Sunday, February 8, 2009

Opa!: Tzatziki and Friends

I discovered the wonder that is a real, assertive tzatziki (i.e., not what is generally served on your falafel or souvlaki at that vaguely Mediterranean sandwich place) while on the Hellenic leg of my summer sojourn this year (for curious folks, there was also a Flemish leg, an Iberian leg, and an Ottoman leg--and they were referred to as such to the consistent confusion of other native (and non-native) speakers of English). At the outset of our aforementioned Hellenic leg, we encountered "herbage cheese balls" (which bore my two favorite characteristics of Greek cuisine: being drowned in olive oil and being delicious) and, the subject of this entry, authentic tzatziki. Served as an appetizer with fresh bread, Greek tzatziki is the absolute jam. It's got a yogurt tang, a garlic kick, the comfort of dill, some lemony love, and, made right, the added subtlety of some extra virgin olive oil.

After a middling-at-best attempt to recreate that Greek delight in Istanbul, I came back to the states and worked the recipe into shape. It is my go-to dip these days (which used to be hummus, and then was guacamole--both of which still turn up pretty often when Will and I are entertaining--actually, hummus less so these days because I can only find Joyva tahini in Seattle, which just does not do it for me; there's little sesame kick, and it's insufficiently creamy). It's not nearly as quick to make as hummus since there's some knifework involved, but in this eater's estimation,* the extra work is well worth it.

I don't have any great pictures of the process at the moment, but I'll add some next I make it, which will be soon. As matter of note, you don't need Greek yogurt (Fage, Oikos, and Greek Gods are the brands I've seen in supermarkets) to make tzatziki, but it REALLY helps. It's much thicker than regular yogurt and keeps the dip from being runny. If you can't get your hands on Greek yogurt, I've heard that you can approximate it with regular yogurt. The essential process is to strain more of the whey out of the yogurt so that it has the same sort of thickness. You should be able to do this with a couple layers of cheesecloth. Put the yogurt in it, squeeze, and then hang it for a bit from the faucet to let more of the whey drain. In fact, I'm planning on trying this soon and using the hanging time to infuse the yogurt with some other flavor (ginger, perhaps?).

Anyway, on to the recipe.

{+} Tzatziki Recipe

So, as I said, I don't have any pictures of straight tzatziki these days. I will soon. I do, however, have a picture of my Greek-themed open-faced eggplant & kale sandwich which sprung out of my mind and onto my plate last Monday. A bit heavy for a pre-soccer meal, but holy hell, it was delicious:

Might as well give you the "recipe" for that as well. It was really just the results of what was in the fridge:

{+} Eggplant Kale Sandwich Recipe

Chau chau** for now now!

*I've incorporated this construction into my idiolect after picking it up from one of my favorite purveyors of idiosyncrasies, Harold Bloom. E.g., "In this editor's lifelong judgment, Wallace Stevens is the principal America poet since Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson." I'm not sure everyone finds Bloom as funny as I do, but I've got a real soft spot for the man.

**You can thank the Chileans for this spelling. Also, pokemones.