Last week, the day after graduation, I was staring at a wall when I happened to recall a friend’s incredulity that I had not visited Kitchen Arts & Letters (i.e., cookbook heaven) in my years in New York; so, I decided to stop by before I left the city. I think it’s probably good I held off going there until I had a job; I picked up four books on my first visit. Thankfully their used books are quite modestly priced, and they have a sale bin where I found “The Complete Greek Cookbook.”
This find was well-timed: after many days of rainy nasty New England-ness, it’s finally starting to get warm up here. Which means my desire for hot foods (other than those off the grill) are dwindling fast. I only brought a handful of books with my to Boston; the ones I packed are mostly “hot climate” foods – Greek, Puerto Rican, Texan. In my new Greek book I came across a recipe for tzatziki; I’ve been eating it constantly since it started to warm up.
It’s an awesome snack – healthy, fast, and filling – and it reminds me of the summer I spent on an archaeological dig in Greece. That summer was pretty crazy; I was doing mortuary archaeology (yep, grave-robbing) at a Bronze Age site near a tiny village on the eastern coast of mainland Greece. Our site was on a kilometer-long islet; we had to wade across 50 feet of sandbar every morning to get to it. My boss was pretty awful; she kind of a dead ringer, personality-wise, for Temperance Brennan on the show Bones. I kind of love that show, and Bones’ brusqueness and inability to relate are quite charming on the small screen. Not so much in real physical anthropologist bosses. It was tough to get too stressed, though, since our site looked like this:
And when we finished digging for the day we could sit by the sea and have ouzo and grilled sardines. Or lamb and tzatziki. Getting back to that tzatziki, by the by…I’ve seen this dip seasoned with a number of herbs (like dill), but I really took to the combo prescribed by my new book: vinegar, spearmint flakes, and scallions. I didn’t have any mint in the house, but I did happen to pick some za’atar up yesterday, so I decided to mix Mediterranean cuisines. It worked. Oh boy, did it work.
I like to chop my cucumber coarsely for this salad.
It’s astoundingly simple once the cucumbers are chopped; just toss then on top of some yogurt, add the spices and chopped scallion, and mix. I like eating tzatziki with flatbread on its own, but it also makes a nice accompaniment to a simple lamb roast.
Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber-Yogurt Dip)
1/2 a large cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 6-oz container plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp. white vinegar or lemon juice
1 tsp. mint flakes or za’atar
1 scallion (green part only), chopped
1/2 tsp. honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Mix all ingredients and serve chilled.
Okay, can I just say your summer in Greece sounds outstanding? Talk about a dream come true! Ahem, anyhoo that Tzatziki looks very tasty. My husband is addicted to the stuff so I’ve definitely bookmarked it. He’s a lot like Zack, by the way. He likes to throw out lines from Bones like ‘my knowledge is vast.’ Le sigh.
Glad there were some compensations for working that dig. That boss sounds like a real charmer (not). I love Tzatziki – it tastes so great it shouldn’t be healthy. I’m going to try your version with mint leaves. I use it on baked potatoes, and as a dip, and just straight from the bowl if the truth be known. Such a great dish.
We really wanted to visit Greece this Spring but ran out of $ and time — what beautiful pictures. I love your Tzatziki and will actually be trying your version this week when I grill with Dad. Thanks for the recipe and nice meeting you!!
What an amazing trip! I’d love to visit Greece some day, but in the meantime this recipe looks like a great way to channel it.
Great recipe! This is a great dip for homemade pita chips!
This s one of my favorite sauces
HMM! Looks really delicious. I love cucumbers and yogurt. I have tried this kind of Greek dip on several occasions (at restaurant and parties) before and I love it. I didn’t know how to cook, but now I know how – and surprisingly I have all the ingredients. It’s so funny we think some food is “foreign” but all the ingredients are at home. LOL. By the way, I took some archaeology classes in Japan and I loved it. Your story of grave digging was very exciting. It looks like a tedious work, but I’m always fascinated about this field. 🙂
I need to share my yogurt dip with you – you will love it! We make something a bit similar to this called Taratur… garlic, olive oil, walnuts, cucumbers, dried mint, and a thinner yogurt.. yummo!
I’ve never tried to make yogurt dip but I love it! I need to make this, I like to make stuff like this to trick myself into eating more veggies!
@Kate@Diethood.com – That sounds so delicious! Hope to see some taratur on your site soon… 🙂
You made a mistake with this Tzatziki recipe…you used a low fat yogurt…in my family, we always used the richest full-fat yogurt we could get. My grandmother put cream in whole milk to get the proper richness when she made yogurt. Then you really need to get fresh spearmint. Dried herbs give it a dusty flavor…the fresh spearmint perks in up and makes it really sing. Also, fresh dill is almost always required too. The cucumber should be grated, not cut up, for the real thing. Usually Tzatziki is served with pita bread as a dip, and it’s also a sauce in a souvlaki (kebab) sandwich — pita bread, the roasted pork, lamb, beef, or chicken kebab (seasoned with oregano, salt, pepper, maybe lemon juice), fresh cut up tomatoes, and a smear of tzatziki. The richer the Tzatziki, the better. No honey either — this is supposed to be a tart creamy sauce, not a sweet one. Honey is put in yogurt either at breakfast with some almonds and dried fruit or as a nice dessert.
Now you’re Greek!
Hi Celia! There’s an award for you on my blog, if you want to check it out! 🙂