I haven’t made a panzanella in a while, so when my sister posted one recently, it really made me want to create one for the blog. I wanted to change things up a bit, and I thought a greek version would be really fun and delicious! This really is a gyro platter in salad form. Instead of the croutons in a more traditional panzanella, I tossed in some bits of toasted pita to keep with the Greek theme.
I’ll be totally upfront…this is not a quick salad, but I promise it is 100% worth the effort. It isn’t difficult, but it takes some planning because you need to start the meat a day ahead of time. I decided to add gyro meat to make the salad even more substantial and tasty, but if you wanted to keep it vegetarian or save yourself some time, you could always leave it out. I will say though, I think this was my favorite part of the salad. I am also wondering why I have never made gyro meat at home? This was the first time it had even crossed my mind actually. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to achieve what I felt like was a very similar result to what you would find eating out.
There is one really unusual thing about this recipe. When making the gyro meat, you place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil on top of the loaf pan to pack everything down nice and tight. If you don’t happen to have an extra brick lying around (hehehe), I wouldn’t sweat it. I can’t imagine that it matters all that much, and you could always use another heavy object to put some extra weight on the loaf. I’ll have to try it without the weight soon and report back!
The best part about dressing this salad is that you really don’t need a recipe. It couldn’t be easier. Just coat all your veggies and chickpeas in extra virgin olive oil and splash in several dashes of red wine vinegar. That’s it! You can even add more olive oil and vinegar at the table until the salad is seasoned perfectly to your taste. Add a scoop of tzatziki on top for some extra greek flavor. I chose to save myself some time and use store bought in this case.
One final thing. I must shamefully confess to you that I REALLY don’t like olives. I wish that I did. I have tried to like them for years, but I think I have finally given up. When I studied abroad , we took a couple trips to Morocco. I remember visiting the fresh food markets and there being tables and tables full of different olives. They all looked so beautiful and amazing and I wanted so badly to like them. I was most disappointed with my taste buds then, and despite my best efforts, nothing has changed on that front. Because I really don’t like olives, I chose to use pepperoncinis here, but feel free to substitute kalamata olives or use them both if you like! I assume this salad would be best for most with the olives : )
You are going to love this salad. We will be making it regularly at my house! Post in the comments the food that you don’t enjoy, but wish that you did!
**The gyro meat portion of this recipe was adapted from Alton Brown’s gyro meat recipe. I hardly made any changes. It really is a great recipe that didn’t need messing with! Don’t blame me for the brick 🙂Print
Fresh, crisp greek panzanella salad loaded with fresh veggies, feta cheese, gyro meat and tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar. A gyro platter in salad form!
For the gyro meat:
- 1 medium onion
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1 pound ground beef (no more than 15% fat)
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups pita squares, cut from plain white pita
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
For the salad:
- 1 large cucumber, seeded and medium diced
- 12 ounces of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on your preference
- 1 large green pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1/2 medium red onion, sliced
- 1 block of feta cheese (in brine), cut into large chunks ≈ 2 cups
- 1/4 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers
- olive oil
- red wine vinegar
- tzatziki (I used Cedar’s brand)
Prepare the Gyro meat a day in advance:
- Add 1 medium onion to a food processor and pulse until it is very finely chopped.
- Remove the onion and add to a clean, thin kitchen towel. Squeeze all of the liquid from the onion through the towel and into a bowl to discard.
- Add the onion back to the food processor along with the minced garlic, ground beef, ground lamb, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper.
- Process until you reach a paste-like consistency.
- Spread the mixture evenly into a 5 x 9 loaf pan.
- Double line the outside of a brick with aluminum foil and set it on top of the meat. This should help pack everything in tightly and compress the meat slightly. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Cook the gyro meat the day of:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Uncover the meat, remove the brick, and place the loaf pan in the oven to cook for 75 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- While the meat is cooking, work on preparing the pita and chickpeas for roasting.
- When the meat reaches 165 degrees, remove the loaf pan from the oven and drain off the excess fat.
- Add the aluminum lined brick back to the top of the meat and place on a cooling rack to rest for 20 minutes. While the meat rests, roast the pita and chickpeas in the 325 degree oven.
Prepare the pita and chickpeas:
- Cut pita into squares.
- Toss with olive oil and salt and spread in an even layer on a sheet pan
- Toss the chickpeas in olive oil, salt and oregano and spread in an even layer on a separate sheet pan
- Roast the pita squares and chickpeas in the 325 degree oven for 20 minutes. They should go in the oven as soon as the meat comes out.
Throw it all together:
- Add the green pepper, cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, pepperoncinis, and roasted chickpeas to a large bowl. Add a generous amount of olive oil and toss everything to combine. Splash with several dashes of red wine vinegar to taste. You can add a pinch of salt if desired, but the remember the gyro meat and feta are pretty salty on their own!
- Add the gyro meat and toasted pita and toss to combine.
- Top the salad with large chunks of feta cheese and serve with a scoop of tzatziki sauce!