Feeling Saucy: Tzatziki

6 Nov

tzatziki001For the last, somewhat belated addition to my month of sauce-themed posts, I picked tzatziki, a thick and creamy Greek appetizer which not only makes a great dip, but a delicious sauce over chicken or lamb gyros (or doner kebab, or shawarma–Avengers fans, I’m looking at you).  This is probably the easiest of this month’s sauces to make, but finding one of the key ingredients proved a little tricky.  Fresh dill can be kind of difficult to lay hands on in Seoul, when you’re actually looking for it!

Ingredients tzatziki002
2 cups unsweetened Greek yogurt*
1 1/2 – 2 cups grated seedless cucumber, drained (about 2 thin cucumbers)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp minced garlic
a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
a squirt of lemon juice
a pinch of sea salt
a dash of black pepper

*Note: If you don’t have or can’t find Greek yogurt, you can use regular plain yogurt which has been strained for 12-24 hours in the refrigerator.  Use cheesecloth or a fine metal mesh strainer to let the whey separate, but don’t throw it away!  The whey can be used in baking as a substitute for milk and other liquids, as a substitute for buttermilk in pancakes or biscuits, to marinate chicken before frying, to boil noodles or rice (if you’re not on the slow carb diet), and even to fertilize some houseplants.  The resulting Greek-style yogurt is much thicker than typical yogurt, which the sauce needs for body.

As with the Greek yogurt, you want as little extra liquid from the cucumbers as possible.  If you can find seedless cucumbers, get those. If the only ones you can find are fat and have a dark, bitter skin, you may need to scrape the seeds out and peel them before using them in the dip, or you’ll wind up with a runny mess instead of tzatziki.  Take note of whether or not your local grocery sells cucumbers with any kind of wax coating for preservation–that, too, should be skinned off rather than eaten.  I prefer the bits of darker green color in my dip, so I was pleased to find wax-free skinny ‘white cucumber’ (백오이) here instead.  To strain them, grate the cucumbers into a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth and add a pinch or two of sea salt.  Leave them in the fridge for a few hours, suspended over a bowl, to drain out as much of the water as possible.  If you’re in a rush, you may be able to squeeze or wring extra liquid out using a piece of clean cheesecloth or sturdy paper towels.

Once the cucumbers have drained, mix the drained grated cucumber, yogurt, dill, garlic, oil, and lemon juice in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste–remember you added some salt to the cucumbers already, so a lot isn’t necessary.  Let the sauce sit in the refrigerator for a few hours, minimum, to really blend the flavors together.

This tzatziki sauce can easily be made with other herbs, if dill isn’t handy or you don’t care for it.  Some people swear by mint, others might use parsley or cilantro for different spins on the same condiment.

Makes about 4 cups.

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