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~ It's all Greek to Me: Except for this Tzatziki Recipe~

IMG_9768When it comes to posting ethnic recipes, even if the ethnicity is the one you inherited by birth and have the papers to prove it, it's best to start with a disclaimer.  Too many an ethnic cook self-appoints him- or herself the sole authority on an entire cuisine, and, quite frankly, they get snarky about what goes on in the kitchens of others.  If it's not the way their family prepares it, it's wrong.  That's wrong.  Disclaimer:  I am not Greek.  What I don't know about authentic Greek cuisine is a lot.  What I do know about Greek cuisine is, however, authentic from the standpoint that I learned from both Greek-born and Greek-heritaged acquaintances and personal friends.

IMG_9762Mr. Krinos is a Greek man, who funny enough, is called "Jimmy the Greek" (he's a poker-buddy of my NJ cousin and no relation to the Krinos brand of Greek products sold in stores or the Jimmy-the-Greek restaurant chain).  On the subject of tzatziki, he pointedly told me, "leave it to the Americans to 'muck' this recipe up with lemon juice and mint." Folks, when you've got a Greek diner owner wearing a thick gold chain around his neck telling you to use red wine vinegar and dill in tzatziki -- you take his word for it. When he gives you his recipe, you respect it and honor it.  (BYI:  If you prefer lemon juice, and mint, use it.)

A bit about tzatziki (dzah-DZEE-kee):  Tzatziki is a creamy, refreshing condiment made from yogurt, cucumber, garlic, herbs, olive oil, salt and pepper.  While mostly associated with Greek cuisine, various versions of it exist in Iraq, Cyprus and Turkey too.  This simple-to-make sauce tastes best made a few hours or a day ahead and it's served cold in a variety of ways -- as an appetizer with vegetables and pita chips, as a accompaniment to main course meat and fish dishes and rustic bread, or as a topping for gyros (sandwiches) and souvlaki (kabobs).

IMG_973316  ounces (1 pint/2 cups) plain, whole-milk Greek-style yogurt

1  large (13-14-ounce or larger) hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded and very small diced

4-6  large cloves garlic, run through a press

1-2 tablespoons minced, fresh dill leaves, as few stems as possible

1  tablespoon high-quality, fruity extra-virgin olive oil

1  tablespoon red wine vinegar

freshly-ground salt and pepper*

*I use 15 coarse grinds of freshly-ground sea salt and 30 coarse grinds of peppercorn blend. 

IMG_9747~ Step 1.  An important step to making tzatziki is making sure the yogurt and cucumber are free of excess moisture.  Many strain the yogurt in cheesecloth overnight. Now that high-quality, whole milk, Greek-style yogurt is available to me everywhere, I skip the cheesecloth, put it in a fine mesh strainer and let it sit for just an hour.

IMG_9741~ Step 2.  Peel the cucumber and slice it in half lengthwise.  Using a melon baller, remove seeds. Slice each half into 8 long strips and finely-dice strips into 1/8"-1/4" bits.  

IMG_9612~ Step 3. Bundle the diced cucumber up in a few layers of paper towels and squeeze to remove as much moisture as IMG_9753possible.  Set the packet aside, to continue to drain, until you're ready to use the drained yogurt.

~ Step 4.  Run the garlic through a press and allow it to drain on a small bed of paper towels too, until you are ready to use the yogurt.

~ Step 5.  Place the drained yogurt, drained cucumber and drained garlic in a medium bowl.  

Add the dill, olive oil & wine vinegar.  Season w/salt & pepper.

IMG_9754Thoroughly stir, cover & refrigerate until well-chilled.

IMG_9759~ My Greek Gyro Style Beef & Lamb 'Burger' Pitas ~ (in 'Cats' 2, 13 or 17):

IMG_9875It's all Greek to Me:  Except for this Tzatziki Sauce:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups.

Special Equipment List:  vegetable peeler; melon baller; cutting board; paring knife; paper towels; garlic press; large spoon; 1-quart food storage container w/tight-fitting lid

023Cook's Note:  Ever consider throwing a Greek-themed party? Back in August of 2012, my Greek girlfriend, Jeanne Cocolin, was becoming a 1st time grandmother. To get my menu, click into Category 11 for: ~ It's A Girl!  A Pretty in Pink, Greek, Baby Shower!!! ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)


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