Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TZATZIKI or YOGURT AND CUCUMBER APPETIZER

This is a popular Greek appetizer, or mezé, or dip... There are many ways in which to serve it. It certainly makes an interesting dip served with some pita chips. It can accompany souvlaki or other grilled meats, and it can go on the meze table as an appetizer with drinks before dinner. It's a ubiquitous dish in Greek homes, especially when the weather is warm. The yogurt, dill and cucumber make a refreshing combination, something very welcome on a summer day. The word tzaztiki is of Middle Eastern origin and it has been incorporated into the Greek vocabulary. If I say the word over and over I am reminded of the chirping crickets make in the summer.



Ingredients:
  • 2 cups strained yogurt, or use commercially available Greek yogurt
  • 1 English cucumber
  • 2 cloves garlic (or a little bit more if you are fond of garlic and have plenty of mouthwash on hand)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 or 3 mint leaves, chopped (don't use too much mint)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, and a bit more to drizzle on top for garnish

Directions:

  1. Place the yogurt in a medium sized bowl.
  2. Peel the cucumber and cut it in quarters lenghwise. Remove any large seeds and discard them. Chop the cucumber in small dice. Let it rest for a few minutes in a colander so that its excess liquid drains. You can help this process along by using a paper towel to press down on the cucumber. Dry the cucumber in paper towels and then incorporate it into the yogurt.
  3. Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Add it to the yogurt.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. You have now created tzatziki!
  5. Pour the tzatziki into a nice serving bowl and drizzle some olive oil on top for garnish.
  6. You can also garnish with some dill or mint or little pieces of cucumber... whatever tickles your fancy. A radish garnish will be nice. Olives tend to discolor the yogurt so I don't use them as garnish.
  7. Here are some hints about making tzatziki: Always use strained yogurt. What is sold as "Greek Yogurt" is in essence strained yogurt. Straining removes some of the water content and the whey, and gives yogurt a thicker consistency. (Traditionally yogurt was hung for a few hours inside a cloth bag made of muslin, and that got rid of the extra liquid). So you want a thick yogurt, and also, if you want to have the full, rich taste of tzatziki, don't use the low fat variety. Tzatziki can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Storing it intensifies the flavor of the garlic, so you might not want to use a large amount of garlic in your recipe.

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