Tzatziki Cucumber Salad
Now that Spring is here, I'm starting to crave all of the warmer climate foods. A recipe that I am excited to share with you is one from my mother-in-law's kitchen. Over the years I've been fortunate enough to have learned authentic Turkish recipes.
Plain yogurt is a staple in Turkish cuisine. It's used for everything from appetizers and salads to soups, toppings and desserts. Cacık (JAH'- juck), or yogurt with cucumbers and herbs, or better yet known as Tzatziki, is yet another Turkish favorite made with yogurt. Cacık is a very simple dish that's served cold. It's eaten with a spoon, like soup, but it's enjoyed before or during a meal in place of a salad. This was one of the very first dishes that my mother-in-law taught me to make early one when my husband Gregg and I were first dating. My mother-in-law and I both share the same passion for cooking, and the same secret ingredient--a pinch of love. Cooking along side my mother-in-law has always been a real treat and a great way for us to bond.
What You'll Need
2 cups plain yogurt 10 persian cucumbers or english cucumbers peeled and finely diced 1/4 cup cold water 1 tsp. salt, more or less to taste juice from 1 lemon 4 to 5 cloves garlic, crushed 1/2 cup fresh dill weed, finely chopped or 1 tsp. dried dill weed ¼ tsp. hot red pepper flakes or sweet paprika (optional) 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
This cucumber salad should have an edge to it--a subtle tang or sharpness. Therefore, tangy yogurt is preferred. Regular plain yogurt will work if it is not particularly sweet.
Some like it thick and chunky and some like it watery with shredded cucumber. Some even omit the garlic and spices and use only a little salt to flavor it. Every cook makes their own mixture.
Cacık, Turkish Cucumber Salad is very easy to make with very simple ingredients. First, the yogurt is watered down and stirred or whipped to make a smooth consistency. Finely diced cucumber, garlic, dill weed, and a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon is all that is required. The mixture is usually chilled before serving.
Whatever mix of herbs and spices you choose, Turkish Cucumber Salad makes a nutritious, crunchy and refreshing side dish. Creamy, full-fat yogurt and chopped, fresh garlic and herbs work best, but you can also save some calories, fat and time by using low or non-fat yogurt and dried spices and garlic powder. I've made this recipe numerous times using Sigg's Icelandic yogurt and Russian Style yogurt. Personally, I love Sigg's. It's thinker than Greek Yogurt, but it is lower in calories and has a high amount of protein. In this post, I used a Russian Style Yogurt--It's Gregg's favorite. If you use Sigg's or a thicker yogurt like the Icelandic yogurt, you'll want to add 1/2 cup of water.
Make sure you eat your cacık fresh the same day. If it stays in the fridge for too long, the cucumbers will become soggy. Our's tends to last a day or two in the fridge before it's all gone, and we're fighting for the last bowl.
You can serve this dish anywhere you would serve Greek tzaziki. It goes especially well with classic Turkish meat fare like grilled lamb meatballs, or köfte, and kebabs of all kinds. Try it at your next barbecue or casual meal by adding a small bowl of ice-cold cacık next to each place setting. Garnish each bowl with a few drops of olive oil and a sprig of fresh dill weed, parsley, or mint.
- 2 cups plain yogurt
- 10 persian cucumbers or english cucumbers peeled and finely diced
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 tsp. salt, more or less to taste
- juice from 1 lemon
- 4 to 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup fresh dill weed, finely chopped or 1 tsp. dried dill weed
- ¼ tsp. hot red pepper flakes or sweet paprika (optional)
- 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
- Whisk the yogurt, salt and water together to make a smooth mixture.
- Add the cucumbers, garlic, dill and lemon and mix thoroughly until smooth.
- It is best to refrigerate your "cacık" for a few hours before serving. Serve your ice-cold "cacık" in small, decorative bowls. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in the center of each one. Garnish each with a small sprig of fresh mint, dillweed or parsley.