When yogurt first arrived in Greek cuisine, garlic was already a daily food of laboring people. The combination of the two quickly took on a third partner, another a common food: cucumber. The result became tzatziki, the fourth in the quartet of foremost sauces in Greek cuisine.
Tzatziki is part sauce, part salad. It appears on almost every meze table. It is drizzled over every gyro sandwich, spooned upon pilafs, spread over dolmades, dolloped into soups, slathered on fritters. I think of it as more of a "brightener" than a sauce—tzatziki is uplifting, cool, and bedazzling. While Greek cooks most often add dill to the mixture, mint contributes extra brightness. If you prefer, make tzatziki the classic way.
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic
- 1½ cups plain yogurt
- 1 small cucumber
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint or dill (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1. Spread the salt on a chopping board and finely chop the garlic on top of the salt.
2. Transfer the garlic and salt to a medium-size bowl, add the yogurt, and stir until creamy.
3. Peel the cucumber and remove the seeds if they are large. Finely chop the cucumber. Squeeze it to remove some of the liquid, then add it to the yogurt. Stir in the mint or dill, if using, the pepper, and the vinegar. Mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.