It's hot, and turning on the oven seems counter-intuitive. The days are long, and busy with activity. By 7 pm, making dinner seems like a chore. But going for take-out is not the solution, as it often requires more energy than cooking (figuring out what to get, getting in the car, driving in traffic, etc), and certainly take-out is not as healthy as a home-cooked meal. So I require easy, healthful meals that can be made quickly and easily. I find a shift of focus is necessary. 'SIMPLE' is my keyword. I rely on my summer produce to get us through our hot weather meals. Nothing is simpler than boiling a pot of pasta, and while that cooks, sautéing a simple sauce of olive oil, fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic. Or, grill a piece of meat, add a side of sautéed green beans or a caprese salad, and you're done.
Also helpful is assembling a meal early in the morning and letting it sit in the fridge all day, until the grill can be turned on in the evening. That can be a pizza dough, resting until you can top it with fresh pesto and grill it over high heat on your pizza stone. Or it can be a marinated meat, like today's meal.
Chicken souvlaki in pita, with tzatziki and chopped tomatoes, is one of those perfect summer suppers. It uses lots of produce from the garden (cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, oregano, Romaine, lemon juice that you've frozen from your winter lemons), and couldn't be simpler to assemble. Even picky eaters like grilled chicken and soft bread, and those who like more flavor can slather on the tzatziki. Make plenty of extra chicken and have a salad with the leftovers the next day. Extra tzatziki can be a lovely dip for plain veg or a salad dressing. Keep leftover pita in the freezer and defrost as needed.
For the chicken souvlaki, you'll need boneless breasts or thighs, whatever you prefer. I always make at least 6 breasts so we'll have lunches for a day or so afterward. In the morning, place them in a marinade - a combination of lemon juice, olive oil, and oregano. If you have some leftover white wine, add that. Make enough marinade to cover the chicken and leave in the fridge until you're ready to grill it. You can make homemade pita and it's worth it, but that changes the meal from simple to complicated. So just buy the freshest, best pita or flatbread you can find.
After getting the chicken in the marinade, make the tzatziki. You'll need 1-1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt, 3 Tbsps lemon juice, 3 cloves of garlic, minced, a sprinkling of coarse sea salt or kosher salt, and about a cup of chopped cucumber. Peel the cucumber and scoop out the seeds before adding (my chickens adore them!). If you have a commercial cucumber that seems waterlogged, you can salt it and let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse and dry before adding to the yogurt. But with homegrown, I find that this is an unnecessary step. Mix all the ingredients together, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in the fridge until dinner time.
When you want to eat, grill the chicken, and after letting it rest ten minutes, slice it. Chop some tomatoes and extra cucumber for those who want it, and wash and tear the lettuce if using. Traditional souvlaki includes red onion, so you can use that if you like. Let everyone assemble their own sandwich in the way they like it best. Mine is often so stuffed that I have to eat it with a fork and knife.