That Thing About Spring

Nothing says spring like Greek marinated and grilled pork loin chops, veggie kabobs and tzatziki least to me!

We’re really getting a taste of spring around here now with our temps moving up from the mid to upper 60’s on Saturday to the low 80’s tomorrow and for the foreseeable future…whhaaaat???? Am I living in Florida? Pinch myself…nope, still in Atlanta. Whoa, that’s more like early summer!

Anyway, the birds are returning and the bees are buzzing, and all this activity resulted in some rather demonic energy on my part last weekend.

Hadn't had the ice cream freezer out since about September, but have to say this tasted mighty good.

Since the day dawned  a bit warmish, it put me in the mood to make sorbet out of fruit I’d had in the fridge for a while, allowing me to use up some buttermilk in the process. So my first endeavor was this strawberry-orange buttermilk sorbet with Grand Marnier from one of my very early blog posts, and you can see that recipe here. I like to have it in the freezer when it’s warm out for a nice, fresh and tasty little dessert.

Here's the final Strawberry-Orange Buttermilk Sorbet with Grand Marnier, ready for the big chill in the freezer. I get these great pint containers for free periodically from my local grocer, but may have to invest in a bag of my own...and soon.

Next, as it was past time to tend to my poor neglected little raised bed organic garden, I headed outside to inspect, replenish and turn my soil. My little garden sits just below our back deck and is approximately 5 x 8 feet with an inset to reach the different areas. The little garden manages to provide us with some herbage and greens year round, and struggles a bit with other veggies I test in it. The pictures below explain a lot…this is about as much sun as it ever gets…and the trees haven’t even filled in yet! Yep, surrounded by 100 foot tall pines and poplar understory…not a terribly veggie friendly place for a garden, but still, I try.

Beans...not the Jack-in-the-Beanstalk kind, but little French Filet bush beans.

It’s warm enough here now to direct seed some things, so once I’d awakened my earthworms and given them a little more compost, I planted some French Filet bush beans, some arugula, thyme and flat leaf parsley. One of my nice neighbors leaned over the fence and offered me some extra small cabbage and collard plants that he couldn’t use (they have a wide open sunny spot that I’m quite jealous of), so I planted them on the shadier side in the hope that they will muddle through. My seeds need all the sun they can get.

The garden all turned, composted and planted for early spring. Can you see that sneaky little puss in the upper left there? She loves to get into the garden and dig like a gopher. Bad cat. VERY bad cat.

Then, as this time of year often conjures memories of our spring honeymoon in Greece, I began to think of Greek flavors and decided to go to the store for some supplies and whip up my favorite marinade for some veggies and chops to put on the grill for dinner. And since no Greek flavors are complete to me without some tzatziki to go along with, I made it, as well.

This marinade is so simple. It can be used for vegetables on the grill, pork, chicken, and of course, fresh fish. Some version or variation of this is always my first thought for a quick marinade, and it’s made from things I usually have on hand, including the fresh herbs…oregano, marjoram and thyme, which winter over in pots on the back deck.

All skewered and ready for the grill. Veggie kabobs are sooooo good.

I made extra veggies for a veggie lasagna the next day, then I didn’t get to it, so instead we had them with pita and tzatziki for Sunday’s dinner…and with the filling baby portobello mushrooms that were part of the mix, it made for some mighty good eats.

Ready for my plate!

The veggie kabobs and two nice, local pork loin chops were grilled over medium high heat, with the kabobs situated on the cooler part of the grill and the chops in the middle. Turn your veggies periodically and watch them closely, and turn the chops once or twice. We removed our chops when they were medium well done (about 15-20 minutes on our grill) and let them rest for 5 minutes covered with foil before serving.

As we sat out on the deck enjoying the fruits of a good day’s labor with a nice glass of wine and some sorbet for dessert, I felt that sense of renewal that spring always brings. The warmth, the blossoms, the longer days, the energy, gardening and the grill…that thing about spring…I just love it!

Greek marinade for meats or veggies
Makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or a mixture of oregano and marjoram (I like the mix)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Divide evenly amongst the items you wish to marinate, coat them well, seal them in a ziplock bag or a bowl, and allow them to sit in the marinade for at least 2-3 hours, turning or stirring a couple of times. Terrific for grilling!

Makes 1 1/2 cups 

1 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt, I use Fage
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small cucumber, peeled, split vertically and seeded
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
(Note: you can add a tiny pinch of dill to this if you like the extra flavor boost and the extra color…I usually don’t, but I had it both ways in Greece)

Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Stir in the olive oil until completely combined, then season to taste with black pepper. Grate the cucumber into the yogurt mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate 2 hours. Serve alongside pork, veggies, roasted potatoes or as a dip with pita.


