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Tarator

May 4, 2011

What gaspacho is to Andalusian Spain, tarator is to Southeastern Europe.  The main ingredients used to make this raw vegetable cold soup are fresh cucumbers and plain yogurt.  Of lesser importance are its additives – dill, chopped walnuts, olive oil and others – which vary according to regional traditions but nevertheless enhance the flavor of this dish.  The vast geographical territory this dish spans across is amazing – from Albania to Iran – showing the travel and evolution of culinary customs across continents.  More specifically, countries in which tarator is consumed in the summer, in addition to the ones mentioned above, include Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Cyprus and Armenia.  Calling it a soup can be misleading as the term ‘soup’ is typically associated with a warm liquid dish.  On the other hand, tarator is served chilled, often with ice, and it is more appropriately referred to as a type of summer salad or an appetizer.  If not diluted with water, it can simply be made with thick yogurt as a dip or salad, as in the famous Greek tzatziki or Bulgarian snejanka (lit. “Snow White”).  While the Greeks add herbs to it, such as mint and parsley, in Turkey the tahini version of tarator would call for tahin or sesame.  According to another Turkish version, it can be served on the side as a dip with fried calamari.

Ingredients:

  • 1 long cucumber
  • 1 clove of pressed garlic (optional)
  • 1 liter thick plain yogurt
  • 250 ml cold water
  • 3 tbsps chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 3 tbsps oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper

Peel cucumber.  Finely chop in cubes or grate it coarsely.  If you grate it, the juices of the cucumber will be felt throughout the mixture, whereas the cubes will add the nice chewy consistency desired for the smooth liquid.  Both options are fine and depend on one’s preference.  Add pressed garlic, oil, vinegar, dill or other herbs, walnuts, and a dash of sea salt and pepper to the cucumbers.  Stir well.  Combine with yogurt.  If using thick Greek-style yogurt, stir yogurt well before adding it to the rest of the ingredients to obtain a homogenous mix.  If you’re aiming for the cold liquid version and not the salad/dip one, add cold water slowly until well blended with yogurt and other ingredients.  Add a few cubes of ice if serving immediately or refrigerate for an hour to chill before serving.  Sprinkle with ground walnuts or decorate with a twig of dill when serving.
Enjoy its refreshing taste!
*For walnuts’ nutritious properties, see this New York Times article on tarator here.
 
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  1. Fried Calamari « brakeacake

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