Tzaziki is a traditional Middle Eastern condiment commonly associated with Greek food, and which is often enjoyed with plain or toasted pita bread, stuffed grape leaves, salads, and many other Mediterranean specialties. It is also a staple condiment for gyros. Tzaziki is a dairy-based sauce that can be made with either plain yogurt or sour cream. At its best, tzaziki is a thick, tangy sauce with a little bit of spiciness.
In order to make a party-sized bowl of tzaziki, begin with two large tubs of yogurt, a colander, and cheesecloth. It is important to note that the best tzaziki takes a few hours to prepare; so be sure to give yourself plenty of time. Line your colander with the cheesecloth and pour the yogurt on top. In so doing, the excess water in the yogurt will drain out and leave you with a nice thick base for your tzaziki. Allow the yogurt to drain for half an hour to forty-five minutes.
This dish is a wonderful summer treat. If you happen to be cooking in the heat, it is best to refrigerate the yogurt while it is draining. If after the first draining period, the yogurt still seems to be a bit thin, repeat the process once again. But make sure to either wring out the cheesecloth or use a fresh one. Also, if you do not have cheesecloth, you can drain the yogurt on top of a few sheets of paper towels. Just be sure to change them after the first draining process.
Once the yogurt has been drained, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Now it is time to add the rest of the ingredients. You can prepare these as the yogurt is draining. In addition to the dairy base, tzaziki is made with olive oil, chopped garlic, diced cucumber, salt, and pepper. For a tzaziki of this size, use three to five table spoons of olive oil, one half to two thirds of a head of garlic, two to three cucumbers, and salt and pepper to taste. In order to add some extra zip to the sauce, add the juice of one or two lemons. Simply add these ingredients to the strained yogurt, mix well, and let the sauce sit for at least an hour so that the flavors can mingle. If possible, refrigerate the mixture overnight and enjoy the following day.
If you don’t want to go through the process of straining yogurt in order to make tzaziki, you can use sour cream instead, since it already has the right consistency. However, most tzaziki lovers believe that strained yogurt tastes better. If you are watching your weight, you can make tzaziki with low fat or nonfat yogurt.