The first time I tasted tzatziki sauce was at a dinner in a rooftop restaurant in Athens overlooking the Parthenon. We had traveled there for a college friend’s wedding. He was Greek but had attended school in the states. At first, I was nervous about traveling to Greece — it seemed as if it was another world. This was, of course, ridiculous. After boning up on ancient literature and history, it dawned on me that all Western civilization began there in Athens. Wrapped in a warm, nighttime Mediterranean breeze, I marveled at the majesty of the view. From the rooftop of the restaurant, we sat at eye level; the Acropolis and its ancient temple dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena were bathed in light.
Dipping a carrot stick into a monkey dish of tzatziki, I couldn’t help but wonder if the mathematician Pythagoras, and writer-philosophers Socrates and Aristotle had also enjoyed its tangy flavor with fresh vegetables as part of an ancient meal.
Creamy and cool all at once, the pairing of shredded cucumber and yogurt, pulled together with a hint of lemon juice, a bite of garlic, and a feathery brush of dill — well, that is nirvana in a mouthful.
The ingredient pairing is also healthy. Minced cucumber adds texture to an otherwise creamy mouthfeel. Dairy, alliums, vegetables — they’re all there. Humans have been eating tzatziki for eons. Why not give it a try?
Tzatziki Sauce Recipe:
1 medium cucumber, washed, dried, ends trimmed, grated
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T minced fresh dill fronds
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, pressed
fine sea salt, to taste
Squeeze grated cucumber over sink to remove excess water. Place in small bowl.
Add yogurt, olive oil, dill, lemon juice, and garlic. Stir to combine. Salt sauce to taste.
Roasted salmon fillets
4 – 8 ounce center cut salmon fillets, rinsed and dried
1 1/2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch dill fronds, divided
Preheat oven to 400º F.
Place salmon fillets on a foil lined broiler pan or baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil on salmon and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20 minutes, or until salmon flakes with a fork or registers 145°F when an instant read thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the flesh. Remove fish from oven and let rest 5 minutes so juices redistribute. If you wish to remove the skin, gently slide a thin spatula between skin and flesh and work your way underneath the fillet.
Make the Greek salad
5 ounces mixed lettuce leaves
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup feta crumbles
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 half green pepper, seeds and white parts removed, diced
1/4 cucumber, peeled, quartered
4 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Divide lettuce leaves on 4 plates. Top with tomatoes, feta, olives, green pepper, and cucumber.
Combine oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Using a whisk, emulsify dressing. Drizzle over salad.
Place salmon fillet next to salad on each plate and strew remaining dill fronds on fish and salad. Spoon tzatziki sauce over fish.