Tzatziki is a powerhouse of cool. In the Greek condiment, three ingredients known for their cooling qualities — yogurt, cucumber and dill — combine forces to make for a breath of sheer freshness dolloped on anything that needs it.
It may seem a little early in the year to be talking about the need for such cooling, but this spring, with so many seasonal vegetables arriving late (at least to the mid-Atlantic), cooking has been more of a balancing act than usual. So I went looking for a dish weighty enough for breezy and even chilly nights but light enough for the warmer days and longer doses of sunlight.
Sarah Britton’s lovely book “My New Roots” (Clarkson Potter, 2015) had just what I was looking for: a salad of black lentils (tossed with olives, shallots and parsley), layered in a bowl with pea shoots, avocado slices and, yes, an expert version of tzatziki. Why do I consider it expert? Because Britton knows that the best tzatziki starts with cucumber that has been grated and squeezed of as much extra liquid as possible. That’s what keeps the tzatziki from getting diluted. With the right balance of olive oil, garlic, dill and a little lemon, it manages to be both light and rich.
For this salad, the lentils may be the main course, but the tzatziki is the key.