Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Avgolemono and Tzatziki

My apologies for any of you that follow regularly.  I've been up to my armpits helping put on a rock musical with dear friends, and not spending a lot of time in the kitchen.   But now that the majority of the show is behind me, and being deep in Fall and Winter looming, the kitchen is calling again.

A semi-regular tradition for me over the last several years for my birthday is to enjoy dinner at a really wonderful little Greek restaurant close to home called Tantalus.  Love pretty much everything I've tried, and I've never regretted a meal there.

One of the things we always seem to have as an appetizer with our dinners is Avgolemono.  Translated as "egg-lemon", it is a lemon rice soup.  It is thick, tart, and delicious.  And from the moment I had it, I always wanted to try my hand at it if just to see how difficult it was.

Turns out, in general, this is a pretty easy soup to make.

Start with 8 cups of chicken stock put on the stove to boil with a cup of regular long grain rice (not the instant stuff).  When it comes to a boil, turn down to simmer.

Just as the rice starts to soften, but before it is ready, separate 4 eggs, and beat the whites until you get soft peaks.  Beat in the yolks and the juice from 3 lemons.  Pull out about 2 cups of broth from the pot and sit in a bowl and let it cool a little.  Then while beating the egg mixture vigorously, pour the separated broth little at a time until it incorporates without cooking the egg.

Take the rest of the soup off the heat when the rice is ready.  Season as you like with salt and pepper.  Then pour the egg mixture into the rest of the soup while whisking briskly.  If it tempered correctly, it should mix without curdling.

Serve immediately with fresh ground pepper.

Really a snap.

Something else I decided to learn to make which goes along with the Greek theme is fresh Tzatziki sauce.

There is a pizza place in Issaquah called Amante's, and they offer a pizza called Sparticus which is basically gyro meat, red onion, feta, mozzarella cheese, and a pesto sauce.  They serve it with a small container of tzatziki.  But it is never enough.  I even ask for extras, but it's like pulling teeth.  So one night, I opted to learn to make my own!

One cup of Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt suspended over a bowl in cheesecloth or a strainer in the fridge to drain some of the whey and thicken it up), one cup of sour cream, whisked together.  Two cloves of garlic, minced.  Half a tsp of salt.  A good several turns of fresh black pepper (or white pepper if you have it).  One cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and then shredded or finely diced (it is recommended in the recipe I have that you can sit this, too, in the fridge for a couple hours in a strainer or cheesecloth over a bowl to drain off the extra liquid once its shredded).  Three tablespoons of olive oil.  One tablespoon of vinegar (I like using lemon juice instead).  And about a quarter/half teaspoon of fresh chopped dill (dry works, but you may have to use more).

In a small bowl, mix the oil, salt, garlic, pepper and lemon juice.  Mix well.  In a larger bowl, whisk together the yogurt and the sour cream.  Then add the oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and whisk together.  Add in the cucumber and the dill.  Mix well.  And thats it!

Tzatziki tends to improve with time in the fridge, so if you can make it ahead, or put off eating it for at least 24 hours, you will be rewarded.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!


  1. I am a Greek food nut too. Looooove tzatziki! I make my tzatziki basically the same way as you, but also use just a tiny bit of fresh mint too.

    What I want to know is, is there anywhere to get gyros meat to cook at home? I can't find it anywhere. :(

  2. @Michelle - Alton Brown did a show called, "My Big Fat Greek Sandwich" where he showed how to make it.