Since I started working in a community that is 60% Hispanic, the pronunciation of my last name “Mellas” has changed from Meh-lis to May-yas.
I don’t mind it one bit. If nothing else, I feel like it earns me a bit of street cred among those I work with. I’ve never actually met anyone to share my last name, but evidently it is fairly common in Greece.
My great-grandfather came over from Greece, and that’s excuse enough for me to frequent the local Greek festivals every spring and eat spanakopita and dance the horos like I came out of the womb knowing how.
I worked in four separate pizza places while in high school (it’s thankless work, I tell you). The second was one where my parents would bring me all the time as a kid. The owner, Fusili (I have no idea if that’s how you spell his name, but that’s how you say it), an Athens native, used to make my gyros extra special and treat me to a piece of free baklava every time we went in, just for having a Greek last name.
Well, fast forward to when sixteen-year-old-me worked for him. First off, he was highly concerned by my veganism. He would command me to sit and eat every shift. He would eye my salad and say “…no feta?!?” And then shake his head and walk back to the kitchen in disbelief. Then he would bring me another plate of salad.
He also asked me each time I worked when I would be visiting Greece. He had lots of recommendations, and impatiently awaited my travel itinerary. This all entertained me greatly, but in truth, working at that place was a step above hell and I lasted a month. I don’t even remember the details, I just remember it being a seriously hard April. One day I finished my shift and just looked at him. He nodded and said “it’s okay. You don’t need to come back tomorrow.”
And I didn’t. But, any time I went in as a customer after quitting, Fusili only charged me half the price, and he would still give a free slice of baklava.
I hope I do get to travel to Greece some day. And I hope it’s exactly like it is in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
But until then, there’s dip. Everyone has had Mexican Seven-Layer Dip at one point or another. There’s always some crazy aunt who brings it to the party like it’s the most creative and original recipe one could make. Refried beans from a can (seasoned only if your aunt is good), orange cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, olives also from a can, and fat-free sour cream because aunts don’t eat the real kind. Needless to say, I’m all set with Mexican Seven-Layer Dip.
Enter Greek Seven-Layer Dip. This is my fresh take on that oh-so-creative-and-original standby, made entirely from scratch! Homemade hummus and tzatziki sauce, layered with salty kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and tangy crumbles of feta. Does it take a little more time than opening a can of refried beans? Yes. But truthfully, not that much more time, and it is so worth it. If you are really pressed, you can buy some pre-made hummus to cut down on time (I eat store-bought hummus nearly every day, so I can’t judge), but do try to make your own at least once! The recipe below makes a thicker hummus than you may be used to, but I think it’s just right for this dip. It has a consistency similar to refried beans. The tzatziki sauce takes nothing but some seasonings and a stir, and the rest of the ingredients just get sprinkled on top. Easy! And when put in a glass bowl or trifle dish, this dip looks rather impressive.
Served with homemade pita chips (fine… or store-bought because I’ll admit those are still delicious), this is the perfect appetizer to make for your Super Bowl plans this weekend! It’s colorful, tasty, and not too heavy, so you and your friends can still have room for wings and cheesy breadsticks.
I’ll be bringing it to a party tomorrow where some coworkers and I are going to watch two teams sports real hard. Because we’re the kind of people who tune in mostly for the clydesdale and puppy commercials. We really just love any excuse to eat great appetizers like this Greek Seven-Layer Dip.
As Google Translate tells me the Greeks would say, “kalí órexi!” Or enjoy your food!
Greek Seven-Layer Dip
Yields a generous 4 cups*
Homemade hummus, tzatziki sauce, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, kalamata olives, and feta cheese- seven of everyone’s favorite Mediterranean flavors. When served with freshly baked pita chips, this recipe will replace the common Mexican 7-layer Dip for sure.
Hummus (Slightly adapted from this recipe):
- 1 (14oz) can chickpeas, drain and reserve 1/4 cup liquid
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup (56g) tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
- 1/4 tsp. cumin
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
- Black pepper
Tzatziki & Toppings:
- 1 (5.3oz) container plain greek yogurt (a heaping 1/2 cup)
- 2 Tbs. (30g) sour cream
- 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. minced fresh dill
- 1/4 tsp. grated garlic
- 1/8 tsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Black pepper
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled, diced, and patted dry with a paper towel (about 1 cup)
- 1 large tomato, diced and seeded (about 1 cup)
- 1/4 cup finely diced red onion, soaked and drained*
- 2 oz. kalamata olives, drained and coarsely chopped (a scant 1/2 cup)
- 1.5-2oz feta cheese, crumbled
Homemade Pita Chips:
- 4 whole-wheat or plain pita pockets (1/2 pound)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Paprika, garlic powder, cumin, to taste (optional)
To make the hummus, place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender. Have 1/4 cup of the canning liquid set aside in a measuring cup.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet. Add the garlic and sauté until it is fragrant, but not browned. This should only take a minute, so watch carefully. Add the garlic and all of the oil to the chickpeas.
Add the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and 1/4 tsp. of salt to the food processor or blender. Blend until very smooth. Stream in the reserved liquid and continue to process a bit longer. Remove the lid and add a bit more salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer the hummus to the dish you’ll be serving this dip in, smoothing the top even with a rubber spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of your components.
To make the tzatziki, no need to dirty an extra bowl. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper directly to the container of greek yogurt and stir. Done! Spread evenly on top of the hummus.
Scatter the remaining ingredients into the dish, in the order specified above. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This is a great make-ahead appetizer, as the flavors come together even more after resting for a few hours.
To make the pita chips, preheat the oven to 400º F. Line two sheet pans with tin foil or parchment paper.
Slice each pita pocket lengthwise so you have eight flat halves. Cut each half into eight triangles, giving you a total of sixty-four chips. Spread on the baking sheets.
Drizzle the olive oil over the pitas and toss with your hands, doing your best to coat all the chips evenly. Arrange the chips so they overlap as little as possible. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper, and season with some spices, if desired. I usually opt to use paprika, and just a touch of garlic powder and cumin.
Bake for ten minutes until the chips smell toasty, and are lightly browned at the edges. These are easy to over bake; 10 minutes should do the trick.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.
*This recipe makes enough dip and chips to serve about 8 people. You can easily double all the ingredients if you need to feed more.
*Any time I use raw onions, I soak them first so their flavor doesn’t overpower the other ingredients. To do this, dice the onions small then place them in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let the onions sit for 10 minutes or so, then drain in a fine-meshed sieve. Pat dry with paper towels before using.