If you find yourself in Turkey, or just enjoying the atmosphere in a Turkish restaurant, you're basically guaranteed to encounter a dip called cacik. Likewise, when you travel to Greece or to your favorite Greek restaurant, a similar dish called tzatziki will be presented. Whatever it's called wherever you happen to find yourself, you should definitely try it.
I think Americans, certainly north easterners like me, have become more familiar with the term tzatziki and some of the large dip manufacturers have lines of tzatziki and other Greek yogurt sauces available for sale in supermarkets. But the homemade version is very easy to make and brings a refreshing flavor to so many dishes.
When I was growing up, my mother usually served a shortcut recipe of just cucumbers mixed with yogurt, salt and pepper. She lived in Israel for a few years before she married and I'm guessing that's where she picked it up. On my own vacation in Tel Aviv one summer, I encountered the plain yogurt and cucumber mixture on all the hotel breakfast buffets. It's cool and crisp and perfect for summer in a hot climate.
Back home I ate my first proper tzatziki sauce during a business lunch at a Greek restaurant. My chicken arrived with a dish of it on the side and I loved spooning it over the poultry and vegetables. This version had grated cucumbers, garlic and lots of fresh dill.
Not long after that I was having brunch at a local Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant that specialized in small plates. Spanish restaurants call them tapas but the Turkish term is mezze which would describe an appetizer or small dish recipe. I love the small plate restaurant idea because I always want to sample lots of different things without necessarily having to commit to one dish. Sure enough, the cacic/tzatziki was listed right at the top of the menu and we ordered one for the table. This version was wonderfully thick and creamy so I would guess they strained their yogurt first. In any case, this dip is now a regular part of my menu at home.
In a mixing bowl, combine the grated cucumbers and minced garlic. Add salt to taste.
Mix in the yogurt with a wooden spoon and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the mint or dill and drizzle olive oil on top. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.