Tasting Tzatziki and Living to Tell the Tale

Creative Commons Image. Credit: all women stalk.

I’m not going to lie. I have an irrational fear of tzatziki, and it’s not tzatziki’s fault. The last time I ate a similarly flavored yogurt-cucumber sauce, I was dining with a friend in a small hole-in-the wall Indian restaurant in Sarnath, India, dolloping raita on my curry. Twenty-four hours later as our flight landed in Kathmandu, my stomach’s turbulence hit crisis mode.

Anyone who waxes nostalgic about 19th-century era illnesses has clearly never had one. As I wandered deliriously through the hot, crowded streets of Kathmandu, hawkers yelling and livestock ambling into traffic, I was struck by the image of pudgy, snaggle-toothed, grade-school-era me sitting before a 1980s computer in the school cafeteria and matching wits with a hard drive to get my Oregon Trail wagon crew to its destination as one of my many gingham-clad offspring succumbed to dysentery.

Creative Commons image. Screenshot credit: Joe Hanson.
Creative Commons image. Screenshot credit: Joe Hanson.

Thank god for modern medicine and the privilege to be able to afford it.

Five years and a husband who loves yogurt sauce has brought me here, thumbing my nose at those gut-wrecking days of yore and sharing a yogurt-based sauce that is going to rock your world in the best possible way. Israeli-style tzatziki, you complete me. Cameron and I spooned up this thick sauce alongside homemade falafel and hummus, and we were on our way to a lovely evening with no regrets.

tzatziki sauce recipe
Image by author.

If you’ve made tzatziki, you’ll notice this recipe yields a thicker sauce than usual. Tori Avey, of The Shiksa in the Kitchen, recommends straining the greek yogurt and squeezing as much water as possible from the minced cucumber before mixing all of the ingredients. By reducing the excess liquid in the recipe, your tzatziki will wind up cheese-like. Needless to say, keep tzatziki (and all yogurt sauces) refrigerated unless you’re using it. Your gut will thank you later.

tzatziki recipe
Image by author.

Tzatziki (a Shiksa in the Kitchen recipe)
Makes 1 1/2 cups

– 1 1/2 cups plain lowfat Greek yogurt
– 1 lb Persian or English cucumbers, peeled and seeded (I used the English variety.)
– 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
– 1 TBS fresh chopped mint or dill (I used mint.)
– 1 clove garlic, crushed (or more to taste)
– 1 TBS fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
– 1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)
– Fresh mint sprig for garnish (optional)

1. Strain the Greek yogurt for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. The finished version should look like this:

strained yogurt
Image by author.

2. Pulse the cucumbers in the food processor or hand chop to desired texture. I like them chopped small, but not minced. Bigger chunks will result in chunkier tzatziki. It’s a matter of preference.

3. Cut out an 18-inch rectangle of cheesecloth and fold into two layers. (I used a thin, clean dishtowel.) Place chopped cucumbers in the center of the double-layered cloth. Gather up the cheesecloth and twist at the top to form a bundle. Squeeze the bundle several times over the sink, twisting the bundle tightly to get rid of as much liquid as possible.

4. Place strained yogurt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the drained cucumber pieces from the cheesecloth to the bowl along with the olive oil, chopped fresh mint or dill, crushed garlic, lemon juice, and salt.

5. Use a fork or whisk to blend the ingredients together. Taste the tzatziki; add more garlic, lemon juice, or salt to taste if desired. Serve cold. Store in the refrigerator.

0 Comments Add yours

  1. Cathy says:

    Mmm, love tzatziki! We had some made with soya yoghurt recently, and it was just as good! I am always too lazy to squeeze the cucumber, but I will try next time I make some.

    1. gwynnem says:

      The lower water content really made the difference in me trying it. It was just different enough from the raita that I could take a leap of faith.

  2. We make tzatziki (Greek style) 2 or 3 times a month. Can’t get enough of it! I’ll try your method of straining Greek yogurt. Sounds wonderful to have it thick and cheese like.

    1. gwynnem says:

      The cheese texture was unlike what I was expecting. Very good.

  3. Sounds delicious! Congrats on having the courage to try it again after that experience! πŸ™‚

    1. gwynnem says:

      Thanks, veggiewhatnow. πŸ™‚

  4. afracooking says:

    Oh I can so sympathize: for me it was a trip of Sri Lanka that has left me afraid of chicken curry (mind you – no other chicken dish). I will take your bravery as inspiration πŸ™‚

    1. gwynnem says:

      Yeah, for the longest time, just the smell of raita made me want to flee. Time heals all wounds?

  5. Mikaela Joy says:

    I can eat tatziki by the spoonful! It’s a pity that you had such a bad experience, but this recipe sounds like a great way to overcome it. I’m always too lazy to strain the yogurt or squeeze the cucumber, but now I’m curious to try.

    1. gwynnem says:

      You and my husband are one and the same in the tzatziki-eating department. He finished off the second half of this tzatziki within 24 hours.

  6. Gwynnem, I love your falafel and hummus, and now the tzatziki. πŸ˜›
    How unfortunate that you had such an unpleasant experience. πŸ™

    1. gwynnem says:

      Yeah, getting sick in a country with such delicious recipes was very frustrating! Thanks for the compliments on the falafel, hummus, and tzatziki. I can’t wait to make these again.

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