I wistfully remember first eating this dish on a rooftop restaurant in Damascus in 2009, a summer spent in the Middle East before the war in Syria. A minaret from the grand mosque across the alley glowed above our table, and we sampled foods we had never before imagined. This Syrian Yogurt with Walnuts, Mint & Garlic has a surprising combination of flavors, and over the years I have recreated it for countless summer gatherings. If you like tzaziki, I think this dish is more delicious and interesting. The mint-walnut combo is unusual but perfect.
In terms of proportions, honestly you can take the ingredients in the title and play around with your own ratios. I’ll give you a suggested ratio to start with but feel free to adjust the proportions to your liking. You can also experiment with how finely you want to chop your walnuts.
Syrian Yogurt with Walnuts, Mint & Garlic
1/2 – 2/3 cup walnuts
1 – 1 1/2 cups plain, thick yogurt (Lebanese labneh or Greek yogurt)
1 large bunch fresh mint
2 garlic cloves, grated
big pinches of salt to taste
grated zest of 1 lemon, optional
drizzle of olive oil, optional garnish
mint leaves to garnish
Toast the walnuts in an oven or toaster oven at 300F for about 5-10 minutes, until fragrant but not too brown. Roughly chop the walnuts.
Combine the walnuts in a bowl with the yogurt, mint, garlic, salt, and optional lemon zest. Stir to combine and taste for balance. Serve in a pretty dish with mint leaves for garnish and an optional drizzle of olive oil. Serve as part of a mezze/appetizer spread with flatbread for dipping.