; this is normal. Cool until room temperature and all the syrup has been absorbed, at least 2 hours.
Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto a platter. Lift off the pan and peel off the parchment. Re-invert the cake onto a serving plate.
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PHOTO CREDITS: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES