Sunday, January 13, 2013

Greek-Style Beef Cucumber Cups

greek-style beef cucumber cups

I am currently taking a class called Cultural Aspects of Food in which we explore the unique food characteristics of various cultures.  Even though the class is just getting started, the mere concept of the class has inspired me to come up with a recipe that is slightly out of my comfort zone (and I also needed a recipe from a different cultural background for an assignment).  

I rarely use Greek flavors in my cooking, so this recipe is kind of a breath of fresh air.  While lamb is a more traditional
protein used in Greek cuisine, I used beef instead because I had it on hand, and I’ve never actually cooked with lamb.  But feel free to experiment and use any kind of meat you like.

One of my favorite things about this recipe is having leftover meat to repurpose for subsequent meals.  I put it on salads, in frittatas, or mix it with leftover veggies, which is so convenient when I’m in a hurry to throw something together or when I am craving some variety in my diet.  Not to mention, it’s yummy!

Greek-Style Beef Cucumber Cups
cucumber cups
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1-2 Tablespoons capers
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste (the kind in the squeeze tube works best for this)

  1. Cut the cucumbers into 1-inch segments, and discard the ends.  Using a small spoon, scoop some of the flesh out of each segment to create little cups, and set aside in the refrigerator.  (Reserve ½ cup of the scooped-out flesh to make the Avocado Tzatziki sauce below, if desired).  
  2. Heat a sautée pan over medium heat, and add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic to the pan.  After a couple minutes when the onions are translucent, add the tomatoes and capers and stir, cooking for about 1 minute more.  Add the meat, spices, salt, pepper, and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is cooked through. Let cool slightly.
  3. Fill each cucumber cup with some of the meat mixture.  I fit about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture in each cup. (You will probably have quite a bit left over.)  Then top with the Tzatziki sauce (recipe below) and garnish with a quartered cherry tomato.

Avocado Tzatziki Sauce (adapted from the Practical Paleo cookbook)

  • ½ ripe avocado
  • ½ cup reserved cucumber flesh
  •  1 clove garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

I don't know about you, but I can never decide on my favorite kind of cuisine.  Do you have a favorite?  Feel free to share in the comments section below.