As the Super Bowl fast approaches with its slew of entertaining commercials, a dazzling halftime show, and, most importantly, the year’s biggest excuse to eat junk food. Fried chips, a variety of salsas or dips, and the obligatory chicken wings are certain to pop in to so many gatherings. The airwaves buzz as morning television shows and the Food Network or Cooking Channel capitalize on America’s need to constantly outdo itself in the snack department.
While some of you may not care about the Super Bowl, and some of you might watch the American football spectacle (because clearly, it’s all about the game, right?) with amusement from another country, most of us will attend some sort of party over the next year. Perhaps it’s for the big football-football (soccer) match or simply a dinner party. Regardless, if you’ve ever wondered how you can bring a delicious, yet healthy, alternative to the junk, I’ve got a simple but flavor-packed, Greek-inspired recipe to make one – or both – of two ways. Elevate your game this party season!
Tzatziki in its simplest form is a yogurt sauce with cucumber. It is cooling, creamy, and it pairs well as an accompaniment to grilled meat or vegetables, condiment for a wrap, or with pita bread, chips, or crackers as an appetizer. I became hooked on the sauce (yes, I just said that) back in my picky childhood days, when I discovered the grilled tang of chicken souvlaki at a local Greek festival and how tzatziki heightened the flavor. I’ve found a few prepared versions available in grocery stores that I can palate (some are bland or add – gasp – mayonnaise), but those tend to be very expensive. I did find a cheap, really delicious version sold in supermarkets in Germany, which my friend Amber jokingly referred to as “tchotchky” sauce, but alas, it’s in Germany. Why spend the money when you can make it yourself?
This recipe – adapted from a recipe by Food Network personality Jeff Mauro, incorporates a bit of garlic, citrus, and, for a unique twist, the addition of feta, which adds richness and texture. It is thicker than a Greek tzatziki but light enough to scoop up with a chip. I recently whipped up this version of tzatziki (sans feta), which was fortunate to have ready when an unexpected party presented itself. I served the tzatziki with sweet potato chips (a slightly more nutritious alternative to potato or corn chips) as a unique snack or appetizer. For a zestier punch, add a bit of cayenne, but if your party features a tomato and chili based salsa, this dip is a great alternative to the heat.
Not all Greek yogurt is equal…to Total
If you read Thursday’s guest post by the mEAT Baron, you might have oticed that his tandoori chicken recipe calls for Fage Total 0% Greek yogurt. I was glad to see that recommendation, because Fage Greek yogurt is a constant presence in my refrigerator. It tends to be readily available, and it is the real deal; before America joined the Greek yogurt hype, Fage Total had perfected the strained Greek yogurt. I find that other brands are slightly grainy in texture and still aren’t as thick as Fage Total. And while I don’t shy away from a bit of fat content if it makes a real difference, Total 0% is so thick, creamy, and protein-packed, I suspect that even my palate wouldn’t guess it was fat free in a blind test. Why add fat when it doesn’t help the recipe? Additionally, I find this yogurt to be highly versatile. I dislike purchasing ingredients simply for one recipe – spending extra money and often wasting ingredients. I enjoy eating the plain yogurt with honey, or serving it as a garnish for soups, replacing sour cream or cream cheese in some recipes, and even using in sauces (delicately so it doesn’t curdle or clump).
The below proportions yield about 1 1/2 cups of dip, so you may want to double the recipe for a larger crowd; if you prefer a milder flavor and less cucumber, simply add another cup of the yogurt.
Tip: If you don’t like the bite or odor of fresh garlic, try roasting a head of garlic (use twice as many cloves if roasted, as the flavor mellows substantially): without pre-peeling, slice the top of the head through and drizzle olive oil over the exposed cloves, wrap in aluminum foil, and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes or until cloves are soft and slightly caramelized.
Tzatziki Two Ways
- 1 cup Fage Total 0% plain Greek yogurt
- 1 large cucumber – preferably seedless English, peeled
- 1-2 cloves crushed fresh garlic (to taste) or 2-4 roasted (see above)
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- Optional: 1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
- Optional: pinch cayenne pepper or paprika
- Salt to taste
- cheese/vegetable grater or food processor
- whisk or fork
- small to medium mixing bowl
Grate or julienne the peeled cucumber using a manual grater or food processor. Drain excess liquid from the cucumber. If you plan to use the tzatziki as a condiment, you may wish to retain some of the cucumber juice for a thinner consistency. Next, combine cucumber with citrus juice and whisk in the yogurt. Mix in the feta if desired. Season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste – I typically find I need no added salt if I use feta. Serve with whole wheat pita, pita chips, crackers, or vegetables (sugar snap peas combine well with this dip). Elevate your game with a touch of Greek fusion!