Tag Archives: vegetarian appetizer

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

This healthy and delicious Mediterranean yogurt salad goes by many names depending on the country. My Greek friend used to call it tzatziki. She grated her cucumbers and added lots of smashed garlic to hers and I mean a lot! In Turkey this salad is called cacik and the Indian version is called raita. You always see this salad in Indian buffets, because its cooling effect counteracts their spicy curries.

Regardless of the country of origin, the main ingredients in this salad are always yogurt and cucumbers. The Persians have a version that includes walnuts, fresh dill and raisins which is quite delicious. If you are not a fan of plain yogurt, you should definitely try this recipe.

Yogurt has a lot of health benefits. Some of its benefits include boosting immunity, helping in weight loss, and preventing gastritis and stomach ulcers, heart diseases and osteoporosis. More reasons to include it in our diets.

To make this easy salad, you first dice the cucumbers. I left the skins on the cucumbers because I like the texture and color they adds to the salad, but you can peel the skins if you like. Use Persian cucumbers because they have thin and tender skins and are not as seedy as other cucumbers. Besides, they have more flavors. If you can’t find Persian cucumber, use English cucumber.

The fastest and easiest way to dice cucumbers into uniform pieces is to cut them into slices lengthwise, stacking the slices and cutting them lengthwise again into matchstick pieces. Then lining up the pieces and cutting across them. My sister uses a small paring knife and cuts one slice at a time. I’ll go bananas if I do that! The only times I use a paring knife is to peel an apple.

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Once your cucumbers are ready, add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Make sure your garlic is finely chopped or better yet, use a grater or a zester to be on the safe side. There is nothing worse than biting into a piece of strong and spicy garlic! I have a stainless steel zester that I got as a gift over a decade ago that I use for grating. It’s inexpensive and works like a charm, a must for grating garlic and ginger.

I love the taste of dried tarragon with yogurt, but fresh tarragon, dill or mint would work great in this recipe. As for yogurt, use nonfat, low fat, regular or Greek as you wish. You can drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil over this salad and sprinkle chopped herbs over it for garnish. This Mediterranean yogurt salad makes a great appetizer with chips or pita bread. It can be served as a side dish with stews and rice dishes or as a soup. For the soup version, simply add enough water to thin it. You can also sprinkle some cayenne pepper over it, yummy! Another pretty garnish is using fresh edible flowers or dried rose petals.

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 0
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 cups plain yogurt
3 Persian cucumbers peeled and diced
1 small garlic clove peeled and finely mashed (optional)
1 teaspoon dry French tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Combine the yogurt, cucumber, dried tarragon, salt and pepper in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve with chips or pita bread.

Veggie Summer Rolls

Summer rolls are like portable salads that are bundled up in thin and translucent sheets of rice paper. They are the easiest appetizer to make for your parties especially during summertime. And the best part is, you can prepare them a day in advance and fill them with vegetables of your choice. Just cover them with damp paper towel, wrap with  plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Veggie Summer Rolls

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 5 min
Ready in: 25 min
Yields: 6 Servings

Ingredients

12 rice papers
1 cup rice noodles
1 large carrot washed, peeled and cut into thin slivers
1 large cucumber washed, peeled and cut into thin slivers
1 cup soft lettuce
2 green onions, washed and sliced diagonally
1 cup cilantro, mint or basil

Preparation

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. Cut rice noodles in half and add to the pot. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes or until noodles are soft. Drain and set aside to cool. You can also soak them in hot water for 10 minutes.
  2. Fill a large shallow bowl with warm water. Place 1 rice paper in the water and soak until pliable, about 30 seconds (the rice paper should still be slightly firm. It will get softer as it absorbs the water). Remove from water and lay flat on a clean work surface (a plastic cutting board or a large ceramic plate).
  3. Lay few lettuce leaves flat on the rice paper, close to top one-third of the rice paper. Add rice noodles, few strips of carrots and cucumbers. Top with few herb leaves of your choice. Don’t overfill.
  4. Carefully fold the rice paper over the fillings. Tuck both ends in and roll tightly.
  5. Repeat with the remaining rice paper sheets. Transfer the rolls to a serving plate and cover with plastic wrap.

Serve with your choice of sauce (recipes follow).

Dipping Sauces (simply mix the ingredients in a bowl)

Peanut Sauce

2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon chili garlic paste
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Spicy Peanut Sauce

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon hot chili oil
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Lemon and Ginger Sauce

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon water, or to taste
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh gingerroot
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

Garlic and Soy Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 teaspoon hot sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Pinch of sugar