Tzatziki Uses Cukes

It is Mediterranean diet time around here. It is true that the weather feels fallish, the calendar just marked the equinox, and, at the supermarket, the keepers like winter squash which are still ripening in my garden, and which I won’t eat until Thanksgiving, are now on display. Meanwhile, the garden, which has the upper hand around here, is dealing corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and more summer squash (yes, zucchini). I have a ton of parsley and basil, and recently pulled garlic.

This weekend, we hosted post-Common-Ground-Fair company and enjoyed a dinner of moussaka—a Greek-style dish of newly-harvested eggplant slices layered with ground lamb and fresh tomato sauce, topped with béchamel sauce and baked. That was preceded by slices of cucumber, sparingly dabbed with sour cream, topped with smoked mussels, and decorated flavorfully with cilantro, dill, or borage flowers. I put a bowl of tzatziki next to it, another Greek dish.

Tzatziki, pronounced by Yankees roughly as “sti-zaht-zee’-kee,” calls for cucumber, garlic, mint, and parsley, all abundant at present in my garden. You can use it as a dip for pita chips or vegetables, or as a salad with lettuce or cold side dish, as we did with the moussaka dinner. The good news is that it is very low in fat and very high in flavor. I always use more cucumber than the original recipe called for, and I squeeze out a little of the excess liquid they shed. I also drain the no-fat yogurt in a sieve for about an hour until it is as thick as Greek yogurt. That way, the naturally watery cucumbers don’t make the whole thing too drippy.

The garlic is pronounced in this, and if you don’t want garlic making too strong a statement, then use a little less. I didn’t have white wine vinegar, so I substituted rice vinegar, but cider vinegar would be fine, too. Just don’t use a dark one like red wine or balsamic vinegar, because it will look homely mixed into the yogurt.

Tzatziki
2 cups thick yogurt
1 cucumber (or more to taste) grated, drained
2 cloves of garlic pureed
3-4 sprigs of parsley leaves, minced
1 sprig of mint leaves, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
Blend all together and let rest in the fridge for a few hours before eating it. Improves overnight.
Makes three to four cups.

P.S. If you are on or near Deer Isle this Saturday the 29th, or live up around Blue Hill, Sedgewick, and all, consider stopping by the Deer Isles Stonington Historical Society, at 416 Sunset Road – Route 15A, at 3 p.m. I will be talking about home cooking in Maine (where it is alive and well) and signing my new book Maine Home Cooking. I would be thrilled to see you.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.