Since I haven't had it in a while, and I just made fresh yogurt the other day, I thought now might be a good time to whip up a batch of Tzatziki, first cousin to the Dill Dip most of us grew up with using mayo, sour cream, yogurt, or some combination thereof. I had that one several times over the years, typically in a bread bowl served with cubes of bread, but it wasn't until more recent years that I had this version, another staple in Armenian homes. The first time I had it was in a Lebanese restaurant. It came with warm pita wedges alongside my salad. It was love at first taste. Then I had it in an Antipasto platter at a Greek Restaurant, and I was definitely hooked. There's no going back to the mayo/sour cream version for me.
The one thing I found weird about the version at this particular Greek restaurant is that they apparently ran the cucumbers through a mandoline, so when everything was mixed together, the seeds came out of the center and you were left with long strings of cucumber. It was kinda like when you bite into an onion ring and the whole onion slides out of the batter. I'll skip that one. I usually pulse my cucumber in the food processor, but I didn't feel like busting out the power tools tonight, so I just minced it by hand.
I don't get why, in this age of genetic engineering, when all of our vegetables seem to be cross-bred to produce bigger, bolder, more colorful versions of themselves, the cucumber seems to have been forgotten. Is is just me, or do they seem to be getting seedier and mushier as time goes on? I had pretty much given up finding a decent cuke at the supermarket and started sticking with the English cukes last year, but then I noticed the last several of those I picked up were either mushy themselves or starting to brown when I cut them open. That's when I started using the baby pickling cucumbers. I especially love those in a watermelon salad in the summer. Dang, wish it was summer now!
I did manage to find what looked/felt like a good English cucumber last night, so I grabbed that AND a bag of picking cukes, just in case. I figured whichever didn't go IN the dip could be used to scoop the dip. What I did forget while I was at the store was to pick up some fresh dill. Some people don't use dill at all in their Tzatziki, but I love it. I always reach for dry dill when making Lentil Soup and things like that, but my preference would be fresh for this. (Wow, I was just gonna add a link to my Lentil Soup and realized I haven't posted it yet. Time to make some soup!)
2 c plain yogurt
1/2-3/4 of an English Cucumber, peeled and minced or pulsed in food processor
1/4 c olive oil
2 T vinegar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
dill (preferably fresh, but dry OK)
Line a sieve with cheesecloth, paper towels, or my favorite - a coffee filter, and set it over a bowl. Scoop the yogurt into the sieve to let it drain while you are prepping your veggies. It should thicken up and look more like Ricotta once it has drained.
Empty the liquid from the bowl and transfer the yogurt to the bowl, then stir in the cucumber, garlic, oil, and vinegar. Give it a good shake or two of salt and pepper, then stir in dill to taste. I'm kinda visual when it comes to the dill. I add more until it "looks right."
Let it chill for a while, then serve some up with pita wedges, fresh veggies, serve it on gyros, over roasted veggies, baked potatoes ... yup, pretty much anything you want. It's cool, refreshing, healthy, and if you use enough garlic, can even ward off vampires. What more could you want?! ;)