Being up here in the cool hills of Fužine, we can’t really feel for the people sweltering in Skopje right now. In fact, we immensely enjoy leaving it each summer. However, as we remember our friends and family slowly melting in the sun, our thoughts go to them, and we are saddened as we sit in the Alpine air of Northwest Croatia.
A person that’s hot will do just about anything to get colder, but I don’t know of many foods that can do this better than our star of the day: taratur! Taratur, or tzatziki as it’s known to many of our Western friends, is a cold appetizer, meze perhaps, made out of the best the Mediterranean can offer: thick yogurt, fresh delicious cucumber, mint leaves, red wine vinegar/lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. There is nothing that brings more comfort to the Macedonian of any creed or ethnicity than a nice bowl of tzatziki. We eat it just by itself, or with anything that you can think of, kebapi, tavche gravche, pita bread, hummus, falafel. It really is up to you. Once we put it in a curry lentil stew, just mixed it right in, and it shone even then.
The approach is dead simple. Chop up a medium cucumber into small cubes and set them on a absorbent tea towel. It’s important to try and get some of the excess moisture out, to bring thickness to the mix, so put some salt on the tiny chopped up cubes to bring out the excess water, and wrap the towel around them.
Get the yogurt in a bowl. Use around a cup of yogurt per cucumber. Shoot for a thick Greek-style yogurt, it’s about the consistency of sour cream. It you can’t get any of that creamy Greek goodness, get yourself some plain yogurt and drain it with a cheesecloth for the best results. If you are impatient, well, you are probably not reading this all anyway, but I would say just go for plain yogurt – it will still taste great. If you are feeling especially careless, you can use sour cream, but I digress..
Put in 5-6 mint leaves, or 1/3 to 1/2 of that amount of dried leaves. Put in 2 tsp of red wine vinegar or lemon juice. Try them both out, I like the vinegar, and Jessica likes lemon juice. Go with your instinct.
Mince 4 cloves of garlic and add them to the yogurt. Don’t be afraid, garlic is good.
Add as much olive oil as you like. A good starting point is 1 tbs. I add more, just because I like it that way, and while you don’t have to put more, do use some, it adds flavor, and makes it just a little heartier.
Dump the cucumber right in that bowl, and mix it all up. Add salt to taste, and freshly-ground pepper if you like.
Dobar tek, пријатно, bon appetit, καλή όρεξη.