People often ask me, “Which country has the best food?”
This question is akin to asking, “What’s your favorite place that you’ve visited?” (I mean, honestly, how do you pick one?). But when pressed, I’ll usually blurt out ‘Greece.’
Before you troll me, there is one primary reason for this that is entirely about my personal taste in food.
I’m a cheese fanatic. I love the food in Asia, but cheese isn’t usually prominently featured. In Greece, feta is in everything. And feta is one of my favorites!
Don’t get me wrong, Europe is packed with cheese-heavy culinary heavyweights (Francophiles are probably scoffing at me as I type), and I love many of them. But there’s something about Greece that’s so fresh, light, and simple, that it just sings to my soul.
Tzatziki: A Love Story
I first experienced Authentic Greek Tzatziki when I traveled to Greece in college. It was part of my “Greatest Meal I’ve Ever Had” experience. Here’s the story:
My travel buddy and I arrived in Athens around 10 p.m. after flying over from Rome, and we were starving. I was so worried that everything would be closed, as it was a Sunday. We asked the gentleman at the front desk where we could go that would be open and delicious. He glanced at the clock and said in a thick Greek accent, “You wait ten minutes, and I show you.”
My tummy grumbled a protest, but we sat down and waited.
Soon we were being led through a maze of streets and alleyways, past several eateries with tantalizing scents drifting through the warm air, and directly to the host stand of a charming garden restaurant called Rozalia.
We were seated, ordered our drinks and were presented with a platter of appetizers from which we could choose whatever we wanted. Seeing the hummus, dolmades, olives, and feta piled high sent my stomach into overdrive. I started pointing at everything, and seconds later I was digging into my meal with gusto. The tzatziki had been a selection of my travel companion, so I tentatively spooned a small amount onto a pita and took a bite.
As the flavor hit my tastebuds, lights shone down from heaven and a choir of angels began heralding from on high. At least that’s what it felt like. I don’t think my travel buddy got another bite in before I finished it off.
Super Easy Tzatziki Recipe
I returned to Greece this past summer, when my mom and I spent a glorious week on a sailing yacht exploring the Ionian Sea. As part of our cruise, we were served delicious authentic Greek lunches by the on-board chef. I’m happy to say, tzatziki was prominently featured in many of these lunches.
Our group frequently asked the chef how she prepared different dishes, and she explained that tzatziki was much more simple than most Western recipes. Here’s how she prepares it.
5 minPrep Time
1 hrCook Time
1 hr, 5 Total Time
- 2 cups quality Greek yogurt*
- 1 & 1/4 cups cucumber, grated
- 3/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
- 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced and crushed
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- Juice from 1/2 lemon, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- Combine all ingredients into a bowl and stir.
- Add the salt and lemon juice slowly, ensuring the mixture doesn't get too runny or salty.
- Refrigerate for an hour to allow the flavors to combine.
Serve as a dip with pita wedges and crudites, use as a spread on sandwiches, use as a topping for grilled chicken (marinate in lemon and olive oil), eat it with a spoon... you get my drift. For the record, I've done all of the above and highly recommend each.
*Use full-fat yogurt for better flavor and consistency
That’s Seriously It!
Okay, I’ll be honest here: The boat chef only adds the first four ingredients together and that’s that. But I find the Greek yogurt that’s available in the USA to be less salty and less tart than what you can find in Greece, so I add a little bit of lemon and salt to get it where it needs to be.
I made this on the boat for Greek-Style Turkey Wraps for lunch, hence my strange photos (small space doesn’t make for excellent food styling). It also explains why I violated the cardinal rule of Greek cooking: NEVER use dried ingredients! Sadly, all I had was dried dill at my disposal. It tastes much better with fresh, though you could sub out 3 – 4 tbsp of the dried stuff if you’re in a pinch like I was.