Homemade cheese and yogurt are delicious not just on their own but also when featured or even a footnote in other recipes. Bring a tray of homemade dips, cheese, and sourdough bread to a potluck or party (or house concert), and guests immediately compliment your tasty contribution. Then when someone asks what’s in the dip, say, “homemade yogurt”; eyes brighten, jaws drop, and people dig back into the bowl. At least, that’s my experience.
I’ve long been a fan of tzatziki, and it’s among my favorite ways to showcase homemade yogurt. A tangy fresh batch makes the dip pop—so much so that I cut back on the lemon juice. Although traditionally made with sheep’s or goat’s milk, draining a cow’s milk yogurt until it’s thick works beautifully. Just a tablespoon or two of the same thickened yogurt gives a surprising creaminess to other dips, especially ones featuring beans.
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup drained Fresh Yogurt
1–2 cloves Roasted Garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
freshly ground pepper to taste
Set a colander over a deep bowl, and grate the cucumber into it using a large-holed grater. Mix in 1/4 teaspoon of salt; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. With your hands, squeeze and drain the cucumber; reserve the juice for another use.
Measure the yogurt into a medium-size bowl, and then whip it with a hand whisk until smooth and fluffy. Transfer the cucumber gratings to the bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and combine well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend the flavors. Makes about 1-1/4 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- Don’t stress too much about the cucumber measurements; each cuke will release a different amount of liquid. Getting the flavor is the main point, so if in doubt, go with a larger one.
- Although you want cuke flavor, your dip will be thicker if you thoroughly squeeze the juice from the gratings. But don’t toss the juice; it freezes well in ice cube trays and is delicious in smoothies, shrubs, and cocktails.
- Gratings also freeze surprisingly well. That’s how I make tzatziki all season: squeeze and freeze large batches of gratings and dry the herbs. Use at least three 1-ounce frozen cubes of cucumber gratings (defrosting releases more liquid and requires another squeeze) but only 1 teaspoon of each dried herb.
- Store-bought yogurt for tzatziki and bean dips (see below) is
always an option, but go with a thicker Greek style or drain the yogurt for at least 20 minutes through a fine mesh colander before measuring it out. Whipping gives a silky texture to fresh yogurt in particular, which tends to clump a bit in the fridge.
- Tzatziki is best eaten within a few days, so small batches are ideal. Besides using it as a dip, toss it with a salad, serve it alongside fish or shrimp, or spread it in a pita with falafel and Baba Ghanouj.
Twice as Tasty
As I mentioned in an earlier post, hummus is all the rage and the word is sometimes applied to any dip made with beans or tahini. If hummus sounds more appealing to you than dip, by all means call this a hummus recipe. But what I love about this next recipe are the things that make it different from my Roasted-Garlic Hummus: its smooth cannellini beans and the seasonings that pair it with an Asian meal as easily as a Middle Eastern one.
Home-cooked beans are best here; they’re featured so heavily that the final texture and flavor are far superior to the result with canned ones. If you’re not used to using dried beans, the process described below is surprisingly simple. The key factor is planning ahead. In a pinch, canned beans will work, as will Great Northern beans, navy beans, or even the hummus staple: chickpeas.
Asian White Bean Dip
2 cloves Roasted Garlic, slightly mashed
1 tablespoon lime juice
2–4 tablespoons Fresh Yogurt (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons Home-Smoked Chili Paste or sriracha
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (preferably homemade)
1/2 teaspoon coriander
In a large pot, cover the dried cannellini beans with a couple of inches of cold water, cover the pot, and let it sit overnight. Add enough fresh water to cover the beans by a couple of inches and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that forms. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 90 minutes, until you can pierce the beans with a fork. Scoop out 1/2–1 cup of the cooking liquid, and then drain the beans.
In a food processor, combine the beans and 1/4–1/2 cup of cooking liquid with all remaining ingredients and puree to the desired texture; alternatively, combine in a deep bowl and puree with an immersion blender. Add more cooking liquid or water as needed to achieve the desired thickness. Transfer to a serving or storage container. Store in the refrigerator and eat within 1 week. Makes about 2 cups.
Tips & Tricks
- There are lots of opinions on cooking beans, some contradictory and many ebbing and flowing with the times. The main points seem to be (1) use the freshest dried beans possible and (2) add as little to them as possible.
- Some bean-cooking opinions may be helpful. Use entirely fresh water after soaking if you’re worried about gas. For a large pot of beans that will be divided for multiple uses, add salt to taste 3/4 of the way through the cooking time.
- I prefer the mellower flavor of roasted garlic in dips, but you can easily sub in fresh; just mince it well and use a bit less.
- Yogurt is on the front line in Tzatziki, but here it’s a secret weapon; people will be surprised by the creaminess of the dip and wonder how you achieved it. But it’s not necessary; vegans can easily leave it out.
- Commercial chili powders tend to be loaded with turmeric, which will tint the dip orange and can make it slightly bitter. A homemade blend of spices, with a base of cumin, coriander, cayenne, and black pepper, is far tastier.
- Sourdough Pita bread or chips are ideal for this dip, along with thick vegetables like carrots that stand up to its density. It also works beautifully as a spread with freshly grown sprouts or in a wrap.
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