A few weeks ago we went to dinner at a local Greek restaurant with good friends T. and J. The restaurant was insane; the loudest place I have ever tried to eat in, with servers throwing napkins everywhere and belly dancers sidling up to, and sometimes on top of, tables. Needless to say, it was a good time. Another plus? The sangria was excellent. We had hummus, Tzatziki, and Saginaki, a flaming dish of broiled salty cheese, for starters. We followed with various entrees, mine being a lamb kebob. I enjoyed the oregano and lemon on the meat, and put it on my mental list of flavors to play with at home. The Tzatziki, a combination of thick yogurt, cucumber, and dill, reminded me of a simple cucumber salad I used to make, which was just sliced cucumbers, sour cream, and dill. I added it to my mental list as well.
Florida is hot in August. I may have mentioned this before. It's most likely something you could have guessed on your own. Still, it provides motivation to look for meals that aren't going to completely negate the effects of air conditioning. On a scorcher of a day recently, I decided not to turn on the stove at all, and turned to those refreshing Greek flavors to make a simple grilled dinner a little more interesting. I mixed chopped oregano with lemon zest, minced garlic, salt, and pepper and rubbed it beneath the skin of a chicken, letting it marinate for an hour or so. I made a simple oregano-infused oil to brush on the vegetables, and mixed up some Tzatziki for dipping. The chicken went on the rotisserie attachment to the grill, the veggies beneath, and the Tzatziki came together in about 5 minutes. It was a great summer evening dinner.
Greek yogurt is getting easier to find, but if you can't, it is possible to use regular yogurt. Be sure it doesn't have any added stabilizers like food starch, gelatin, or gums. Line a strainer with a few coffee filters and put 2 cups of regular yogurt in it. Set the strainer into a deep bowl that will allow drained liquid to sit without touching the strainer. Cover the setup tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 10-12 hours, or until about a cup of liquid has drained out of the yogurt.
Feel free to add more or less dill to your taste. I find it to be a very strong herb.
I use 'English' cucumbers, which have fewer seeds and thinner skins. If you have a regular cucumber, you may wish to peel the thick waxy skin.
1 medium cucumber, halved and seeded
1 C plain whole-milk Greek or Greek-style yogurt
2 Tb olive oil
1 Tb + 1 Tsp chopped dill leaves (try mint for a change)
2 Tb lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Shred the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater. Whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, dill, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Mix in cucumbers. Check for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, dill, or lemon as you like. Serve chilled.