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Mom, Memories and Souvlaki

I love you and I miss you, Mom. This one is for you.

My mother was a feisty little Greek woman from Thessalonica; short in stature, with a big, warm, giving heart.  She was a naturally talented cook who never wrote down a single recipe. She passed away when I was a teenager, before I had the chance to really learn from her in the kitchen.  Dad was a set-in-his ways, meat and potatoes Irish fireman who couldn’t really appreciate many of the Greek dishes she was capable of preparing.  Mom would reserve those dishes for when Dad worked nights and it was just her and I for dinner. I have so many wonderful memories of those special nights; picking dandelion greens from the side of the road and taking them home to cook up for just the two of us,  watching mom make phyllo from scratch for her spanakopita. I treasure those memories today as I treasured those moments spent together, just her and I.

One dish Dad would devour without complaint was souvlaki, which she made quite often during the summer grilling season. I recreated this recipe from my memory of its taste many, many years ago. It isn’t a recipe my mother handed down to me, but I don’t suppose that really matters in the end. I think of my mother, and all of our special moments, every time I make this for my family, and that means so much more to me than authenticity or accuracy.

I use pork loin in my recipe, but pork butt or shoulder will also work well. Just be sure to trim it well to remove the excess fat before marinading.  Pork butt/shoulder may also take a bit longer to cook on the grill.

I have also used chicken breast for this recipe. Dark meat would also work fine, but I prefer the breast meat.

Serves 4-6

2 lbs pork loin and/or chicken cut into 1 inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice (the juice of about 1½ lemons)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Whisk together garlic, oregano, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Combine the marinade with the pork in a large freezer bag. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 24 and up to 48 hours. Rotate the bag to redistribute the marinade at least twice during this time.
Preheat the grill to medium high heat. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water before using, or use metal skewers. Thread about 5 pieces of meat onto each skewer, enough for one serving. Grill the skewers for about 15 minutes, turning two or three times. The chicken will take less time to cook than the pork, so start checking for doneness at about 10 minutes. The meat should register about 150°F for the pork and 160°F for the chicken when you take them off the grill. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Because of the marinade ingredients, the meat (both the pork and the chicken) may still be slightly pinkish inside even when fully cooked. 

(Printable Recipe)

You can serve the souvlaki skewers as they are with a side of rice pilaf or a Greek salad and tzatziki sauce for dipping, or you can make a souvlaki pita sandwich, which is my personal favorite way to eat them.