Cool off with tzatziki

So many recipes and foods are just better in hot weather.  Ice cream of course.  Lemonade.  Fresh seasonal tomatoes, melon, peaches and corn.  And for me, tzatziki.  This summer in particular, because I’ve been inundated with cucumbers.  There’s are only so many you can give away to the neighbors.  At some point you have to use them up.  I’ve been making cucumber water, another lovely summer-specific beverage.  Calling it a recipe is a bit of a stretch.  You slice up cucumbers (peeled or not, your choice) and put them in a pitcher of water.  Let it sit for a few hours and enjoy a cold refreshing drink with a hint of cucumber.  You can add fresh herbs if you like.  Mint or fresh basil would be particularly appropriate.

Back to tzatziki.  If you’re unfamiliar with this traditional Greek dish, it’s a yogurt-based sauce/dip that can be used to perk up all kinds of other foods, particularly fresh summer vegetables.  The key is fresh ingredients.  Yogurt is essential, but cucumbers are also essential.  Here’s a very simplified recipe:

  • 1 decently large cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1 cup Greek style yogurt.  I use whole milk yogurt for the richer flavor, but you can use non-fat too.  It will have more protein and slightly more calcium.
  • about 2-3 tsp fresh minced garlic
  • 1-2 TB minced fresh mint.  You can also use dill, basil, cilantro or fresh oregano if you’re lucky enough to have that in your garden.  Use more or less fresh herb to taste.  Using a combination of two is another nice idea.  Perhaps basil and mint.
  • salt to taste
  • juice from 1/2 fresh lemon

Grate the cucumber into a sieve and shake a bit of salt over it.  Mix it around and let it sit over a bowl to let some of the cucumber liquid drain off for about 1-2 hours.  You might get up to 1/4 cup of liquid.

Once the cucumbers are drained, mix all the ingredients together.  Voila!  NOTE: the flavor improves if it sits in the frig for 2-4 hours.

What to do with tzatziki

The intense flavor means tzatziki pairs well with fresh foods with milder flavors.

  1. I sometimes just eat it with a spoon.
  2. Top sliced vegetables with a dollop of tzatziki to make a lovely hot weather lunch.  Cucumbers, zucchini, sweet peppers and tomatoes go particularly well with it, but you could also try broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower and even greens like kale.
  3. Dip pita bread or other crusty artisanal bread.
  4. Use it in a wrap with chopped fresh vegetables and garbanzo beans.
  5. Top a burger.  It’s delicious on lamb burgers.  Perhaps one of the best uses is on a veggie bean burger.  It adds a protein boost to the meal, as well as intense flavor.

Tzatziki is vegetarian, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying it if you’re a meat eater.  Vegans however cannot eat it — it’s got yogurt which is dairy.  Put together a simple vegetarian hot weather supper of tzatziki with a platter of sliced summer vegetables, pita bread or other flat bread, corn on the cob or a bean salad, and of course cucumber water for a beverage.

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