Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tzatziki Sauce

No matter how you spell it, this Greek sauce is amazing. Bursting with fresh flavor, creamy and a little spicy at the same time, it's great with grilled chicken or lamb, with Zucchini Bites (as pictured) or just with pita bread/chips or fresh veggies for dipping. Of course, it's also the classic topping for gyros. My version is easy - the hardest part is letting it sit while you wait for the flavors to blend!

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 8 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 16 ounces fat-free sour cream
  • 3-4 cloves garlic 
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill or 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint or 1 tablespoon, fresh mint, chopped 
  • Kosher salt 
 Shred cucumber with a food processor or box grater. Place in a strainer and sprinkle with one tablespoon kosher salt, tossing with a fork to distribute the salt. Let drain for an hour.

After the cucumber is well-drained, put in a bowl with the sour cream and yogurt. Mince garlic VERY finely and add to the bowl, along with the olive oil, vinegar, dill and mint, plus a few grinds of pepper. Mix well. Taste before adding any salt! The amount of salt already in the cucumber will vary, so taste the mixture and then add salt to taste, if any at all. Once the mixture is stirred together and salted correctly, cover and refrigerate at least an hour for the flavors to blend.

Note: As part of my goal to make recipes as accessible as possible, I've mixed sour cream and Greek yogurt - feel free to use all of one or the other. Greek yogurt costs a good bit more than sour cream, which is why I mixed them, and also why I am not a purist when it comes to fresh herbs. If you can't grow your own, they are often a waste of money because they are sold in such big bunches that they rot before they can be used. Dried is fine, especially in this recipe - just make sure to check them and toss when they lose their fragrance.

Zucchini Bites

I read through literally a dozen recipes for zucchini cakes and zucchini fritters, trying to find one that I liked. No luck, so I'm calling this one mine - it has elements of several, like the lemon zest in the Martha Stewart recipe, but I used bread crumbs instead of flour, so that they will have a little more texture. I didn't really want a pancake-y kind of thing, but more like a little appetizer/finger food "bite." I added green onions, lots of herbs and garlic and kept the fat for frying to a minimum. Serve with Tzatziki Sauce for dipping!

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini, with as much liquid pressed out as possible
  • 2 large eggs
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 green onions, white and green parts sliced thinly
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely minched
  • To taste, dried or fresh: dill, thyme, mint, oregano
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • Olive oil for frying 
Heat oven to 400.  Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

Whisk eggs, herbs to taste and 1 teaspoon salt and pepper together. In a large bowl, toss together shredded zucchini, lemon zest and juice, green onions and garlic. Stir in eggs. Mix in half of the bread crumbs. You may need the rest after cooking the test cake.

Heat a film of olive oil in a large skillet until it shimmers. Drop a small spoonful of the zucchini mixture into the olive oil and cook until golden brown on both sides. Use that to taste the mixture for seasoning and correct if needed. Because zucchini varies in its moisture content, the mixture may need additional bread crumbs. Cook the mixture in spoonfuls, transferring to the baking sheet when golden brown. When the baking sheet is full, bake 5 minutes in the oven to finish cooking. Continue frying and baking until the mixture is gone. Serve immediately.

Note: if you make larger patties, cook them for up to 10 minutes to make sure they are cooked through.