Tzatziki Sauce! Such a simple, clean and refreshing sauce. I can’t speak better words about this Mediterranean sauce. Typically you find it at Greek restaurants served as a topping or paired with stuffed grape leaves also known as Dolmas. By the way, I have an exquisite recipe for Stuffed Grape Leaves that you’ll really enjoy. There’s a bit of work involved but the enjoyment is extremely worth the time. And when you have some help, it goes fast.
But back to this glorious sauce. I’m all about multi-purpose recipes, this is one of them. You can place a dollop of this on top of your favorite fish or even dip a variety of your favorite veggies into it. Not only that, because you know I love encouraging to take my recipes and make your own, you can always add other herbs and spices to this for variety like adding onions or chives. Just remember, let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two first before serving. Overnight is even better!
Using a potato peeler, peel the cucumber into strands up until you get to the seeds. Throw the seedy center part away. Place the strands of cucumber on a plate, sprinkle the salt on top, mix and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the water.
In the meantime, mix the Greek yogurt, crushed garlic, olive oil in a medium bowl.
Then, grab the cucumber and squeeze the remaining excess of water out of it and chop the cucumber strands finely.
Combine the cucumber in with everything else, add salt to taste and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
This is one of my favorite sauces to eat with fish. It can go with pretty much any fish and even poultry but my absolute favorite is on top of salmon. For those who are trying to get more fish in their diet but can’t get past the “fishy” taste, using sauces like this is a great way to serve it. It also gives you more options in how to enjoy seafood too.
The basics of this recipe, by pulling the water out of cucumber, chopping it up and mixing in with Greek yogurt comes from a traditional Tzatziki Sauce that I learned to make visiting Greece. It’s such a light refreshing sauce. The only difference is I added dill (you can use fresh if you like) and chives. Aside from having to let the cucumber sit for 20min to draw out the water content, everything else takes minutes to put together. There’s NO reason to go out and buy a jar of sauce with a paragraph long of ingredients, where half is entirely unnecessary. TRUST ME, things like this deserve a try at least once.
CUCUMBER DILL SAUCE
Using a vegetable peeler, shave the flesh of the cucumber all around into a bowl. When you get to the center where the seeds are, stop, and discard them. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of sea salt over the cucumber, stir, and let sit for about 20 minutes.
While the cucumber sits, combine the Greek yogurt, chives, dill, lemon zest, and juice.
Grab the shaved cucumber and squeeze all the excess water out of it as much as you can. Finely chop the cucumber, add to the yogurt mix, stir, add salt, and pepper to taste.
Having grown up eating the foods you did on a regular basis would typically leave people thinking that with options you may choose a different type of food to eat. Which for me can sometimes be the case only when I’m craving a particular type of food. Otherwise, Mediterranean cuisine certainly remains as one of my favorite types of food I never get tired of. When food is super clean, fresh and naturally full of flavor I find myself never wanting the deep fried, greasy stuff over it.
When I was growing up one of my favorite dishes was stuffed zucchini flowers. It wasn’t around often because the flowers were seasonal but I remember how excited I was when they were around and they never lasted long! I’ve also had my fair share of stuffed grape leaves from friends, restaurants and even at Whole Foods food counter and fell in love with them because they reminded me so much of the stuffed zucchini flowers I loved so much as a kid.
THEN, I had a fantastic opportunity to spend some time around Greece. I ventured into restaurants that you would find locals dining at and even had the time to learn how to cook some authentic Greek and Cretan dishes. It wasn’t until we spent this time in the Mediterranean that I found myself in an abundance of dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and some of the best tasting ones to date. I’m convinced that I’ll never find any better than the ones in Greece until of course I decided to take into account all the flavors I’ve experienced from various sources and allow my time in Greece become my biggest influence to make some of the best dolmas EVER!
So this recipe really encompasses all the flavors that I love in a stuffed grape leaf. A hint of cinnamon to compliment the tiny bits of ground lamb mixed with rice, herbs and fresh lemon juice make for the perfect bite. They’re simply addicting with my home made tzatziki that we learned how to make during our time on the island of Crete. This may appear labor intensive but honestly this recipe breaks it down so easily that preparation won’t take long at all so you can get down to stuffing your grape leaves. It’s well worth it! Unless you have a family member or friend that knows how to make these you’ll probably never want to order these from a restaurant again!
STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Using a potato peeler, peel the cucumber into strands up until you get to the seeds. Throw the seedy center part away. Place the strands of cucumber on a plate, sprinkle the salt on top, mix, and let sit for about 15 minutes to draw out the water.
In the mean time, mix the Greek yogurt, crushed garlic, and = olive oil in a medium bowl.
Grab the cucumber and squeeze the remaining excess of water out of it and chop the cucumber strands. Combine the cucumber in with everything else, add salt to taste and let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES
Gently remove the grape leaves out of the jar, rinse them with cold water and set them aside on a large plate.
In a large bowl mix together the rice, onion, dill, cinnamon, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then mix in the ground lamb using a spoon to break it apart in bits within the rice mixture.
Using one grape leaf at a time use about a teaspoon or so of the mixture slightly at the base of the leaf, fold the ends over and roll it up kind of like you would for a burrito. Make sure it's not super tight so that when the rice expands the grape leaves don't break apart.
Line the bottom of a large pot with the broken grape leaves that you were unable to use. Place the prepared dolmas lined up on the bottom and stack them evenly.
Place 4-5 slices of lemon on top of that and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over everything. Pour the water into the pot and top everything with a heavy plate. If the stuffed grape leaves aren't completely submerged under water then add more water until they are.
Over medium-high heat bring the pot to a boil then reduce the temperature to simmer for about 40 minutes. When done, drain any excess water and serve with tzatziki sauce.
Alright, so I’m not a salad kind of person. I love vegetables more than anything in this world and there aren’t many that I don’t like but usually salads are so BORING!
For a salad to win my heart and my palate it needs to have an array of flavors. Flavors that are sweet, salty, earthy, spicy even a hint of bitter. Especially if it’s going to be my main meal. So what I’ve started to do is make super yummy elaborate salads like this before my leftover produce spoils.
I have a few good reasons why I don’t want to ever have a salad again unless it’s chopped. 1.) You get almost every ingredient in one bite without having to go fishing in your salad bowl. 2.) All the ingredients infuse with one another much faster giving you a much more flavor intensive salad eating experience. 3.) It just looks that more appetizing to a non-salad eating person!
So the rule for this salad is to chop everything equally fine. AND to pretty much take whatever you have sitting in the fridge that would spoil if don’t use it for something soon. OR if you have no issue with going to the store to buy all these ingredients just to make the salad… that works too! You can use what you have leftover for future meals. Remember, keep things simple for yourself. Get creative so your food doesn’t have to be healthy and boring. Healthy does NOT equal boring. This chopped salad proves it.
Typically I’ll use whatever baked chicken I have but today I had leftover pork and beef bulgogi. I would highly recommend that whatever meat you use, make it full of spice! YUM!
EVERYTHING CHOPPED SALAD
Toss all the veggies including the chicken breast into a large salad bowl. Add the black beans, all the cheeses, the juice of one lemon, dried tarragon, salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Gently fold everything together.