One of my favorite easy dips is tzatziki–a combination of yogurt, chopped or grated cucumbers, garlic, onion, and dill, maybe a little mint, some lemon juice…all blended together in whatever proportion tastes good to you–. Good with felafel, good with grilled fish, good with cold beans or cooked potatoes, good on a chopped salad, good with grilled vegetable salads, good with bread dipped into it, good (if a bit strong on garlic in my version) just as it is, by itself. Good scrambled into eggs, as well. Why not?
The other night I was trying to figure out what to do with a bunch of cilantro and thought about the pungent, fresh green cilantro-and-mint chutney my local Indian restaurant serves with its tandoori salmon kebabs. That too is one of my favorites.
I have no idea how they really make it; I can only tell you that this yogurt-based improvisation tastes pretty close to me. The preparation was completely parallel to tzatziki, or at least the way I would make tzatziki. The key here is to get the cilantro and mint ground down as finely as possible–to a soft green silt if you can manage it. That means processing it by itself, then throwing larger, harder ingredients (onion and zucchini) into the processor in several passes to grind down fully, and only then adding the lime juice and yogurt. The combination of savory herbs, tartness, and garlic make this a very satisfying (and if you add a fairly large clove of garlic, breath-defying) dip without any added salt.
- 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, washed, picked over, and lightly chopped
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
- 1/2-1 zucchini, washed, with the peel on if it’s organic.
- 1/4 or a bit less–maybe 1/8–medium onion
- sprig of mint if you have it
- 1 c plain nonfat just-milk-and-cultures yogurt
Chop the cilantro and mint a little, then put in a food processor bowl with the onion. Process until the onion pieces are too small to grind the cilantro down any further. Add the zucchini in large chunks and the lime juice, and process until it’s a paste. Add the yogurt and the grated or mashed garlic and process again until it all comes together as a pale green sauce. Serve it with Indian dishes–dal, saag paneer, kormas, etc.–grilled fish, grilled vegetables, bread, fresh vegetable platters, etc.
Or make a sandwich with it: Good foccaccia, ciabatta, or other relatively flat Italian bread without too many holes, or a similar Armenian “finger bread,” sliced in half flatwise (I know, that’s not a real word; I mean “laterally”) and toasted, then the cut sides slathered in the cilantro sauce, with arugula and mozzarella or provolone and maybe tomato etc.