Though not popular in the Western world, tarator is a favourite cold summer soup in a number of countries, including Greece, Turkey, Iran, Albania, Bulgaria, Armenia, Cyprus and Serbia. It is a part of the Ottoman cuisine, widely spread nowadays on the Balkans and the Middle East.
Tarator is truly summerish and refreshing, which only adds up to the general benefits of fresh cucumbers, yogurt and garlic. The ingredients slightly vary from country to country and the soup is even referred to as a liquid salad in Serbia however the main ingredients are present everywhere: cucumber, yogurt, garlic, vegetable oil, walnuts, dill and water. In some cuisines walnuts are omitted. The preparation is quite simple and the proportions for 1 portion are as follows:
3.5 oz (100g) yogurt
A small cucumber, approximately 2 oz (60g)
½ tsp vegetable oil
1-2 garlic cloves, rushed
1 tsp walnuts, crushed
1 tsp fresh minced dill
Salt to taste
Water – depending on whether you want it more diluted or dense, usually 3.5 oz (100g)
Chop or grate the cucumber. While grating is definitely quicker, keep in mind that vegetables lose lots of vitamins and other healthy substances when grated. If you prefer, you can peel the cucumber, though in Eastern cuisine it is almost never peeled, as the skin is highly valued for the vitamins in it. Still, if the cucumber is old or the skin is too thick, you’d be better off peeling it.
Mix the yogurt with water and stir well until you get a smooth blend. Walnuts and garlic should be crushed, though some people prefer the nuts to be simply chopped into bigger pieces. Mix all these together.
Usually after that, if the yogurt and water used are not cold, the soup is left to cool in the fridge for 30-40 minutes. It is served in a deep bowl or plate.
Tarator also acts as a great appetizer and even exists in the form of a starter. It is a kind of a salad or side dish, called Snezhanka (meaning SnowWhite). The ingredients are pretty much the same though water is not added and instead of fresh cucumber, chopped pickles are used. The yogurt is thick, strained and garlic is more than usual.
The starter is usually served in tiny glass bowls or on a plate, shaped into 4 ball-like forms, 2×2 opposite each other. Often it is garnished with chopped parsley and black olives.