Keep Reading the Ingredient Lists

October 18, 2016 in Food Economics, Foodland, Mediterranean, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

My questions and in all honesty, my wrath often start when I pick up a container in the market. This time it was an intriguing new product, tzatziki by Cedar, a company that focuses on making traditional Mediterranean recipes. The product was Cedar’s Tzatziki; it says right on the main label, “made with Greek yogurt, cucumber, and dill.” I thought, yes, that’s what you make tzatziki with, especially if you’re Greek or from somewhere in the Mediterranean. One of the very nice things about tzatziki is that it’s full of healthy ingredients and the calories are relatively low – the perfect dip or sauce to contribute to the nutrients of a meal while not driving up the calories wildly, as many sauces and dips do. I was off to a great start.

Then it started, the disappointment, that is. The ingredient list of the nutrition label listed “food starch, gelatin and pectin as part of the Greek yogurt. I thought, “What kind of bogus Greek yogurt did they make this with?” The Greek yogurt that I use is made with nonfat milk and cultures. I use nonfat Greek yogurt, but even regular Greek yogurt is just milk and cultures, that it – there’s nothing else! Part of what that means about the new processed product is this: you get at least 7 fewer grams of protein per cup. Or looking at it from the other direction, you get food starch, pectin, and gelatin in place of the traditional Greek Yogurt. Gelatin does add to the protein of their product – but it is not the complete protein you’d get from milk). Perhaps “made with” means what is usually does on labels – made with a tiny amount of the coveted ingredient. Yes, there is some Greek yogurt and probiotic cultures in there with the starch, gelatin and pectin thinned with the cheap and less nourishing substitutes!

I’ll share how to make your own tzatziki below, but it is a bit frustrating that food processors are always loading up products with cheap ingredients, replacing the traditional ingredients. In my experience, I’ve never seen a recipe for tzatziki adding food starch, gelatin or pectin; let alone all three.

Notes on making tzatziki:

  • Fresh cucumber is traditionally in tzatziki; unfortunately it can make your dip/sauce runny if held to the second day. A couple of things you can do to manage that are to grate the cucumber and strain it with a little pressure to reduce the amount of liquid; or add the grated cucumber to only the amount you will use that day.
  • If you don’t have tahini and you’re in the mood for tzatziki, substitute peanut butter or any nut butter. The taste won’t be as authentic; but it’s still quite good. Another option is to make the tzatziki with sesame seeds in a food processor.
  • You can use full-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt; they both work nicely.
  • It’s so easy, you may want to consider making a small batch to use up quickly and not worry about how to use up larger amounts.

Quick and Easy Tzatziki

1 cup Greek yogurt

½ English cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely grated and drained

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon tahini or peanut butter or nut butter (optional)

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients – that’s it.

Optional to sprinkle on top: coarsely chopped fresh mint; or za’atar (herbs from the middle east)

To all my friends out there in Dr. Grandma’s world, please keep reading the nutrition labels and ingredient lists. It doesn’t appear that the food processors are slowing down in offering their so-called “authentic” foods with non-authentic ingredients.