Tzatziki, Greek Spiced Meatballs, and Panzanella

Greek Spiced Meatballs, Tzatziki, and Panzanella

I have two truths to tell you. First, Tzatziki is the best thing ever made (especially with Greek spiced meatballs and Panzanella). Second (and perhaps more earth shattering) something I believe is a universal truth that not many people know, or will be willing to accept: everything Mediterranean is really Greek.

Everything Mediterranean is really Greek?? YES!!! Or at least in my mind. You can thank my grandfather. You see, my grandpa was Greek. His parents, my great grandparents, came over to the states through Ellis Island. We have proof of passage and entrance for my Yaya, Ismene. Rumors abound around how my Papu, Michael, got here–but we know he gained his American citizenship by enlisting to fight in World War I.

Back to how this is relevant–in 2012, my husband and I took our son on a Mediterranean cruise. We started in Rome, went through Greece, and were (supposed) to go to Egypt, before returning to Italy. We ended up in Turkey instead. While roaming the markets and spice merchants in Istanbul, I procured a bag of “meatball” spice. As the vendor explained what was in the mix, he mentioned how his family ate the meatballs with tzatziki and feta in pita. Thereto and henceforth–everything Mediterranean is really Greek.

Further proof–at the Hagia Sofia, I procured a cup of Greek Coffee. The vendor said yes, it is greek coffee, but the Turks perfected it. All I know–tasked like what I remember being made on the stove. Everything Mediterranean is really Greek.

The Meal:

Greek spiced meatballs
Greek Spiced Meatballs

I made these meatballs from a recipe posted in The Mediterranean Dish. Since then, I have reworked my own personal recipe, Kefta, Mediterranean Spiced Beef Patties. Her recipe was really good, but a bit different from what I ultimately wanted. Pictured below is my rendition of Suzy’s meatball recipe. Aren’t they pretty?

Along with these delightful meatballs, I made my house version of tzatziki and a super simple panzenella salad.

Tzatziki
Tzatziki

Tzatziki is the most versatile of sauces. Serve as a dip for pita or vegetables, with greek spiced meatballs, on gyro, on chicken souvlakia, or even as a salad dressing.Which brings us back to truth number one: Tzatziki is the best thing ever made.

Panzanella
Panzanella

Panzanella is “Tuscan” chopped salad with torn bread (or pita). As we know now, everything Mediterranean is really Greek. I make my panzanella in the Greek or Horiatiki fashion by chopping cucumbers, tomato, parsley, and onion, then adding feta, olives, and a healthy splash of greek olive oil and lemon juice. The torn pita soaks up the extra dressing like a crouton. But better…because its Greek.

Wine Pairing Suggestions:

Fleur Bleu Seven Petals Red Blend

For this particular meal, I paired the Greek spiced meatballs with Fleur Bleu Seven Petals Red Blend.

Because this is a meat and salad dish, I would stick to light reds, medium reds, red blends, or even a dry rosé. Fruitier wines with medium acids and softer tannins lend themselves for pairing with the tomato salad, while cutting through the yogurt based tzatziki. Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Merlot could also be ideal choices.

If you want to pair just the Tzatziki dip, I would suggest an acidic white like Pinot Grigio, Verdelho, Aromatic WhiteLight Whites, or even a Sparkling Wine. All would nicely match the acidic lemon and tangy yogurt in the tzatziki.

Tzatziki

Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce for everything!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time8 hrs
Course: Appetizer, Sauce
Cuisine: greek, Mediterranean
Keyword: cucumber, dip, dressing, garlic, lemon, yogurt
Servings: 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 32 ounce plain greek yogurt full-fat if you can find it
  • 1 large cucumber 1 english, 2 medium, or 4 mini
  • 1/2 cup mint or parsley
  • 1 large lemon 3-4 tablespoons
  • 4+ cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dill optional
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • Optional step: Drain the liquid from your greek yogurt, making labnah. Find a sieve and cheesecloth and drain your yogurt for 8 hours or overnight. This makes the Tzatziki super creamy.
  • Scrub the cucumber under cold water and then grate on a large hole grater (like you would use for cheddar or mozzarella). We prefer the peel on for a bit of color. Squueze excess moisture out, but dont go too crazy. Chop mint or parsley medium fine.
  • In a medium bowl, dump strained yogurt and cucmber. Add mint, and squueze lemon over top, being careful of the seeds. Stir in garlic, cumin, and dill. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper. Drizzle in olive oil.
    I know I am heavy handed with the garlic.  Feel free to work up to this level slowly–start with one and add more to your preference.  
  • I like to let this sit for a couple hours for flavors to meld, but its good right away too.
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1 thought on “Tzatziki, Greek Spiced Meatballs, and Panzanella”

  1. I like the recipe but would pair most Greek food with retsina which has a lovely pine sap flavor which will grow on you after a decade or so.

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