Cooking (partial!) FAIL

I’m working to become a better, more daring chef. On a graduate student budget, this can be a challenge. Throw in some food allergies, health problems, and an elimination diet (trying to help with the allergies) and my project to self-improve in the kitchen becomes the equivalent of a half-marathon mixed with a chemistry project and a decent amount of comedy theater.

I wanted to make tzatziki for a Greek food night. For the most part, Greek or Mediterranean food works all right with my food allergies and the elimination diet. Not always; I can’t do dairy at all, and I can only handle a small amount of citrus. I’m from a part of the world that has forests of orange trees, and I could never manage to eat an entire one without consequences. No matter. When orange trees bloom, I feel I can get drunk on citrus from the smell of those tiny white flowers alone.

So between being dairy-free and having to use limited lemon juice, tzatziki was going to be a challenge, to be sure. Never fear, the trustry replacer of all things dairy, coconut, was here! (This was slightly before, ever so slightly before, I found out I was allergic to coconut, too.) Vinegar can be a quick substitute for citrus juice, or so I’d heard.

I found two recipes and trialed them both. One used coconut cream. The other, unflavored, unsweetened coconut yogurt. Both recipes called for the traditional olive oil, dill, and garlic. I used some lemon juice and vinegar for the tartness. I don’t have a food processor. so I settled for as finely-diced on the cucumber as my patience would allow.

Here they both are, side by side – all seasoned up and ready to go. (Next to them is a tabbouleh that uses quinoa instead of the wheat bulgur, making it gluten-free and packed with protein.)

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And here is the end result…(excuse the fuzziness, I was laughing too hard to keep it steady!)

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The top is the coconut cream version. Try as I might, it was always extremely thick, a tad chunky, very coconut-y, and … utterly revolting. Hilariously bad, in fact! The directions called for chilling coconut milk and skimming the cream off the top to make the tzatziki. I had used coconut cream, so chilling only slightly had produce something apparently more the equivalent of coconut butter. Pound, mash, stir, blend — it didn’t matter, the resulting coconut butter never smoothed out into something even vaguely tzatziki-like.

The bottom version uses coconut yogurt and was very satisfying. The seasonings make the sweet notes of the coconut tame down a little, and I added red onion for a kick. I don’t have a food processor, so it’s always a thicker sauce, but no less marvelous of a combination for it. Letting it chill for a bit in the fridge helps the flavors blend and thickens the coconut yogurt some (it was a little more sauce-y than I was expecting; coconut yogurt is not quite as thick as Greek.)

Finished dinner:

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Rice, hummus, tabbouleh, greek-ish honey lemon/vinegar chicken, and salad. And because I adore tzatsiki, it’s spread liberally over everything. 🙂

 

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