Citizens, there can be no doubt within your mind that the palatal zenith possessed solely by YOUR TFD is without question one of both subtlety and substance. This recipe is one that satisfies all of my condiment cravings – being both spicy, creamy, herbal and vegetal all at the same time. But then again, would you expect anything less of the Attican glory that is tzatziki? 🙂
I almost decided not to post this recipe, as it is – in its purest form – so simple that it doesn’t even NEED a recipe. That said, the challenge of making a TFD-enhanced version of the classic both intrigued and challenged me and I am extremely happy with the result!
Ironically, the origins of this quintessentially Greek condiment may actually reach back to the country’s two most hated enemies of old – the Persians and the Ottomans (Turks).
The root word is likely related to the Persian zhazh (ژاژ), which refers to various herbs used for cooking. The word tzatziki appeared in English around the mid-20th century as a loanword from Modern Greek (τζατζίκι), which in turn comes from the Turkish word cacık, of obscure or unknown origin.
Evliya Çelebi’s 17th-century travelogue, the Seyahatnâme, defined cacıχ (cacıg) as a kind of herb that is added to food. Ahmed Vefik Pasha’s 1876 Ottoman Turkish dictionary defined cacık as an herb salad with yogurt. This remains the most common definition today.
Dishes of various preparations in the region, including dips, salads, and sauces, acquired the name. In Turkey and the Balkans it came to mean a combination of yogurt and cucumbers, sometimes with walnuts. It has become a traditional part of the region’s meze (appetizer) plate.
Greek-style tzatziki sauce is typically served as a side with meat dishes; for example, it can be served with spiced chicken and vegetable couscous. It may also be served as part of an assorted meze small plate platter that is traditionally served with the anise-flavored liquor called ouzo.
Tzatziki is made of strained yogurt (usually from sheep or goat milk) mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, olive oil, and sometimes lemon juice, and dill or mint or parsley.
My version is ruthlessly authentic, calling for genuine sheep milk yogurt – tangy and delicious! Whole Foods, Sprouts and most high-quality grocers carry my preferred brand – find a store that carries it here. I prefer English cucumbers for this recipe, de-seeded and peeled. It is imperative you remove all the liquid from the cuke, or it will make the tzatziki watery.
Most modern tzatziki recipes call for fresh dill, but I have gone one better by calling for wild dill pollen, which tastes even stronger of dill than the plant and won’t wilt in the sauce. You can get it here. Lastly, to bring a true taste of Greece to the dish, I call for a special herbed salt that incorporates rare Greek herbs and spices – you can buy it here.
Of course, using anything but Greek olive oil will get you immediately banned from TFD Nation – this is my preferred brand for this recipe. I also prefer the more subtle and complex flavor of Meyer lemons in this recipe as opposed to the standard fruit.
Many versions of the classic recipe would use red wine vinegar instead of lemon, so by all means use it if you so prefer. I also added in a highly optional bit of minced shallot – I like it, but leave it out for a classic tzatziki.
Citizens, I have every confidence you will be blown away by this, the ULTIMATE TZATZIKI, Citizens!
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
- 1 cup full-fat sheep milk yogurt (strongly preferred) or Greek-style cow milk yogurt
- 2 tsp. Meyer lemon juice or to taste – TFD Note, a classic Greek Tzatziki would use red wine vinegar
- 2 ½ tbsp. dill pollen
- ¼ cup fresh finely-chopped spearmint leaves
- 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil + extra for garnish
- 3 garlic cloves, preferably heirloom garlic, crushed to a paste
- 1 tbsp. finely-minced shallot (TFD addition, highly-optional)
- 1 tsp. Greek Mastiha herb salt (strongly preferred) or kosher salt
- ½ tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp. peeled and finely-minced de-seeded English cucumber or to taste
- olive oil for garnish
- warm pita
- Take the sheep milk yogurt, put into a fine-mesh colander or chinoise and let it drain for one hour. Greek cow milk yogurt will not need this step, but it is far less flavorful and authentic.
- Take the minced cuke and shallot and place in a paper towel. Squeeze as much liquid as you can from it. Discard liquid and reserve solids.
- In one large mixing bowl, place the garlic, salt, Meyer lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Mix to combine.
- Add the grated cuke and shallot to the bowl with the garlic mixture. Stir in all remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2+ hours.
- When ready to serve, stir the tzatziki and transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil. Add a side of warm pita bread and your favorite vegetables.
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