Shanon Davis has never been to Greece. But that doesn’t stop her from savoring the flavors of the Mediterranean country known for its crystalline waters, ancient civilizations and olive oil.
She pleases her palate with the Greek-style dishes she regularly prepares at home and at Main Market Co-op, where she works as the deli manager.
Her food philosophy centers on simple, good-quality ingredients and fun, rustic and unpretentious dishes. Mediterranean cuisine embodies those attributes for her.
Plus, she said, “The Mediterranean way of cooking it just a lot healthier. You’re relying on herbs and olive oil and fats that aren’t as heavy for flavor.”
Mediterranean cooking is distinguished by heart-healthy olive oil, roasted vegetables, protein-rich legumes, seafood, whole grains and fruits as well as moderate amounts of wine, cheese and yogurt, and low quantities of red meat.
Davis also likes to use local and organic ingredients as much as possible.
One of her favorite Greek-style dishes is chicken skewers marinated in yogurt. She usually makes five or six batches each summer and early autumn.
At home as well as at the deli, “they’re a big deal,” Davis said. “I can’t even tell you how many of those chicken skewers I’ve made – hundreds upon hundreds. The kids will eat them cold out of the refrigerator.”
She often serves the skewers with a quinoa salad and tzatziki, made with Greek-style yogurt and herbs from her garden in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood.
“Everything just goes together really well,” Davis said. “You can put everything on your plate and mix it and it’s totally super-delicious.”
She shops for ingredients where she works – Main Market – as well as Yoke’s and local farmers markets, like the one in Liberty Lake “because it’s so big.”
Davis, 37, worked at Main Market for two years when it first opened – in early 2010 – then took a year and a half off when she had a baby. She returned in November.
Davis has spent most of her career in the food industry, learning on the job and, earlier, at her grandmother’s side. A longtime waitress who lived in Bonners Ferry, her grandmother cooked and canned fruits and vegetables from her garden. She taught Davis how to can and make jam. She also let her bake cookies and cakes, and ultimately helped shape her palate. She died in 2010 at 73.
By then, Davis had long been working in restaurants and bakeshops. She made pastries and did catering at Luna in Spokane on and off for about five years. During the “off” periods, she worked in the kitchen at a backcountry ski lodge north of Sun Valley. Before that, she was a baker at the Moscow Food Co-op.
She met her husband, Jeff Zellerhoff, 38, an electrician, in Bellingham, where they both worked in a bagel shop. He was a baker. She worked the front counter.
“I’m not a morning person, and I would get there at 5 a.m. and he would be blaring bluegrass music because he had been up for hours with no one to talk to.”
They’ve been together for 13 years, married for four. They have two boys, ages 1 and 7.
Their large, rustic-looking family dining table sits near the shelves where Davis keeps her prized cookbooks. She likes chefs who are fun and seem approachable – and that’s also the way she likes her food.
“It’s about being with your family. It’s about having fun, and it isn’t about being pretentious,” Davis said. “It should be simple, and the higher-quality ingredients you use – from your garden or from the farmers market – make (the dish) taste good because (the ingredients) already taste good. There’s not a lot you have to do to it. I like it when it’s simple and seems paid attention to. You can tell how much love went into it.”
Some of her kitchen influences are David Chang of Momofuku, Leslie Mackie of Seattle’s Macrina Bakery and Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar.
“Her stuff is just fun, fun, fun,” Davis said. “I know it’s super-cliché, but I like Jamie Oliver. I don’t think he’s pretentious at all, and I like what he’s done for food, especially children and school lunches.”
Davis usually makes a big batch of her Greek-style chicken skewers in order to have leftovers for lunches. They’re good on their own or in a pita for a sandwich.
“You can’t really overcook them because the yogurt makes them so moist. I think that’s what makes it so good for leftovers,” she said.
Likewise, Davis usually makes a big batch of the Greek-style salad, especially at the deli where people buy it by the pound, half pound or quarter pound. It’s a customer favorite.
“Even without the quinoa, it is a big go-to for summer,” she said. “I like the freshness of it.”
Both the salad and skewers pair well with the tzatziki.
“I like all of the herbs. I think they make it really bright and almost earthy,” Davis said. “It’s good as a dip on chips or with the chicken or as a sauce or even marinade.”
While the whitewashed, blue-domed buildings of Santorini and thatched-roof windmills of Mykonos might be half a world away, these dishes help Davis delight in the dream.
In her role as kitchen manager at Main Market Co-op, Davis is used to cooking in large batches – and these recipes reflect those ample quantities.
They can be halved or quartered to serve smaller families or parties.
Or, whip up these large amounts and enjoy leftovers for days.
Greek-style Chicken Skewers
4 chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh golden oregano, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Tzatziki (See recipe below)
Cut chicken into 5 or 6 long strips, then 1 1/2-inch cubes, and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, salt pepper, thyme and chives. Marinate chicken in mixture for 10 to 24 hours. (The longer the better as the yogurt will act as a tenderizer for the chicken as well as keep it moist.)
Soak 12 to 15 bamboo skewers to prevent burning. Combine olive oil and remaining herbs in a medium mixing bowl.
Skewer 3 or 4 pieces of chicken on each bamboo skewer. Grill 5 to 6 minutes on each side, turning once, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Place skewers on serving platter and drizzle with herbed olive oil. Serve with tzatziki.
Fresh Herb Tzatziki
3 cups Greek-style yogurt
3 tablespoons roasted garlic
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh golden oregano, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 to 3 Mediterranean cucumbers, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for garnish
Fresh chives and chive flowers, finely chopped, for garnish
Mint and mint flowers, finely chopped, for garnish
Whisk together ingredients through salt and pepper in a large bowl. Drizzle mixture with olive oil. Sprinkle with chives, chive flowers, mint and mint flowers.
Greek-style Quinoa Salad
4 cups tri-color quinoa, cooked (Davis uses 1 part quinoa to 1 1/2 parts water)
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 cups crumbled feta
1 1/2 cups marinated artichoke hearts
2 cups Mediterranean cucumbers, chopped
1 cup garbanzo beans
1/4 red onion, diced
1 cup red pepper, diced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
For the dressing
1 to 1 1/4 cups olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl in the order in which they are listed, then set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour dressing over salad ingredients, then gently mix by stirring with a large wooden spoon or similar utensil.
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