Thursday, October 29, 2009

I love me some Greek!

Do you know how hard it is to get a picture of this stuff?!

At least once a week, I have to make some sort of greek-style dinner. Not because Idle Husband commands it, but because I need it. I have to taste those simple flavours. Flavours that I've discovered are super easy to replicate at home. Honestly, I'd never tasted any greek cuisine before meeting IH, and he never forced it on me. In fact, I had to ask him to take me to a greek restaurant just so I could try it. Ever since then, I've been fixated on making it myself. I've tried making just about everything except moussaka (I'm the only one in love with that dish, so unless I plan on eating it for an entire week, it's not in my cooking queue). And I'm still looking for the perfect pita bread recipe. I finally found one that's closer to being authentic than the one I was using, plus it helped that there was also a video as my old recipe was just about the same, except for the technique.

I have, I think, perfected tzatziki. It took a few tries and some figuring, but I've managed to get it to the taste and consistency that IH prefers -- which makes me believe it to be about as authentic tasting as it gets. He should know, afterall.

It's not a hard recipe, but for me it's kinda drawn out. The biggest problem is the yogurt. I can't find any of that fancy greek yogurt anywhere. You know? The thick, almost butter-like consistency type? The type everyone else in the world seems to have except us? (Yeah, Fage, I'm talking to you. Don't make me send you another angry, woeful email.) Eh, hem. Anyway, I could drive to the north of the city, to the only greek shopping store I know of, and buy their home-pressed greek yogurt, but it's super out of my way and I really can't be bothered. Instead I buy the thickest yogurt I can find and strain it myself. Doing this has caused me many problems, but I've finally figured out the best way to do it.

This is the yogurt I like to use. Balkan style isn't exactly Greek style, but it is the thickest one I've tried yet.

I've got my tallest bowl ready. Inside it, I've placed the large strainer that comes with my canning set. I'm just using it to help hold the yogurt in place so it doesn't turn into an unruly blob in the bottom. I've also cut off a piece of cheescloth, opened it, folded it in half, and draped it over the bowl, trying to ensure it's equal on all sides.

Next, I spoon the yogurt into the blue strainer. While doing this, make sure none of the cheescloth ends get lost under the yogurt. This will make it spill out and you don't want that.

Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and tie tightly with a twist tie. It should already have a lot of water dripping out of it and that water shouldn't be too milky. If it is, you don't have enough layers of cheesecloth and some of the yogurt is seeping through. It's ok though, it'll firm up and you won't have lost that much.

Then, I twist tie the bundle onto a rarely used knife (I use this long one because it fits across the bowl) and then suspend it in the bowl. Make sure it's suspended so it doesn't sit in the drips!

This is the most successful method I've found. I'm sure you'd figure out a way to make it work for you, so you, too, would have a nice, neat yogurt bundle instead of yogurt all in the bowl, on every inch of your cheesecloth, your hands, the counter, only to then find yourself without a free, non-yogurted hand to help you fix the situation.

That bundle, then, stays dripping away in the fridge all day or preferably overnight. I'll usually do it in the afternoon, check on it a few times to empty the liquids, (if it's just sitting in the liquid that's dripped out, it kinda defeats the purpose, right?), and I'll make the tzatziki the next day. By then, the yogurt is about the consistency of butter which is perfect.

Edit: I now use one of those resuable coffee filters (like so) that I found at Value Village for next to nothing. I have to do it in stages now as I can't fit a whole tub of yogurt into it, so just getting the yogurt ready is usually a 2-3 day process. Nevertheless, it gets the job done and I'm not going through a bunch of cheesecloth anymore.

That's not-so-easy step one. It truly is the hardest part. The rest is simple. Well, it is now. When I first started making this, I would go about shredding the cucumber by hand on a cheese grater, and packing it into a measuring cup, then squeezing out all the juices. Now that I've started straining the yogurt first, I don't have to drain the cucumber juice or squeeze the pulp or anything like that. And then, after that realization, I magically remembered I also have a food processor, so now I do the whole thing in that which saves oodles of time and energy.


4 cloves of garlic (yes, four. It's very garlicky. If you don't like that, reduce it)
1/2 cup of cucumber (again, I've stopped measuring this exactly. I use about 4"-6" of a long english cucumber, and I don't even peel it anymore.)
2 cups thick greek-style yogurt (or the whole tub of yogurt you've just strained overnight. It looks to me like it works down to about 1 cup after straining, but I don't know for sure. I've never measured it and I never will, I just use all of it)
1 tblsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dried dill (if you like or you could use fresh, you know, whatever you have)

Cut up the cucumber into rough chunks and add it along with your peeled garlic cloves into a food processor. Chop them just enough so they're in little pieces yet not blended into a fine liquid-like substance (it's ok if they're not quite all chopped to perfection. Don't stress about it). Add in your olive oil, lemon juice,  dill, and yogurt, and blend until it comes together. Don't over blend it! Scoop it into a container and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour so all the flavours get a chance to co-mingle a bit before serving.

Serve with anything! I love it scooped up on a pita with a greek salad, Idle Husband uses it as a spread and wraps up whatever meat we're having pita-style (I'll also use it in place of mayo on his sandwiches for lunch). It's also super tasty with calamari, so tasty, in fact, that I don't think calamari should be served with anything but tzatziki. Basically what I'm saying is, go nuts with it!

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