You know those old wine pairing rules of ‘white wine with chicken or fish,’ and, ‘red wine with steak’? Well, while I don’t follow that rule exactly, I have followed my own version of that rule, which goes like this: ‘red wine with dark-colored foods and white wine with light-colored foods’.
Until two days ago when I had a wine-pairing epiphany – you can pair red wines with light colored foods (and probably vice versa)! I had this epiphany due to an abundance of cucumbers from Clyde’s garden. “Huh?” you might ask. How does an abundance of cucumbers lead to a wine-pairing rule break? Well, let me elaborate….
We were feeling somewhat overwhelmed with how to use up all those cucumbers before they go bad. Pickles, relish, salad….there’s only so many ways to get rid of cucumbers, and pickling was not an option this week due to time constraints. Fortunately, I remembered Hannah’s tzatziki that she made for us last month while the Jacques Thibaud String Trio was in town. So I made up a batch early in the day, and don’t you know, the tzatziki was ready by the time I started to crave a glass of our 2010 Norton wine.
Now, since Tzatziki is a yogurt-based dip and Norton is the darkest of dark red wines, this was CLEARLY against my dark-food-with-red-wine rule. But I was hungry, so I shrugged my shoulders and dove into the tzatziki feeling like a wine rebel.
And oh yum am I ever glad I acted with such disregard! This was one of those pairings that made my eyelids flutter down in a moment of sheer ecstasy while I made what Clyde calls, ‘contented Katie noises’ (omnononm). Don’t get me wrong, the dip was good on it’s own and the wine was tasty by itself, but the two together? Heaven in my mouth! (Later I tried a glass of Meramec and was just as pleased with that pairing too.)
I think these two worked so well together because of a couple of factors. 1. We used full fat Greek yogurt, and red wine loves it some fat like nobody’s buisness! And 2. Garlic. Lots of it. (And possibly 3. I’d already drank a 1/2 a glass of wine by the time I was eating the tzatziki.)
I’m so glad we tried this, and I wanted to pass along the recipe to you all. Hannah taught me a few things about making tzatziki which made this batch much better than any other recipe for tzatziki that I’ve tried. The first thing is to forget about that fat-free yogurt. Blech. Every batch I’ve made before using that fat-free stuff has not been good. Also, use fresh dill, not the dried kind (or don’t use it at all if you hate dill). And the final thing is to be sure to plan plenty of time to drain both the cucumbers AND the yogurt so the final product will be creamy and thick, not all drippy and watery. I don’t like drippy watery tzatziki!
Squeeze out as much of the water from the grated cucumber as you can and then place it back into the colander, discarding the water you squeezed out. Add the yogurt on top of the squeezed cukes, and then let that all set for at least an hour or two more in the refrigerator. Discard any extra liquid that has dripped into the bowl, and then dump everything into the empty bowl to mix together.
You can dip vegetables, bread, or crackers into the tzatziki (we preferred slices of warm, crusty french bread). You could also use tzatziki as a base for a salad dressing or dollop some over cooked asparagus to add extra flavor. I think this would be a great sauce for gyros too.
Please note: Many of the recipes I tried last year used lemon juice and olive oil too. I tried those, with blase results. Needless to say, I much preferred this version below with no lemon or olive oil. So maybe I’m also a tzatziki rebel?
If only my rebelliousness had been so mild back when I was a teenager! In any case, on to the recipe:
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and de-seeded
- 2 cups fat-laden greek yogurt
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced or passed through a garlic press
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill leaves
- Line a colander with a thin dishtowel or cheesecloth. Place this over a medium-size bowl.
- Grate the cucumbers into the lined colander. Gather the fabric at the top and squeeze out as much juice from the cucumbers as possible. Discard the juice, then place the fabric with the cucumbers in it back into the colander. Place the colander back over the bowl.
- Open up the top of the fabric and add the yogurt, garlic and dill on top of the squeezed cucumbers. Don't worry about stirring anything together at this point. Lightly cover with the extra fabric and put everything into a refrigerator to continue draining for at least 1 or more hours.
- Once finished draining, discard any liquid that has drained into the bowl. Then dump the yogurt/cucumber mix into the empty bowl and stir everything together. Serve cold.
If you find yourself with an abundance of cucumbers, I hope you’ll give tzatziki a try. And let me know what wine-pairing rules you’ve broken with success. Now I’m off to see about breaking that white wine rule! Cheers!