I love making this yogurt sauce. It’s a riff on India’s yogurt side dish and a play on Greece’s creamy dip, hence the name razatziki. It’s a mouthful of a name, so I call it raita (pronounced rie-tha) when I serve it with Indian food, and tzatziki when I serve it with Greek food.
Growing up, raita was a sour cream and buttermilk based condiment we had with almost every Indian meal. It had a soupy texture – runny, if you will. More importantly, it provided the necessary cooling to our mouths when things got too spicy. With expert timing, raita has the ability to swoop in and soothe fired up tongues, while simultaneously enlivening the taste buds with fragrant spices.
When we had guests over, my task was to make the raita. My mom would hand over the silver tiffin box (dabba) of spices and add a bit of dramatics by saying, “Make it good, we have guests.” Thanks to my mother, this ‘make it or break it’ type of pressure is exactly the climate under which I thrive. But that’s me. I see now why I love pressure-filled projects. I tend to be hooked on the impossible.
To make the raita, I would carefully whisk the sour cream to loosen it. Next, I would add a flurry of spices — never measuring just adding a bit of this and that, but forgoing the yellow turmeric and being very reserved with the use of salt. I would add a bit of buttermilk, whisk it all up and then add more until I thought enough raita had been made for that meal’s guests. Sometimes I’d add a special ingredient like green onions or boondi (savory deep fried chickpea flour tidbits). I’d whisk it some more and then test it with a clean spoon. Usually I was spot on, the very first attempt.
One of Greece’s most famous dips is tzatziki. Like its Indian counterpart, tzatziki is a simple dip that uses only a few ingredients: creamy yogurt, crispy cucumbers, olive oil, and a profound amount of garlic. Fresh, simple, and cooling. It can be put together effortlessly, is light and nourishes you just enough until the next meal.
My Pomegrante Razatziki was born from the vision of combining the best of both raita and tzatziki. It manages to make the foreign familiar, while still maintaining a welcome exoticism. It portends to redefine my notions of spring or summer comfort food. I’ve stripped away some of the familiar and wound up with a collection of flavours and textures I’m totally in love with. And it’s so simple.
Creamy yogurt is a must, add flavourings, and chill to let everything develop. Now when it comes to the flavourings, garlic and salt are almost ubiquitous additions. Green ingredients include chopped dill weed, cilantro, parsley, mint, or scallions. Very thinly sliced red onions or chopped jalapeno could add bite. Strike your fancy, you can dial the heat in either direction, depending on your tastes. Spices such as pepper, cumin, turmeric, sumac, and paprika are welcome additions. If you are a follower of this blog, you will notice I am currently obsessed with pomegranate seeds and understand why they make an appearance.
The secret of this recipe is using “Greek Style” yogurt. You could use a regular yogurt but the consistency wouldn’t be right. “Greek Style” is a thick, creamy, tangy yogurt that will keep everything from running. It is also a lot less tangy, similar to sour cream.
You can serve this razatziki with additional pomegranate seeds and drizzles of olive oil. This recipe is flexible so you should experiment and make it your own. If you’re a garlic lover, add more. If you hate garlic, leave it out completely. You could substitute some green onion for the garlic or chopped jalapeno. The flavour combinations are truly endless.
All I know is that this Pomegrante Razatziki is a crowd pleaser, with its sweet and tangy flavour, and will sure catch the eye thanks to its beautiful colour. Note, you can make this the day before. The flavours develop, intensify, especially the garlic.
I make it in double or triple batches, so I always have some on hand. Did I mention, this version is super easy and almost sings of summer?
Serve it with pita bread, rice, quinoa, grilled meats, chicken kebabs, or like me on spicy roasted potatoes.
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt (I like the full fat variety)
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup pomegranate seeds
Spoon the yogurt into a bowl and give it a good stir until smooth and creamy. Stir in the cumin, garlic, pepper and salt, mixing well, then add the olive oil, garlic, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.