There’s just something about tzatziki, isn’t there?
It’s all so FRESH. You just mix a little yogurt with some cucumber and a few other ingredients, and it’s like summer — you’re transported to this place where everything is warm and lovely. It feels like you’re eating good, living things that are wonderful for your body. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Like happy, good things.

In the middle of winter, I start to get tired of comfort foods. They’re, well, not so comforting anymore. Winter food starts to feel heavy and dark and not-so-healthy, even at its best. In January, the itch for good fresh food that came right from the ground on my friends’ farms sets in, and I just don’t want to braise, roast or bake anything anymore. I’m ready for lightness. I’m ready for summery food.

Of course, the challenge is that the EARTH is not ready for summery food. So I’ve started to try to figure out how to re-create some of the summery feeling I crave with wintery ingredients and preparations. Because craving or not, I’m not about to stand out on my deck in 20 degree temperatures and grill our dinner. I’m also not about to completely ditch seasonality for the sake of a lighter meal.

That’s where tzatziki comes into play. I figured, if I could easily transport myself to a summer mindset with a single condiment, I could build a meal around those flavors that would make the best of my predicament: winter groceries, summer tastes. So I set out to make a winter souvlaki, of sorts — something that could be marinated in advance, popped into a hot oven on a cold blustery day, and served up to a hungry family pretty quickly on a busy weeknight. With, naturally, a generous drizzle of garlicky yogurt on top.

I’m taking some creative license here; for one thing, souvlaki is supposed to be grilled on skewers, and for another, tzatziki is usually made with traditional Greek yogurt and is very thick. But I’m all about taking liberties with traditions if you’ve got a good reason. Getting rid of skewers so you can roast the meal instead — thereby avoiding standing over that grill in freezing temperatures — is a good reason, in my book. Using regular yogurt because it’s what you’ve got in your refrigerator, and because you want the sauce to easily double as a marinade, is another good reason. Why complicate things needlessly?

There’s also some license taken in the vegetables I use for this dish. Because it’s wintertime, I wanted to pull in some easily available, seasonal produce. Roasting butternut squash, peppers, grape tomatoes and beets makes for a riot of color on the plate, while adding fresh, crunchy romaine lettuce at the table helps tie winter and summer together in the best way possible. Wrapped in warm pita, drizzled with tzatziki, showered with feta cheese, and teeming with colorful vegetables, winter souvlaki is feel-good food in every possible way.

Get the Recipe:
Winter Souvlaki