Tzatziki is a wonderful Turkish dip that is traditionally served alongside grilled meats and vegetables. It is loved and served liberally throughout the region, including countries such as Greece and Cyprus. Foreigners who have tried it either instantly like it or don’t really understand it. After all, adding a dollop of cold yogurt to a hot dinner might seem bizarre. However, if you think of tzatziki like an exotic aioli (everyone’s favorite garlic mayonnaise), then the possibilities are endless.
Tzatziki is made by combining thick yogurt, shredded cucumbers (which have been pressed dry of their juice), garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper, and herbs such as mint and dill. It is one of the unique foods that strikes a balance between rich and refreshing.
You can use tzatziki in the traditional manner, accompanying grilled food, but also many unconventional ways. Anywhere you desire a cold and tangy pop, like sour cream, or a creamy garlic sauce, you can use tzatziki. Try it as a dip for vegetables, a spread on sandwiches and toasts, a salad dressing, or a garnish for soups.
Best of all, tzatziki is 100% fool-proof. The recipe is more of a ‘guideline’ with suggested ratios of ingredients. Everyone’s version of a perfect tzatziki will be different. Should you accidentally make a batch that is too tangy, salty, or herby, you can easily bring the mixture back to a neutral place. You need only to add the counter-balancing ingredient and stir it once more!
Mediterranean-spiced chicken kebabs are the perfect protein choice to highlight tzatziki. The traditional Turkish version involves a more complex marinade, by soaking the chicken in yogurt or milk (with spices) prior to grilling. This version, however, is simply ‘‘spice-rubbed,’’ which cuts down significantly on the ingredients and work involved. Provided that you use quality chicken, good spices, and a high cooking heat, the finished product is equally as satisfying.
GRILLED CHICKEN SKEWERS WITH HOMEMADE TZATZIKI RECIPE
- 500g of Greek yogurt (1 large tub)
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1-2 clove(s) of garlic
- 1 tablespoon of your best extra virgin olive oil
- A handful of fresh dill
- A few leaves of fresh mint
- Salt and pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Any high-heat cooking oil (ie: avocado, virgin olive oil, etc.)
- Garlic powder
- Ground cumin
- Black pepper
- Ground clove
For the tzatziki:
- Slice the cucumber in half, scoop out and discard the seeds. Grate the remaining cucumber and place it in a mesh sieve with a sprinkle of salt. Rest the sieve over a similarly sized bowl to let the liquid drain. Ideally, this should be done the day before and left in the fridge overnight. However, you can get away with doing it just a few hours prior to serving.
- The next day (or a few hours later), use clean hands to squeeze out any remaining cucumber juice. Place the dry cucumber shreds in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the yogurt, minced garlic, olive oil, and chopped fresh herbs. Mix thoroughly, then taste the sauce. Decide how much lemon, salt and pepper it needs and season as desired. If you add too much salt, counterbalance it with more yogurt and lemon. If you add too much lemon juice, counter balance it with more yogurt and salt.
- Transfer the tzatziki to a serving bowl and store in the fridge. When you are ready to serve it, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of dill or mint.
For the chicken skewers:
- Pat dry the chicken breasts and cut them into bite-sized cubes. Place them in a large bowl and add a few glugs of oil. Stir to coat.
- Add a generous amount of each spice, in the descending order of amount used (the most garlic powder and the least ground clove). Use clean hands to rub the spices into the chicken cubes. Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to rest for a few hours or overnight.
- As well, soak 4-6 bamboo skewers in water a few hours before using.
- Preheat a grill to medium-high, or an oven to 450°F.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl, and thread the chicken cubes onto the bamboo skewers.
- Grill the chicken skewers for approximately 12 minutes, flipping over once halfway, until tender. If you are using an oven, roast the skewers for approximately 20 minutes, flipping over once halfway, and finishing them with a 1 minute broil to give an extra golden brown color.
- To serve, sprinkle the skewers with more salt and serve with tzatziki.
A few more recipes to try this summer:
- Crunchy coleslaw with dairy-free tahini dressing
- Creamy pesto spaghetti squash
- Vegan sweet potato mash
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