57 thoughts on “That Thing About Spring

  1. What a great post, Betsy! I’ve eaten enough Greek food to know that marinade. With so few ingredients, it’s amazing how much flavor it imparts to meat/vegetables. Your tzatziki sauce rings true, too. Thanks for sharing both recipes. Unbelievably, we hit 70˚ today! This surely is a year to remember!


    • Wow, 70 degrees in Chicago…that’s wild! We’ve had periodic rain which has kept it from getting as warm as it could have, but tomorrow will be steamy. Glad you share my love of the Greek flavors…mediterranean flavors, really, but very predominant flavors in Greece for sure.


  2. This looks so good, Betsy, and so healthy. It is raining here in California (I am NOT complaining — we need it) so there will be no cook-outs anytime soon. I love Greek flavors, all that lemon and garlic. I would like your dinner made with lamb, as well as with pork.


  3. These are such a pretty and colorful sign of spring unto themselves! I would love to have worked in a garden all day and sat down to a plate of this with some wine!! An utterly satisfying sunny day!!


  4. I’ve been in the mood for frozen treats too Betsy! I’m impressed with how organized your garden looks. My garden is a bit smaller than yours without any dividers — and I always over-plant, so my veggies don’t fare as well as they might otherwise. I’ll take on the tips you can give on gardening!


    • Hey Barb, I just got back from checking out that absolutely wicked Moose Track pie of yours! I just have those bamboo stakes loosely laid over the garden so I’ll remember where I put which seeds…and to keep the bad cat from walking through, though it doesn’t seem to deter her much. I’m bad about not dividing my plants when I should, but they really will do better…sunlight or no, with some space!


  5. We are experiencing higher than normal temps here as well. It was 70 degrees just today. It’s just downright weird honestly lol. And look at your beautiful garden and veggies. Wonderful. And I love the Tzatziki sauce 🙂


  6. It’s pretty gorgeous out here in LA too. Can’t wait for the summer crops to start flowing in.

    Until then, I’m going to have to grill these beautiful veggie kabobs you got going on here. I love how you packed them with such hearty ingredients. Yum!


  7. Those vegies look gorgeous and I especially love the Strawberry-Orange Buttermilk Sorbet with Grand Marnier, I can imagine what the finally product looks like and all that flavor? YUM!!!!


    • Hi Tia, thanks for your compliments. The sorbet was finished in the ice cream freezer in that shot, but still had to go into the big freezer in the container to harden for several hours at which point it looks like other sorbet, but perhaps a prettier color! 🙂


  8. I always feel that way about spring too, Betsy, a sense of rebirth! Our temperatures are getting warmer this week too…I hope it’s we won’t fall into a false sense of security with them, particularly my new Japanese Cherry Blossom tree out front — we haven’t even experienced a flower season with it yet! I love grilled vegetables and that chop looks amazing! I am hoping to get out onto our back patio this weekend!


    • Yep, we’ve had snow in March too many a time to think that it couldn’t happen again no matter how warm it is. We may set a record high here tomorrow in the mid 80’s…so it won’t be snowing in the immediate future! Hope you get in some patio time this weekend, Eva!


  9. Hi Betsy, I was just in Atlanta this past weekend!! The weather was sunny when I arrived on Sunday! You know I’m a Fla girl, but with a little jacket I thoroughly enjoyed my visit!! It’s nice to see Spring popping up all over, tulips are never seen in Florida! Love this marinade, I love Greek food as much as Italian!


    • Hi Linda! Yes, you were here just as the temps began their to rise to Florida standards…where they are right now! We are definitely blooming here now…tulips, azaleas, and I’ve even seen a dogwood starting to pop. We feel the same way about Greek and Italian food as both are my absolute faves!


  10. Mm, lamb and tzatziki – now that’s something I didn’t have in a while… a wonderful flavour combination. Looks really nice Betsy – love the colourful kabobs too 🙂


  11. Your kebabs are so bright and colourful. They look amazing. I’m sure with that dressing they must have had amazing flavour. Spring certainly does seem to have arrived early in your part of the world. I’ll look forward to seeing how your garden grows xx


  12. in a marinade simple is always better.. and yours is perfect, i bet it has multiple uses, I hear you about the no sun thing, i once lived in a forest in kent UK. My gardening abilities were tested to the limit but without the light it is always difficult. there is no replacement for sunshine.. but it looks like you are making the most of it!! c


    • Hi Cecilia…I’m in agreement on marinades…gets too muddy if overly complicated. Yes, gardening without light is quite the challenge, but perhaps even more rewarding when you manage to coax something out of the ground. I live for the day when I can experience the joy of really growing more of my own food, though! 🙂


  13. Looks divine. Wonder if the marinade would be good with lamb? What sort of ice cream freezer do you use? We just gave away our big old one. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂


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