Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Any picky eater can tell you that food is about more than just flavor. Some can’t handle tomatoes because of their wet texture, others hate the stringiness produced by melted cheese, etc. I am far from a picky eater (I can count the number of things I absolutely will not eat on one hand), but I too realize that the experience of eating can be as much about how a food feels as how it tastes. For example, one of my favorite culinary sensations is that interplay of hot and cold that occurs when you take a hot food and pair it with a cool, creamy condiment. Think nachos topped with sour cream, buffalo wings dipped in blue cheese dressing, or apple pie served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apparently the Greeks also recognized the genius of this pairing, as evidenced by tzatziki. This Greek cucumber yogurt dip can be eaten in a variety of ways, but my favorite is as a sauce for gyros or as an accompaniment to souvlaki. The cool notes of cucumber, dill, and mint, along with the tang of yogurt and vinegar, marry perfectly with the smoky taste of grilled meat and warm pita bread. Eat it on a sun-drenched patio to kick the Mediterranean experience up a notch.

I’m sure there are plenty of recipes out there for preparing your own authentic gyro meat, but so far I haven’t felt the need to go there. Instead I made a “light gyro” of sorts by marinating chicken tenders in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, lemon pepper, and garlic, then grilling them over medium-high heat until done. I threw that onto a grilled pita with some tomatoes and cucumbers and topped it with the tzatziki. Delish.

(adapted slightly from The Gourmet Cookbook)

3 cups plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt if you can swing it. I like fage brand best.)
1 seedless cucumber (those plastic-wrapped ones also called English or Hothouse cucumbers), peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
¾ Tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
½ Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
½ Tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

1) Put yogurt in a large sieve or colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth and set over a large bowl. Let drain for 24 hours (skip this step if using Greek yogurt).
2) Transfer yogurt to a clean bowl; discard the liquid collected in the bowl used to strain yogurt.
3) Stir in remaining ingredients and refrigerate, covered, for at least 4 hours.

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