Tzatziki

I’ve had a massive craving for good Greek food lately. What happened was this: Tai & I stole a day out of our crazy schedules to go climbing last week. We spent a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon on the cliffs of the Gunks, up in New Paltz, NY. Before heading home, we decided to try a new Mediterranean restaraunt in town. Well, the most I can say is that is was disappointing. Not horrible food, per se, but totally tasteless; for the life of me I cannot figure out how they made tzatkiki taste like water, tomatoes taste like lettuce, and chicken taste like bland, unseasoned, unadulterated cardboard. Other than fulfilling our basic need for fuel after a long afternoon’s climbing, it was a completely unsatisfying meal.

So, fast forward about a week and I thought “How hard can it be?” I’ve never made Greek food before, but I knew that a simple dish of yogurt, cucumber and dill had to be good if you started with good ingredients. I was right: it is. Simple and good. So simple that it takes about 10 minutes in total and has the added benefit of using up those small, end-of-garden cucumbers. So delicious, in fact, that we’ve been eating it with crackers, tortilla chips, on chicken kebabs, in sandwiches: luckily for me it’s quite easy to make, because I see lots more of this in our future.

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe, as reproduced by Deb of Smitten Kitchen, and my friend Jude’s friend Cyndy’s family recipe.

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Tzatziki

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium field cucubmers, unpeeled
  • 1 lb plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage Total, which is actually 17.6 oz, or 500g)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • juice of 1 small lemon (2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, minced, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 tsp sea salt, divided, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp fruity olive oil

METHODS

  1. If cucumbers are large, slice lengthwise and scoop seeds out with a spoon. Discard seeds. Chop the cucumber finely in a food processor or grate on a box grater. In a medium colander, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt over the cucumber, mix, and let rest for 15 minutes to draw out excess moisture.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, dill, remaining 1 tsp salt, and pepper.
  3. Wrap grated cucumber in a clean kitchen towel: squeeze out the excess moisture by twisting in the towel (over the sink), and add drained cucumber to the yogurt mixture. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh dill, then serve with toasted pita wedges, crackers, or tossed with chicken souvlaki for a fantastic gyro.

Yields about 2 and 1/2 cups.

OPTIONS

  1. If you don’t have Greek yogurt on hand, you can drain regular yogurt through several layers of dampened cheesecloth, butter muslin, or a clean, old T-shirt. You’ll have thick, Greek-style yogurt in about 30 minutes.
  2. I like a chunky tzatziki, so I grate the cucumber, on the fine holes in my box grater. For a smoother sauce, use the food processor to chop the cucumber very fine.

STORE

About 3 days in the fridge.

SEASON

Cucumbers are in season from mid-summer to early fall.

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6 comments

      • Mark

        Awesome. I’m happy you left out the zest of the lemon. There is a splinter faction within my family using zest in tzatziki; we can’t denounce them quickly enough.

        • Normally I add zest to everything; but I have tried it with the zest and it upsets the balance. Then you need to add more garlic, and more dill and more pepper.. and it still doesn’t taste right.

          I suggest that, much like the way southern Portuguese will snort derisively “triperios” (tripe-eaters) regarding their northern brethren, you start calling the splinter faction “zesterios.”

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