Elysian’s guide to a staple of Greek cuisine
Its name might have a lot of foreboding diphthongs in it, but don’t let that scare you. Tzatziki sauce is one of the most wholesome, versatile and easy-to-prepare items in all of Greek cuisine. Made chiefly from cucumbers and Greek yogurt, Tzatziki is a perfect hot-weather food. Serve it alongside hummus, kalamata olives, marinated feta and warm pita for a delicious cocktail snack, or pair it with a Greek salad for a light, healthful dinner. It is also the perfect sauce to serve with grilled chicken marinated in oregano, thyme, garlic and lemon juice, also known as Chicken Souvlaki. And if you find yourself harvesting more cucumbers than you know what to do with this time of year, add Tzatziki to your menu. It’s a wonderful way to employ the cucumber in a unique flavor spectrum that is surprisingly complex, yet simple to prepare.
Recipe yields a generous portion for 4 adults. Adjust according to your dining needs, as Tzatziki is best eaten on the day it is prepared.
- 3 cups Greek yogurt (whole, low-fat, or fat-free are all fine, according to your preference)
- 2 medium Persian or English cucumbers (or 1 jumbo)
- ¼ cup minced Fresh Dill
- ¼ cup minced Fresh Mint
- 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp. Vinegar
- 1 tsp. Dried Oregano (optional)
- Dash black pepper
- Dash Sea Salt
Begin by cleaning your cucumber. Cut off each end and peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. Using a sharp paring knife, slice the cucumber in half lengthwise. If you’re using a Persian cucumber, you’re not dealing with a lot of seeds, but English cukes should be deseeded. Take a sturdy tea spoon, and run it along the inside of each half, removing the seeds. Discard. Slice each cucumber in half lengthwise again, forming into 3 or 4 long sections. Holding the sliced cucumber sections in place, slice it across, forming small cubic bits of cucumber. Once your cucumbers are cubed, place them in a fine mesh colander for about 30 minutes to remove any excess juices.
Make this recipe easier:
J.A. Henckels Paring Knife
Martha Stewart Over-the-Sink Colander
Meanwhile, in a medium glass bowl, prepare the yogurt portion of your Tzatziki. In the old days, cooks outside the islands of Greece had the added task of straining regular yogurt through cheesecloth into its thicker Greek-style form. But thankfully, in recent years, Greek yogurt has become as ubiquitous in American groceries as it is in the Aegean, due in no small part to its alluring creamy texture and high protein content. Measure 3 cups of Greek yogurt into your mixing bowl. Add the minced garlic. No one likes to bite into a big chunk of raw garlic, so be sure your garlic is cut so small that it is practically liquefied. The easiest way I’ve ever found to do accomplish this is with a garlic press. No other kitchen gadget will improve your life as dramatically as a garlic press. Wash a handful of fresh mint and dill and dry with paper towels before chopping finely. Add that into your yogurt mix. Throw in your sea salt and pepper according to taste. I prefer to add the lemon, vinegar and dried oregano directly to the cucumber slices (after transfering them from the mesh strainer into a small bowl). The fold all the ingredients together and serve immediately. As they say in Greece, Kali Orexi! (enjoy your meal)
Make this recipe easier:
Pyrex Mixing Bowls
Pyrex Measuring Cup