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Tzatziki

JonParker May 16, 2008 01:21 PM

As part of my quest to get rid of all the lamb I mentioned in my last thread here, I decided to slice up some of it on pita and eat with some sliced onion and tzatziki. I went on a search for prepared tzatziki, and ended up going with Summer Fresh from Wegman's (which was quite good, actually).

I was searching because when I used to make tzatziki I could never get either the texture or the flavor quite right. I was straining regular yogurt, chopping cuke and sprinkling it with salt to draw the water out and then straining it. I'd combine the yogurt, the cuke, some chopped dill, some crushed garlic and a dash of olive oil. I can't remember if I put in lemon or not.

Regardless, the final product was always too watery and didn't have that incredible flavor of good tzatziki.

So what's the secret to good tzatziki? How do I make it perfectly and bursting with flavor?

I know I should be using Greek yogurt, which I have now learned I can get at Whole Foods. Is that the only difference?

  1. ChefBoyAreMe May 16, 2008 01:33 PM

    I'll share my recipe...

    Mix 1 cup Greek yogurt (Fage, if you can get it) with 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, and whisk.
    Add one medium glove of garlic, smashed to a pulp in a mortar and pestle, or grated through a very fine microplane. Juice one lemon in, plus salt/pepper, and whisk again.

    Add 1/2 to 3/4 of a cuke, peeled, seeded, and chopped...amount and fineness of chop is your call. I never salted and drained, and have never felt the need to. Then, add a generous amount of chopped mint (again, amount is based on how much "green" you like.

    That's it. I think the lemon and garlic are key to the flavor, and might be what you've been missing. It's simple, and delicious...

    6 Replies
    1. re: ChefBoyAreMe
      nbermas May 16, 2008 01:51 PM

      Chef: I thought there was much more than 1 garlic in it, the best is in Stamford at Athens pizza, i eat it with my clean fingers at home. it is defintely one of my favourite foods in life. Any other places come to mind around Stamford, I want a new Greek place to open that has more authentic Clean food, Have a yummy clean weekend! What is your favorite food?

      1. re: nbermas
        ChefBoyAreMe May 16, 2008 02:00 PM

        You can add more...its all to taste. But I find if I get heavy handed on the garlic, it repeats on me...remember, it's being used raw here. So I'd rather undershoot than overshoot...you can always add more, but you can't take i away.

        As far as favorite food, that's a bit like asking "which of your children do you love most..."

        While it's not Greek, it is similar...you should try Myrna's on the Post Road in East Stamford, right by the train overpass. I think it might even pass your cleanliness standards. Plus, they are about to open a second place in Greenwich, right next to Barcelona.

        Happy weekend to you too!

      2. re: ChefBoyAreMe
        BobB May 16, 2008 01:53 PM

        I also start with Fage yogurt. 2 cups yogurt, one good-sized cuke peeled, seeded and chopped, 2 - 3 cloves garlic minced, a few tbsps good olive oil, a tbsp or two of good red wine vinegar, a few tbsps each of finely chopped mint and dill. Mix it all together, let sit in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld, then serve. Thick, rich, and delicious!

        1. re: ChefBoyAreMe
          JonParker May 17, 2008 08:57 AM

          Weird. Two posts telling me I'm missing the garlic, but I can see it on my screen.

          1. re: JonParker
            Caroline1 May 17, 2008 01:37 PM

            Don't pick on me... I don't start reading lessons until next week!

            Truthfully, sorry about that.

            1. re: Caroline1
              JonParker May 18, 2008 01:10 AM

              You are the last person on CH that I would pick on. And please, don't apologize.

        2. toutefrite May 16, 2008 02:14 PM

          Were you straining full fat yogurt? Full fat greek yogurt? Perhaps that is the key? I have great results using the aforementioned. A Greek friend of mine says that at their restaurant they stir in some sour cream as well for a creamier mouthfeel.

