Food and friendship go hand in hand

When I lived in Greece, I ate a lot of really great food. In Greece, if someone comes to visit, you have to feed them. And I was always asked to visit people, so I felt like I was always eating!

Greek people are warm and friendly. Always generous with hugs and laughter. And their history – well it can’t be compared to anything else. I loved visiting the ancient temples – and ruins that were dedicated to the gods and goddesses. Ornate. Architectural masterpieces. Destroyed by time, poverty and war, yet still enough remains to illustrate the expert craftsmanship that went into constructing the temples.

The first place I lived in Greece was in βοτανικός (Votanikos), a crowded neighborhood near downtown Athens. I loved drinking Greek coffee in the morning with a μπουγάτσα (bougatsa), a custard-filled pastry.

I looked forward to taking a nap in the afternoons, closing the shutters to block the intense summer sun.  And going out in the evenings was always an adventure.

One of my favorite foods was τζατζίκι (pronounced ja-jee-kee), a cucumber and yogurt sauce that is used on a lot of things. I love the smooth creaminess of the yogurt and the refreshing cucumber and mint. Sometimes I eat it by itself or use it as a vegetable dip. In Greece it is served on gyros or with ντολμάδες (dolmades), etc.

Here is my tried and true recipe. Before you make it though, please note that while this is a very simple recipe and takes only a few minutes to prepare, it is a time-consuming process. You need to start it the night before and give it a few hours after to let the flavors marry before serving.

Jajiki (Cucumber-yogurt sauce)

*Note: The cucumbers and yogurt need to be prepared the night before.

2 small cucumbers, mostly peeled (I leave a little of the skin for color)*

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons mint, chopped (sometimes I use dill instead of mint)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups Greek yogurt (I use nonfat organic)*

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeded area. Place them on paper towels on a plate. Sprinkle salt lightly over the cucumbers. Cover and let sit overnight. Place the yogurt in cheesecloth or a large mesh strainer over a bowl to let the excess liquid drain overnight (cover it with a kitchen towel and set aside). When you are ready to make the jajiki, drian the liquid from cucumbers and yogurt. Cut cucumbers into cubes. Put all ingredients except the yogurt in a food processor. Pulse until somewhat smooth. Stir into yogurt, cover and let the mixture sit for a few hours in the refrigerator before serving.

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