Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Greek Chicken with Baby Bells, Orzo & Tzatziki

LESLIE:  Before our honeymoon in Greece, lo these many years, we didn’t know much about Greek food beyond Greek salad. We loved every minute. Well, okay, we didn’t love getting lost on the way to the airport in Athens in our rental car because the signs were down during road work, but I digress.

We adored the food. One of our fondest memories of the trip is the day we took a boat tour of the amaaazing Caves of Diros, on the west side of the Mani Peninsula. Afterwards, we stopped at a restaurant in Areopoli, where the owner took us into the kitchen and pointed out moussaka, kaftethe (meatballs), and other fragrant dishes. They do things like that in Greece.

They also love tzatziki, the cucumber-yogurt sauce seasoned with dill. It’s so much a national dish that the Lonely Planet Guide to Greece includes the recipe!

So this recipe screamed Greece to us, and since our memories of Athens, the Peleponnese, and Santorini are sun-splashed and warmed, and I’m writing this in late March while wearing a turtleneck, socks, and slippers, we were ready for a return trip – even if only by fork.

There are several parts to the recipe, so best to break it down a bit. Make the tzatziki ahead of time – it only takes a few minutes, and you’ll have plenty to dip with pita chips later – or buy it. Get the orzo cooking and the peppers sauteeing before you start the chicken. Or, grill or fry the chicken ahead of time, and either reheat it or eat it at room temperature.

The dish is wonderfully bright and colorful, and you know color on the plate means healthy food, right? We hadn’t used the baby peppers before—they’re sweet, not hot. Mini bell peppers. If you can’t find them, standard bells will do, but these have an extra dose of flavor we loved.

Toasted pitas, brushed with a little oil and seasoned with za’atar, would be a lovely addition. (More about that here.)

Then when it’s all ready, pour yourself a glass of crisp white wine – we fondly recall the menu in a seaside restaurant in Gythio offering “Vin Confusamente.” That sounds so much more fun than a white blend, doesn’t it?

Greek Chicken with Baby Bells, Orzo & Tzatziki

For the tzatziki:

one cucumber, peeled and grated (pour off any excess liquid)
1 cup plain yogurt
a dash of olive oil
½ teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried dill

For the orzo:
½ cup dried orzo (about 1 cup cooked)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
olive oil

For the peppers:
olive oil
10 baby peppers, stemmed, seeded, and sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon minced garlic (1-2 cloves)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise and cut in half
kosher salt

For the chicken:
olive oil
8 ounces skinless chicken breast

mixed greens
1/4 cup tzatziki

Make the tzatziki by mixing together all ingredients. Set aside.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan; add the orzo and cook, stirring, 10-12 minutes, until al dente. The orzo may not absorb all the water; if not, drain and return to pan. Add a teaspoon of oil and the lemon zest and juice; stir well, then cover and set aside.

While orzo is cooking, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the peppers, garlic, and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the olives and a pinch of salt and stir.

Wrap the chicken in a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten with a mallet or the side of a cleaver. Heat about one tablespoon each oil and butter in a large skillet. When hot, add the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes a side, until golden. (If you have a splatter screen, this may be a good time to dig it out.)

To serve, arrange greens on one half of each plate. Spoon about half a cup of orzo on the other side of the plate. Top with the chicken and peppers, then spoon two tablespoons of tzatziki on top.

Serves 2.

"A treat for the senses." --- librarian and reviewer Lesa Holstine, on the Spice Shop Mysteries

From the cover of CHAI ANOTHER DAY, Spice Shop Mystery #4 (Seventh St. Books, June 2019): 

 Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece probes murder while juggling a troubled employee, her mother's house hunt, and a fisherman who's set his hook for her.

As owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle's famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece is always on the go. Between conjuring up new spice blends and serving iced spice tea to customers looking to beat the summer heat, she finally takes a break for a massage. But the Zen moment is shattered when she overhears an argument in her friend Aimee's vintage home decor shop that ends in murder. 

Wracked by guilt over her failure to intervene, Pepper investigates, only to discover a web of deadly connections that could ensnare a friend - and Pepper herself.

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. Her first historical short story, "All God's Sparrows," is nominated for the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story; read it on her website. A past president of Sisters in Crime and a current board member of Mystery Writers of America, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat, an avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebook where I announce lots of giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. I love tzatziki, too! Thanks for the recipe for what looks like a fun warm weather meal.

  2. I love your books and this recipe sounds delicious. Definitely a must read book and must try recipe.

  3. Total yum! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Wish I knew how to say "Bon Appetit!" in Greek -- although maybe it's a phrase that needs no translation!

  4. Those peppers are beautiful colors and the olives make a fine accent.

    1. Pretty and yummy -- the perfect combo in any language!