          1. h
            Harters May 16, 2008 02:37 PM

            Claudia Roden's recipe for Cacik is simplicity itself. (for 4 - 6)

            Deseed a cucumber (that's my addition to reduce wateriness) and chop. Stir into 500g full-fat yoghurt (preferably Greek or Turkish) with 2 crushed garlic cloves and some fresh mint (or 2 teaspoons dried mint if out-of-season). Don't make it too far in advance.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Harters
              Rubee May 21, 2008 02:16 PM

              I'm a fan of that too, and was just about to mention it, though I use dill.

              Pic and report
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/38706...

            2. Caroline1 May 16, 2008 04:49 PM

              Well, Jon, you don't mention garlic in your home made tzatziki, and if it doesn't bite you, it ain't tzatziki! Here's my way:

              First, I drain the yogurt (full fat, not fat free) in a paper towel lined colander over a bowl over night. I cover the top of the yogurt with another paper towel and put a weight on it. I use one of my rather heavy porcelain chili bowls, but whatever works in your colander, like maybe a salad plate with a can of tomatoes on top of it. Let the yogurt get thick, but not quite to the cream cheese stage. Dump into a mixing bowl.

              Peel at least one, maybe two, cucumbers, cut them in half, scoop out all of the seeds with a teaspoon, then grate the cucumbers. I use my Cuisineart for this step, but I have done it on an old fashioned grater. Put the grated cucumbers in a paper towel and squeeze out all of the moisture you possibly can. Add them to the yogurt.

              A couple of good sized cloves of garlic are next. I use a garlic press If you don't have a garlic press, then you can mince it fine, then add a little bit of salt -- preferably kosher -- and mash it all together with the side of a knife until you have a paste. Add to the yogurt. Salt to taste. A tablespoon or two of good olive oil. Mix well and taste to see if you get enough bite from the garlic. I've known Greeks and Turks (especially Turks in the south of Turkey) who use garlic by the head, not the clove. Too strong for me that way. Anyway, let it mellow for at least an hour or two before serving. The longer the better.

              Chopped fresh mint and/or chopped fresh dill are optional, but not traditional. When using as a sauce with meats in pita bread, I prefer whole fresh mint in the sandwich, along with paper thin slices of red onion.

              If you follow these instruction and still get thin tzatziki, somethings wrong! But it will "weep" after sitting a day or two, but you regain consistency by stirring, not by draining. Good luck!

              4 Replies
              1. re: Caroline1
                JonParker May 17, 2008 08:55 AM

                That sounds perfect. I've noticed that the amount of olive oil varies widely between recipes. I used about the same as you do -- a couple of tablespoons, although I didn't really measure.

                Oh, and garlic is in my original post. I use a garlic press. It's easy and my hands don't smell for a couple of days afterward.

                1. re: JonParker
                  Caroline1 May 17, 2008 02:21 PM

                  Okay, here's a trick for you. If you do get garlic (or anything else that stinks) on your hand, simply grab a stainless steel soup spoon and rub your hands with it under cold running water. Voila! Smell is gone! I never worry about getting garlic all over my hands any more. You can also buy an eight or ten dollar stainless steel "bar of soap" that does the same thing. They try to lead people to believe there is some sort of magic in their product, but it's just the chemistry of plain old stainless steel. See? There *IS* magic still left in the world!

                2. re: Caroline1
                  chowser May 17, 2008 02:53 PM

                  This is very similar to what I do. Rather than paper towels, though, which I've found sometimes tear on me, I either use cheesecloth or a coffee filter (disposable). You can't overdrain the yogurt. And, mix by hand.

                  1. re: chowser
                    Caroline1 May 17, 2008 04:38 PM

                    I use Bounty plain white paper towels and they always work perfectly. If I had to wait to make tzatziki until I remembered to buy cheesecloth, I would probably die without ever tasting it again! Quit using cheesecloth many years ago because at that time (maybe things have changed?) you had to rinse and rinse and rinse to get the starchy flavor out of it. With coffee filters, I never found a brand that didn't make my coffee taste like it was in a paper cup. So I bought a gold filter, then replaced that with a superespresso machine, so I'm rid of papery coffee filters and starchy cheesecloth forever! Try the Bounty. They work really great and don't add any flavor of their own.

                3. e
                  emilief May 16, 2008 05:19 PM

                  My husband is from Greece and his mother gave me her recipe. First, start with yogurt spread if you can find it (aka lebne). If not, drain the full fat yogurt overnight in a strainer with cheese cloth. Grate one cucumber on the large holes of a box grater and squeeze the water out. Mix with the yogurt.Add 6-8 cloves of garlic pressed. Add about 1/4 cup of good Greek olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Serve with crusty bread.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: emilief
                    DiveFan May 16, 2008 05:41 PM

                    Ahhh, the lebne! What a revelation when I finally tried it (noticed it on the label of TJ's tzatziki).

                    Using regular full or low fat yogurt will work fine IF you can get a brand WITHOUT the d**n thickeners - pectin, careegenan, guar gum. These additives purposely prevent the water content from separating.

                    I wish yogurt producers would get a clue about this - plain yogurt is NOT just for making desserts.

                  2. ko1 May 18, 2008 03:01 PM

                    I always use English cukes as they are less moisture laden than the regular ones.

                    1. Calipoutine May 18, 2008 03:17 PM

                      I use an English cuke that I shred on a box grater. I also squeeze the water out of that.

                      1. alkapal May 21, 2008 06:46 AM

                        really fresh cukes in the summer have so much more crispness and cuke flavor than the english cukes. the flavor and crunch are really amazin'! if you buy smaller ones, you don't have all the seediness, either. they aren't watery, to boot!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: alkapal
                          i
                          ios94 May 21, 2008 10:11 AM

                          It's all about the right yogurt, this is the most important thing. Are there any Greek grocers in your area? The ones in Montreal sell very thick Greek style yogurt (local Greek farmer....http://www.skotidakis.com) by the kilo, go to your cheese counter guy and ask if they have anything similar. It needs to be the thickist type and there is no need to strain it because it's so thick that no water will come out.

                          Mix 2 tblsp olive oil with 1 tblsp vinegar (stir it well

                          )

                          Add 6 cloves crushed garlic

                          I use 1+ english cucumber seeded and grated (I squeeze out the water from the shredded cuc using my hands...wash those hands well before doing this or use a clean glove). 1 cuc is enough but I like that cucumb texture.

                          Mix in the cuc with the garlic, oil and vinegar.

                          Add the 500g of yogurt, salt to taste....mix very well and you are all set.

                          I don't use mint or dill (but I guess that's optional).

                          and please DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT use SOUR CREAM. This is blasphemy.

                          1. re: ios94
                            k
                            kwe730 May 21, 2008 12:17 PM

                            I seriously love tzatziki and recently came across a terrific recipe on Epicurious using fennel in place of the cuke. It would be great on your lamb, but you might also want to check out the Grilled Halibut recipe that first led me to the tzatziki recipe.

                            Btw, I always use Fage Greek yogurt.

                            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/FENNEL-TSATSIKI-101867

                            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                            1. re: ios94
                              Caroline1 May 21, 2008 02:24 PM

                              "It's all about the right yogurt, this is the most important thing. Are there any Greek grocers in your area? The ones in Montreal sell very thick Greek style yogurt (local Greek farmer....http://www.skotidakis.com) by the kilo, go to your cheese counter guy and ask if they have anything similar. It needs to be the thickist type and there is no need to strain it because it's so thick that no water will come out"......ios94
                              ..................................................................

                              Actually, if you want to make labna (yogurt cheese), you DO start with Greek yogurt and strain it, and liquid does come out. But for tzatziki, it's only American-style yogurt (Danon, et al) that you have to strain/press. And if you want labna from it, you just strain/press longer. It will get there.

                          2. ko1 May 21, 2008 01:30 PM

                            BTW, Jon, Wegman's carries the Fage Total yogurt as well. It's in the organic section for some reason.

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