I fell head-over-heels in love with tzatziki 18 years ago while spending the summer in Greece on my honeymoon. My tall-dark-and-handsome-Greek-god-of-a-husband had whisked me off to indulge in all the splendor of his native country. We spent the summer hopping from one quaint little seaside town to next. We met family, made new friends and gathered around many a table to feast on fresh fabulous food for hours on end.
As the heat of summertime and the cloudless cobalt blue skies appear each year, my mind can’t help but to become filled with the memories of that summer. Some of my fondest memories come from time spent on Crete in Alkalahori, the tiny village where my mother-in-law had grown up and where her mother still lived. We would wake early in the morning before the heat would invade the day and walk to the farmer’s market. Then, we quickly selected our treasures, and scurried back into the refreshing refuge of Yaya’s cool stone walled kitchen. I cherished this daily tradition. I loved listening to the stories that unfolded in Yaya’s 100 year old kitchen as we assisted her with the daily chores of chopping, peeling and dicing some of the most gorgeous fruits and vegetables I had ever seen in my life. We spent hours wrapped up in amazing stories of the past that would come alive as My Yanni would translate what was so passionately rolling off his grandmother’s tongue.
This summer I look forward to sharing the many delicious family recipes that graced the table that magical summer and continue to do so today, here in suburbia. I’ve decided to kick off the fun with a family favorite and all time crowd pleaser – dreamy creamy tzatziki! In Greece this refreshing yogurt and cucumber sauce is often served as a dip with pita bread adorned with a kalamata olive or as a condiment to jazz up meat. Tzatziki pairs beautifully with chicken or lamb and is commonly wrapped in a pita sprinkled with diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce.
Wait until you see how simple it is to have a taste of Greece by making this gorgeous dip.
These are the ingredients,
1 English cucumber, plain yogurt, sour cream, red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic and salt.
Now, the key to tzatziki success is the draining of the liquid.
My mother-in-law lovingly repeats this to me every time we “talk tzatziki” it’s so cute in her thick Greek accent.
Now you may be asking, how does one drain yogurt? Don’t worry, it’s easy peasy. Just grab a colander and place it in a bowl. Then line the colander with cheese cloth, pour the yogurt in and let drain overnight in the refrigerator.
You’ll be amazed at how much liquid actually drains from the yogurt!
This is what your drained yogurt will look like…
Lovely isn’t it? Remove yogurt from the cheese cloth and place it in a bowl.
Next you’ll want to shred the cucumber. I like to leave the skin on for added texture and color. The English cucumber is perfect for this because the skin is so thin and non-waxy.
Again draining is key.
Repeat after me in your best Greek accent…
Well actually in this case we want to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the shredded cucumber to release all of the juice.
And would you just look at all of that cucumber juice!
Discard the cucumber juice and to the shredded (juice-free) cucumber add,
red wine vinegar,
finely chopped garlic,
olive oil, sour cream and salt.
Then give it a good stir.
Right about now you can close your eyes, inhale deeply through your nostrils and pretend that you are on an island in Greece just sitting down to a fabulous meal.
Now open your eyes and fold in the drained yogurt a little at a time,
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
Continue adding and folding until it’s all incorporated.
In no time flat you’ve got yourself a dreamy creamy (well drained and squeezed) heavenly tzatziki.
Grab a piece of pita, close your eyes and dig in.
You my friend have just had an authentic taste of Greece without even leaving your very own kitchen.
Hope you’ll stay tuned for more tasty treats from Greece!
Here’s the recipe:
1 32 oz plain yogurt
6 ounces sour cream
1 English cucumber
2 cloves garlic
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Here’s what to do:
1. Drain the yogurt overnight in a cheese cloth lined colander with a bowl underneath to collect the liquid.
2. Shred the cucumber into a bowl. In a separate bowl squeeze handfuls of the shredded cucumber to release as much juice as possible out of the cucumber. Discard cucumber juice.
3. Add all ingredients, except drained yogurt, to the shredded cucumber and mix well.
4. Lastly, fold the drained yogurt into the cucumber mixture a little at a time until all is incorporated.
Tzatziki gets better the longer it sits and will last up to a week refrigerated in a sealed container. Enjoy with pita or use as a condiment with lamb or chicken.