12 February 2013
I have a new obsession and its name is tzatziki. Cucumbers! Yogurt! Garlic! YES.
I had yogurt sauces on the brain after the chole palak incident the other day. Sure, yogurt on curry is good--but wouldn't a sauce full of garlic and herbs be better? So when I found Erin's recipe for tzatziki at The Speckled Palate, I nearly ran straight to the store for cucumbers and herbs.
Tzatziki is usually made with dill. However, I had a big bunch of cilantro hanging around, so I decided to sub that in and see how it went. This was a very good idea, especially because all the dill I had was dried. If you love cilantro, give it a try! Of course, if you hate cilantro, the classic version with fresh dill is classic for a reason.
Let's talk for a minute about different dairy options. The original recipe called for half Greek yogurt and half sour cream. Honestly, I tend to use either plain runny yogurt or thick labneh for all my tart dairy needs, and frequently make my own labneh from the yogurt so as not to let multiple containers go bad on me. Making labneh is easy; all you have to do is drain plain full-fat yogurt in a fine-mesh sieve. I use a couple of little nylon sieves I found at Goodwill ages ago. However, if you want to use Greek yogurt and sour cream, go right ahead. Just know that I got amazing results using plain runny yogurt and home-drained labneh.
a cucumber or two
1-2 cloves garlic
a big handful of fresh cilantro
3/4 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup sour cream or labneh
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Finely chop your cucumber. I'd recommend staying away from the waxed bulbous supermarket monstrosities in favor of thin-skinned Armenian, English, or Asian varieties. I used one big English cucumber; if your cucumbers are smaller, use two or three.
To leach some juice from your chopped cucumber, toss it with a little salt and let is sit in a sieve for at least ten or fifteen minutes. This will ensure that your tzatziki stays thick and delightful instead of getting runny from extra water content.
Finely mince a clove or two of garlic; pick and chop a big handful of cilantro leaves. In a large bowl, mix them with your dairy products, salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar.
After your cucumber has drained a bit, add it to the bowl and mix again. Voila! You now have a beautiful batch of chunky tzatziki.
What can you do with tzatziki? I threw several big spoonfuls of mine over poached salmon on a bed of spinach salad, which was delightful, but there are clearly a million other alternatives. With lamb kofte! With lentil kofte! Over falafel sandwiches! On a giant salad! With french fries! (I REALLY want to throw some of this batch in the blender to smooth it out and then use it on all the fries in the land. That may happen soon.) Otherwise, I've mostly been eating it in big spoonfuls on pieces of sourdough toast, for crunchy, garlicky, vegetable-packed results that are well worth the miniscule effort.
If you do want to poach some salmon or other fish to have as a full dinner-sized excuse for eating all the tzatziki, here you go:
If you want to remove your salmon skin, do that first. Otherwise, just put your salmon in a high-sided pan and cover with water. Add a bay leaf. Bring the whole business to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until the salmon is opaque and can just flake at the touch of a fork. This should take somewhere in the neighborhood of five minutes, depending on the thickness of your filet. Drain your salmon and eat it with tzatziki and spinach salad (or, you know, salt, pepper, & lemon).
And because it's just about Valentine's Day, be sure to share your garlic breath with the one you love! SO ROMANTIC.