Tzatziki is the king of Mediterranean sauces. I love its principal flavorings of tangy yogurt and fresh cucumber, and its subtle background notes of garlic, dill, mint, and lemon. It’s a charismatic condiment for grilled meats (especially chicken and lamb), warmed or fried wedges of pita bread, and, of course, falafels. My step-by-step recipe:
How to pronounce “tzatziki”? I pronounce it “taht-ZEE-kee.” If you are familiar with the Greek language, I hope you’ll either confirm or correct my pronunciation by posting a comment at the end of this recipe!To start, obtain a cucumber. I prefer a large hot house or “English” cucumber here, because the smooth-skinned creature doesn’t require peeling or seeding. If you use bumpy-skinned garden-type cukes, you’ll want to peel and seed them first.
Using a box grater or the shredding disk of a food processor, grate the cucumber. As you can see, my English subject fit right through the feed tube of my food processor.
Tip the gratings into a bowl, and sprinkle them with a generous 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Use your hands to mix the salt into the cucumber bits. Then let the mixture sit for a good 10 minutes (or a bad 10 minutes, depending on the kind of day you are having), while the cucumber renders its vast quantities of liquid.
You see, we don’t want all of the liquid from the cucumber, for it would make for a very wet tzatziki sauce. We want only the concentrated flavor of the cucumber flesh.
Just look at the liquid that has been exuded after a few minutes.
After 10 minutes have passed, place a sieve over a bowl, and put the cucumber in the sieve.
Then dump the drained bits onto a clean kitchen towel.
Twist up the towel, and then squeeze like mad to press out as much liquid as you possibly can.
As you can see, my English cucumber rendered almost 1 cup of liquid!
And that cucumber, when I opened the towel, revealed only a small fraction of its former self.
Onward! Tip 2 cups of good-quality Greek yogurt into a medium bowl.
Add the grated cucumber to the yogurt…
And stir with a fork until well combined.
Also stir in 3 or 4 minced or pressed cloves of garlic. My garlic cloves were small, so I used five of ’em.
And I used my new garlic press to squeeze the garlic essence into the sauce. Sorry about the blurry photo above. My hands were shaking in anticipation of homemade tzatziki!
Now stir in a tablespoon (or more or less) of fresh, finely minced mint…
And another tablespoon or so of dill.
To brighten the works, add the juice of half a lemon…
And finish the sauce with a nice pinch of salt.
Now taste the condiment. Does it need more garlic? Mint? Dill? Perhaps another squirt of lemon, or more salt? Amend your sauce as your taste buds indicate.
Tip: If your sauce is too chunky, just pour the whole kit and caboodle into your food processor, and blitz for a few seconds. Processing this way will turn a too-thick sauce into a just-right sauce.
To insure the very best flavor, cover and refrigerate the sauce for several hours (or overnight). The flavors will mingle and intensify.
Besides its use as a sauce for homemade falafels (I’m filming my falafel recipe for you on Sunday — please check back!)…
Tzatziki is also wonderful for snacking. Just serve it with crackers or fried wedges of pita bread. A little wine on the side won’t hurt.
As I mentioned earlier, tzatsiki is a must-have accompaniment for grilled chicken and lamb. You might like to keep it on hand during barbecue season.
Did you know that Tzatziki is an ancient Greek condiment, probably as old as Zeus himself? Well, that’s the rumor around Athens. I hope you’ll try my homemade version some day.
Here’s the printable: