My husband and I recently went on a Mediterranean cruise. One of the stops was the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini. I’m sure you’d recognize the place if you saw the photos — it’s a beautiful location with stark white buildings and an occasional blue-roofed church dome overlooking the Aegean Sea. Like thousands of our fellow cruisers, we toured the island and took many photos.
I love visiting local grocery stores when I travel. I like it best if I can check out where the locals really shop — not a tourist attraction. I enjoy looking at the fresh fruits and vegetables, learning about what’s local and what’s in season. It’s also a treat to check out the refrigerated cases and packaged products. During this trip, I found Greek yogurt, pistachios, and olives alongside American foods like Oreos and Starbucks.
Wanting to prolong our stay on the island and try a little local cuisine, we stopped at a restaurant that had all the pre-requisites — outdoor dining with a view of the ocean, local beer, and an appetizer menu. We ordered tzatziki dip accompanied by a basket of warm pita bread. When I asked the waiter about the ingredients, he said that it was only yogurt, garlic, and cucumbers. I think also tasted a little dill. The tzatziki was thick and rich, but also satisfying. I’m sure that the yogurt they used to make this was full-fat Greek strained yogurt.
Now that we’re home, I’ve recreated this appetizer.
First, I did a lot of research. I found several brands of commercially-prepared tzatziki available in the dairy case. In checking the ingredient lists, I discovered that many contain a yogurt base and sour cream, along with cucumbers, vinegar, garlic, and dill. The nutrition facts vary by brand, but most contain around 40 calories, with 3 grams of fat for a 2 tablespoon serving.
Tzatziki is frequently used as the sauce on gyros, but it can also be a salad dressing, sauce for grilled meats or mild fish, or a dip. Instead of dill you can season tzatziki with mint or parsley.
After I learned about what was available, I asked Chef Judy, President and Founder of Food and Health Communications for an easy recipe for make-at-home tzatziki that is low in fat, but also high in flavor. Judy’s recipe uses low-fat or non-fat plain Greek yogurt and both dill and mint. You can experiment with how much seasoning you like. This recipe contains only 31 calories for ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) and one gram of fat per serving. Serve it by itself as a salad, or as a dip with whole-grain crackers, pita chips, or vegetable crudités.
- 1 cucumber, cut in half and sliced thinly
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 tsp dried dill
- 1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- Toss ingredients together.
- Chill until ready to serve.
Thanks, Judy, for helping to recreate these great memories in a healthful way!
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University
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