SAUCES & DIPS

Tzatziki (Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce)

Tzatziki (Greek yogurt and cucumber sauce)

Although many of us only eat yogurt for breakfast, as a snack or for dessert, throughout the Mediterranean region yogurt has been a staple for centuries and is used in everything from soups, sauces, spreads, and salads, to dips, dressings and drinks.

One of the ways we love to enjoy yogurt is in tzatziki, the classic Greek cucumber and yogurt sauce.

There are a couple of key considerations when making tzatziki. Number one is that you use a good quality strained yogurt, such as Greek yogurt. It’s the thick, creamy consistency of this type of yogurt that makes all the difference between a mediocre tzatziki and one good enough to please the Greek gods!

The other main consideration is not letting the watery cucumber ruin the creamy consistency of the yogurt. This is done in two parts. First by removing the seeds (a simple task achieved by cutting the cucumber in half lengthwise and using the pointy end of a teaspoon to scrape away the seeds and accompanying watery membrane). Then the cucumber flesh is grated and any excess moisture squeezed out. The yogurt and cucumber are then combined with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh dill (or you can use mint), salt and pepper.

An important last step is to then leave the tzatziki for at least two hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors meld and intensify.

The end result is a tangy and luxuriously textured sauce that can be served on souvlaki, in a gyro, pita sandwich, or with grilled fish, meat or vegetables. It also makes a luscious dressing tossed with a salad of fresh baby spinach leaves, sliced scallions, diced tomatoes and chickpeas. And of course it makes a great dip.

Tzatziki
serves 4
Tzatziki is a classic Greek cucumber and yogurt sauce seasoned with garlic, lemon juice and fresh dill.
1 cucumber — peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves — minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
SCRAPE the seeds out of the cucumber halves using the pointy end of a teaspoon, and discard. GRATE the cucumber flesh into a bowl then squeeze out any excess moisture using your hands (a small handful at a time works best). PLACE the grated cucumber into a large bowl and add the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, dill, salt and pepper. STIR well to combine. PLACE the tzatziki in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (and preferably overnight) to let the flavors meld and intensify.

Variation: Use finely chopped fresh mint instead of dill.