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.
Celebrating National Chocolate Cake Day, I decided to go a bit different from the traditional chocolate cake by complimenting chocolate with the worlds most loved stout, Guinness. If you’re a chocolate lover, and I don’t just mean milk chocolate… you will love this recipe! You don’t have to like Guinness to enjoy this recipe BUT these cupcakes are meant for taste buds that can appreciate a deep, dark chocolate flavor. So, if you’re ready for decadence, brace yourselves and go all out. I decided to pair it with a salted caramel frosting instead of the popular Bailey’s and/or Jameson frosting that a lot of people are doing. Personally, I find the salted caramel does an equal justice to the Guinness and chocolate.
The recipe typically calls for two sticks of butter but if you happen to find yourself making dry cakes; what I do is use half butter and half grapeseed oil. You can use any oil that you prefer but grapeseed oil yields the least flavor so the Guinness and chocolate aren’t competing with the flavor of the oil. When decorating the cupcakes feel free to be creative. I like keeping things simple and so all I did was sprinkle a little cocoa powder and edible gold dust on top. You can find edible gold or silver dust in the baking isle of an arts ‘n crafts store like JOANN’s, Michaels or Hobby Lobby, even Amazon.com. Have fun and HAPPY NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CAKE DAY!
GUINNESS CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the Guinness, cocoa powder, and brown sugar. Whisk everything until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Add the flour, sea salt, granulated sugar, and baking soda into a bowl of a standing mixer on low.
Pour the Guinness mixture in three parts beating everything until everything is just combined. Increase speed without getting flour to fly out of the bowl.
Add the eggs and plain Greek yogurt with the last part of the Guinness mixture, beat on medium until smooth.
Pour the batter into the cupcake pan ¾ of the way.
Bake at 350 F Degrees for about 20 - 25 minutes. Poke the center with a toothpick. If it comes out mostly clean then your cupcakes are done.
SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING
In a small saucepan melt the butter, dark brown sugar with the heavy cream, salt, and vanilla extract until the brown sugar dissolves. Let it come to a light boil for only a minute and then remove from heat to cool.
Pour the salted caramel into a mixing bowl and pour a little bit of powdered sugar at a time. Start the mixer on low speed at first and bring it up to medium speed.
Mix approximately 2 cups of powdered sugar until you get a nice thick fluffy consistency. Add a little more powdered sugar if needed.
Use a heaping teaspoon to place a dollop of the frosting on top of the cupcake and use the back of the spoon to swirl around in circles until you have it spread out evenly.
Garnish the top with cocoa powder and/or edible gold dust, sprinkles, whatever you prefer to decorate with.
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.