Wednesday, May 7, 2014

of the Perfect Tzatziki

As some of you may recall from eons ago, I get cravings for dill somewhat regularly in the summer. I especially like tzatziki with grilled flat bread or on top of lamb burgers but I would probably eat it plain too and have on many an occasion. I love the fresh crisp taste and the way all the elements of the sauce come together to create a beautiful depth of flavor. The interplay of the dill, garlic, and mint provide such a wonderful flavor profile that I really could eat this all year round. It is definitely best when made with fresh herbs so that limits me here in DC sometimes.

My cousins who are part Greek and my aunt make a version that knocks my socks off every time. I am partial to this one however because it matches up with my likes and dislikes to a T. It also doesn't have lemon which I am tragically allergic to. My fiance loves tzatziki (and really anything Mediterranean in flavor) so this is a staple at our house. Be sure to get the good yogurt though; I've found it makes quite a difference in my multiple experiments.

Today's Cast of Characters:

Very Greek today ladies and gents. Greek yogurt is the star of the show today and make sure it is super thick. I use the Fage 2% for most things; I have tried it with the nonfat and it turns out ok but I like it better with the 2%. An English cucumber is kind of an inside tip because it doesn't have the giant seeds the regular cucumbers have. Also nice: its pretty huge so you only need one. Garlic, dill, mint, and salt provide all the flavor you need and it becomes a sauce with red wine vinegar (which if your family has allergies like mine you can sub white wine vinegar) and olive oil. Pretty basic but it creates a wonderfully authentic taste.

What to Do:

The first thing to do is grate your cucumber. This is somewhat labor and space intensive as I grate it into a bowl and then put it in a single layer on spread out paper towels to salt the cucumber evenly. It's important to note that when you salt cucumber you don't have to put a ton on, just enough to draw out some of the water.

After your cucumber has rested for five minutes, fold the paper towel up and squeeze it between your hands over a sink to get out as much water as possible. If you don't get enough water out your tzatziki will never set correctly. You can use a colander if you want to get out more water, just make sure it is lined with paper towels.

Next mash up the garlic with the salt. It's a pretty easy step especially if you have a garlic press. Use a fork and make sure it is well mashed.

Run a knife through your dill and keep going until there is about a table spoon of each minced up. I like my tzatziki to be really flavorful so sometimes I use closer to a tablespoon and a half, it isn't an exact science.

Next add all your ingredients to the bowl with the garlic and salt. Mix it all up until it is thoroughly combined and the oil has emulsified into the yogurt. I use a whisk to really get the mix mixing. Make sure it has emulsified before you call it a day or your tzatziki will separate and that would be sad.

Test for seasoning. Sometimes you will need an extra bit of salt at this point, it all depends on how much you used on the cucumbers in the beginning.

I generally stuff the whole mix back into the Fage pint container at this point and stick it in the fridge for at least two hours. This gives the flavors a chance to mix and mingle and also gives the yogurt a chance to firm up a bit.

After your two hours of gnawing hunger, you are left with a gloriously thick and creamy tzatziki that is absolutely perfect with basically anything. I recommend it with grilled flat bread, pitas, or lamb burgers but feel free to experiment. I also absolutely love this with spanikopita quinoa. Its just the right bit of crisp flavor to get your taste buds to say opa!


1 pint Greek Yogurt (make sure it is super thick)
1 English cucumber, peeled, grated on a box grater, salted lightly, rested for 5 minutes and squeezed between the hands with a paper towel to remove as much water as possible.
3 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint (optional)
salt to taste (usually puts about 1/4 tsp)


1. Grate the cucumber on a box grater, salt it lightly, let it rest for 5 minutes and squeeze between your hands with a paper towel to remove as much water as possible. Note: If I have time, I often lightly salt the grated cucumber and put in a colander to drain, then squeeze out water as per usual. This eliminates even more water.

2. Mash the garlic up into a paste with a fork and possibly into a little bit of salt. You can decide.

3. Put all of your ingredients into a bowl.

4. Mix everything up together until it is all blended and the oil has emulsified into the yogurt.

5. Taste for seasoning, and add salt if you think necessary. Put in a resealable container.

6. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before using to allow the flavors to come out.

7. Enjoy!

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