The flavor of the week is back! Introducing the second most prolific plant in my garden (next to weeds)…cucumber!

This was the healthiest plant of the three. Had to push it back from the stone walkway using tomato cages and a block of wood.

Moved the vine from the ground onto the brick wall so it won’t fall prey to the weed whacker again.

Spikes on some cultivars provide a formidable defense against hungry predators…unless you’re wearing gloves!

These cucumbers, called “Straight 8,” are ready to pick when they’re about 8″ long. They’re crisp and have big seeds, but are so fleshy that I just gouge the seeds out and still have plenty of cucumber left. I eat them with my fruit salads, with tofu soaked in shoyu and ginger, and pickled some in Korean gochujang hot sauce for a lazy kimchee recipe.

But one of my favorite ways to eat cucumber was introduced by my father-in-law a few years ago. He would make grilled chicken with this delicious, creamy, garlicky tzatziki sauce. I had the hardest time pronouncing it but an easy time eating it! In addition to the incredibly creamy texture, the fresh garlic and lemon adds a delicious mouthwatering savoryness that can be eaten guilt-free: zero fat calories, low in sugar, and tons of protein!

I ate twice this much tzatziki, goes well with everything on my plate!

It’s another way to enjoy yogurt and a solution to getting  rid of all those extra cucumbers lying around. I just might have to let my in-laws give this a try…and maybe get zwei daumen nach oben!

Easy Tzatziki
serve with grilled chicken, raw veggies, raw zucchini noodles, or use as a veggie sandwich spread.

Ingredients:

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 cucumber
1 1/2 cup Greek-style nonfat yogurt

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine garlic, salt, and dill. Stir in yogurt, lemon juice and zest. In another bowl or on a cutting board, using a box grater shred cucumber using large grater holes. Grabbing a handful of shredded cucumber, squeeze out excess liquid, reserving for later use (or drink it down!) Add squeezed & shredded cucumber to yogurt, stir to combine. Repeat with remaining shredded cucumber. Adjust seasonings to taste, store in refrigerator covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Makes about 2 cups.

Creamy, tangy yogurt and fresh lemon juice make this bean dip delightfully different.

This recipe is featured in Justa’s weekly feature, Fantastic Foods Friday.

If you have never cooked your own beans, it is incredibly simple, and no more difficult than boiling a pot of noodles. Worried about the uncomfortable side effects? Someone once told me that to get rid of the gas, you just have to poke a tiny hole in each bean to let the gas out (lol!) But seriously, visit this website for some great info on beans and how to make them virtually gas-free.

I had a lot of cooked beans left over from making my black bean & turkey burgers last week. Extra cooked beans are great sprinkled on salads or tossed into a soup for lunch, and taste better than the conventional canned and salted versions. What to do with the extras…fiber for my morning smoothies? No way! Bean dip? Heck yeah!

The beans I had left over were a mixture of black and pinto. I like them both, and they looked pretty displayed in my clear oxo pop containers (which are excellent for storing flours & grains, btw.) But when you cook them, the pinto beans pick up a reddish tint from the black beans. Since the beans would end up in chili, turkey burgers, or mashed into a bean dip mix, I didn’t mind this at all.

The base of this recipe starts with a yogurt-tahini mixture, similar to the sauce for falafel, but much thicker. Use Greek-style yogurt, but if it’s not handy, drain regular yogurt in a paper towel-lined strainer for a few hours before using to get the same consistency. It’s great as a dip, as a spread for crackers or bread…I even topped my black bean burgers with the bean dip, and it was even more delicious!

Surprise your guests with a new twist on bean dip!

Black Bean and Yogurt Dip

1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups cooked, unsalted black beans (or pinto, or adzuki, or a combination)
1/3 cup tahini (to make your own: add 1 cup raw sunflower seeds to food processor, grind until texture is sandy. Drizzle in about 1/4 cup olive oil, process until it forms a smooth paste.)
1/2 cup Greek-style plain nonfat yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil
lemon zest
raw sunflower seeds

Instructions:

Soak minced garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil, set aside. Mash beans and tahini in large bowl with potato masher or pastry cutter until most of the beans are smashed to your liking. Add yogurt, lemon juice, kosher salt, and minced garlic with olive oil. Mix well. If too thick, add a teaspoon of water or lemon juice (if you like it lemony.) If too thin, add more tahini. Put mixture in a serving bowl. With a clean finger or chopstick, make a swirly pattern in the dip. Carefully drizzle olive oil into the pattern. Sprinkle with raw sunflower seeds and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.