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Tzatziki

I learned to make this creamy yogurt dip as an exchange student in northeastern Greece. I was placed with a family with two incredible cooks—my host father was a retired pastry chef, and my host mother was a no-nonsense housewife who spent most of her time in the kitchen. Jackpot! The first thing I learned to make in their kitchen was this thick, garlicky tzatziki; it’s been a staple in my repertoire ever since.

Ingredients

32 ounces/960 mL whole-milk plain yogurt

1 cucumber

Fine sea salt

2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise, green sprout discarded

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Stack two 1-foot squares of cheesecloth and run them under cold water. Wring out the fabric and lay it in a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, allowing the excess cloth to hang over the sides. Pour the yogurt into the fabric, gather up the excess cloth, and tie them up with string. Place the setup (including the sieve and the bowl) in the refrigerator until the yogurt is very thick, about 3 hours.

Peel the cucumber, halve it lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Finely chop or grate the cucumber, place it in a small bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon salt, and place it in a fine-mesh sieve set over the sink to drain for 1 hour.

Scoop the yogurt out of the cheesecloth and place it in a medium serving bowl; discard the whey and cheesecloth. Rinse the cucumber, pat it dry with paper towels and place it in the bowl with the yogurt. Finely chop the garlic and then use the side of a chef’s knife to smash the garlic until it is a fine paste. Add the garlic paste to the yogurt and cucumber, and stir well to combine. Season with additional salt, and allow the dip to sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Drizzle with the olive oil immediately before serving. Store in the refrigerator in an air­tight container for up to four days.

Makes 3 1/2 cups/340 mL

From Crackers & Dips: More Than 50 Homemade Snacks by Ivy Manning, Chronicle Books. Photo credit Jen Altman

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