Tzatziki is traditionally made with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, herbs, and shredded cucumber. I love tzatziki, but I question whether cucumber is the best vegetable for this dish; it can be a bit bland, and it weeps when salted.
Why not the beet instead? Its earthiness provides a perfect compliment for the Greek yogurt, while its redness brings an invigorating personality to the color palette of a falafel sandwich. Peeling and grating beets can be quite a messy business, but c'est la vie. Put on that old shirt you've been meaning to throw away and just go for it, I say.
Adapted from a recipe by Ana Sortun
I recommend whole milk Greek yogurt, but you can substitute regular yogurt if you can't find the Greek variety. For those of you using regular yogurt, I recommend straining out the whey first. You can do this by suspending the cheesecloth bundled yogurt over an empty jar overnight.
The original recipe by Ana Sortun, owner of the restaurant Oleana, calls for roasting the beets before grating them. But I actually think it results in a fuller flavor when the raw beets are grated and then sautéed.
Raw garlic can overwhelm a dish, so I soak mine in the lemon juice for 30 minutes after grating it and before combining it with the other ingredients. I find that this takes away just enough of its bite.
- 8 or 9 ounces raw beets. Any variety will work, but prefer the color and flavor of a red beet.
- 1 garlic clove - grate/chop finely
- 1½ tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (.75 ounces)
- 8 ounces whole milk Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
- kosher salt to taste (about ½ - 1 teaspoon) (decrease if using table salt)
- pepper to taste
Grate the garlic clove and soak it in the lemon juice for 30 minutes. Peel the beet, but leave the stem intact (it gives you a great handle for grating!). Grate the beets. Keep in mind that because beets stain, it's best to work on a protected surface; I like to use plastic wrap. Sauté the grated beet in a pan coated with olive oil. Sauté for about 10-15 minutes over medium-low heat until tender. There should be a little less than ½ cup or 3 ounces of cooked beets. Cool slightly and then stir into the yogurt. The yogurt will turn a light pink but as it sits the color will become more vibrant. Add the garlic/lemon juice and dill. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita bread and/or falafel.