mardi, février 06, 2007

A quiet night of quietness

After a really, really long day at work (another take-apart-a-laptop day), I was thrilled to just go home, make some food, and sit still for a while. Of course, I finally re-stocked on garlic (which I was languishing without) and took advantage of it to make a huge batch of tzatziki. Ironically, I had a beautiful cucumber sitting in my fridge for well over a week, while I searched up and down paris for a big container of Greek yogurt. What I came to realize is that French folks don't sell yogurt in large containers. Literally all commercially available yogurt is in those tiny plastic cups. In the end, I just bought a whole case of "greek-style" yogurt cups and mixed them together, but next time I'm making my own damn yogurt (thanks for the recipe, Celia!).

Anyway, since I have very little of interest to relate for today, here's my tzatziki recipe instead:

Luis's Most Likely Inauthentic But Delicious Tzatziki

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber (see step one for preparation)
  • 500-600 g of yogurt (or 1 quart), Greek or Balkan style is best (i.e. Thick)
  • Garlic to taste (have a whole head within reach, just in case). Don't use preserved garlic or garlic powder. You need the powerful bite of raw garlic.
  • Enough de-stemmed mint leaves to fill your hand completely
  • Olive oil to taste (usually 1-2 tbsp)
  • salt to taste
  • lemon juice (optional)

Preparation

  1. Crush garlic and put in a large bowl with a bit of olive oil and salt (to infuse the oil with the garlic). Start with about 1/4 of the head. If (like me) you don't have a garlic press or a microplane, I find you can chop garlic incredibly finely if you treat it like a very small onion. I'll post pics of my trick someday.
  2. You can peel the cucumber, although I think it's a waste of good fiber. Either way, cut the cuke in half and then take each half and quarter it lengthwise. De-seed with a spoon. I used to toss the gelatinous seed membranes into the tzatziki because I loved the taste of it, but it tends to make the final product water. So just eat them now. Go on. I'll wait.
  3. OK, so slice the de-seeded quarters lengthwise as thinly as possible, line them up in a bunch, and proceed to slice them crosswise, creating tiny, tiny cubes. Toss in with garlic and sprinkle a bit of salt to get the juices flowing.
  4. Take all the mint and chop it as finely as you can. Add to the bowl and mix, adding a bit of oil if necessary.
  5. Finally, add yogurt and mix. Add a bit of very good olive oil until the mixture gets a bit glossy and you can sort of taste the oil. Lemon juice as well if you like. Test for garlic levels. If it's not pungent enough, add more now.
  6. You can serve it immediately, but you'll get an uneven taste. It will be yogurt with flavourful bits of cucumber and spicy garlic, rather than a mix of all these flavours. Instead, I suggest storing overnight in the fridge and then serving.
  7. Finally a few warnings. Don't overthin the tzatziki! The chunks of cucumber will release a bit of fluid during the night (nocturnal emissions!), which will make things a bit more watery than you left them. Also, as the garlic flavour infuses the rest of the yogurt, the bite will be qualitatively stronger the next day. So be ready for a garlicky blast!

I have heard that you can prepare the cucumber by grating it, but I'm not fond of this method, since it requires you to then strain it, thus losing a lot of delicious cucumber water. If you are going to grate it, I suggest using thicker yogurt (and less of it) and not dumping the liquid.

2 commentaires:

Grandin Donovan a dit…

Personally, I've never really found it difficult to find large tubs of yogurt, greek or otherwise. Any decent Monop, Champion, etc., should stock it. They come in, I don't know, maybe 350g containers?

I've only maid tzatziki a couple of times myself, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents. First, always skin the cukes - forget the fiber, we're going for flavor and texture, and the skins don't jive. Second, don't be afraid of straining. Tzatziki is supposed to be thick, thicker than out-of-the-box greek yogurt, about the consistency of fromage blanc. If you pack the whole wad into a cheescloth and let it strain overnight, you won't loose any "cuke juice" flavor and you'll have a much more luscious, spreadable tzat. One last tip, all depending on taste, of course: dill.

When you need some tzat in a pinch - and it makes a great addition to quaiside picnics - don't overlook the Greek traiteurs. They can charge an arm and a leg, but their tzatziki is, predictably, head and shoulders above any of the prepackaged crap they have in stores. There's a good one on the south-side of bd-St-Germain, just past Maubert-Mutualité.

LMGM a dit…

1) "Cuke Juice" is a fantastic expression, and would make an excellent band name. I'm thinking "Peaches and the Cuke Juice."

2) "Tzat" is also rather amusing, if only because it sounds like "twat" run through Snoop Dogg's nizzlefilter.

3) Thanks for the tzatziki tips! I'm impressed by your large-yogurt-quantities-finding mojo, and I appreciate the suggestion to try Greek traiteurs. The ones in my 'hood (Porte des Lilas) are usually Turkish or N. African folks who slap Greek names on similar dishes for name recognition.

4) If talked about dance music nearly as much as I talked about food, my PhD thesis would be done by now.