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Entries in salads (2)


Universal cooling - Cucumber Yogurt Dip 


 It is still warm in Seattle. The last few days have made all the grumbling about Junuary worth it. The garden is flourishing along with its weeds.  Dahlias are finally blooming and I even spied a red tomato.  We still have a long way to go if we plan on feeding ourselves from our garden bounty. If we planned on living on a lettuce, sorrel, raspberry diet, we would be golden.

Soon we'll have summer squash coming out of our ears and probably left on your front stoop. I wish I could say the same out some of the other trailing viney things I like to grow. I love cucumbers and I am in awe of anyone who can grow them successfully. Mine are always bitter and tough if I even get any to grow. I am grateful that our markets are full of them in July and August.

Iranians love cucumbers and often eat them like fruit. The Iranian cucumbers are picked fairly small, have a thin skin and are not bitter like some of the other commercially grown varieties. They are really eating out of hand cucumbers, with salt and a little pepper. I love them in salads.

Iranians are also nuts for salads.  Who can blame them in the heat of the Iranian/California summer - a quick salad of tomatoes, onions and cucumbers tossed with some lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper is pretty refreshing and pairs with many different protein sources.

I am a big fan of the Persian side salad - Mosteh-khiar (yoghurt and cucumber) which I have seen served as a dip with bread, a salad and in some homes, thinned as a soup.  It is similar to the tzakiki served by the Greeks or Raita served in Indian restaurants.  Makes sense doesn't it? Same lovely hot and sunny climate, well seasoned food and decent flat breads and a mild cucumber sauce as a foil.

It is also super simple to make and tastes even better the following day.

Mosteh-Khiar- Cucumber and Yogurt dip for a warm day

Note: My mom used to make this with Mountain High Yogurt, and only Mountain High. She's now making it with Sadaf yogurt, but I like conventional Greek yogurt, because I love the thickness. I love this with or without garlic. TH is not a garlic fan, so I sometimes leave it out. No one seems to mind. If you can't find Persian cucumbers, use pickling cucumbers, they seem to work. If those aren't available, use the English cucumber, but remember to deseed them.

Serves 12 as a hors d'oeuvres/dip
Six as a side salad
Eight for soup

1 32 oz. container plain greek or thick style yogurt (2% is great, but use what you have on hand)
1 lb Persian or Armenian cucumbers, thin skinned small cucumbers, peeled and chopped finely (I find my cucumbers at Trader Joes), but your greenmarket or farmer's market might have them
2 t dried dill or 2 T fresh dill, chopped
1 T chopped garlic chives or 1/2 clove garlic chopped fine
1 t dried mint or 1 T fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup currants (optional)

In a large bowl, mix yogurt, cucumbers, herbs and walnuts and currants and stir until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you plan to serve as a soup, thin with water or buttermilk to a consistency you desire.  Refrigerate until time to serve. Garnish with leftover mint.

For a dip, serve with pita triangles and crudite.


Chickpea, cilantro and feta salad 


My mom called me on Sunday to tell me she had made a tabouli salad and kindly saved some for me.  If I hadn't been completely stuffed to the gills from Cookbook Club and the recipes from Falling Cloudberries, I would have picked up the keys and driven over because I love my mom's tabouli.  However, this post is not about tabouli, it is about the fact that soon it will be outdoor potluck weather and soon we'll be wishing we had opted to make a salad instead of a casserole.

Let me tell you something else about tabouli - everyone loves tabouli, and thinks that they will be exotic and daring and make it for a potluck.  Last year, I attended a summer solstice event at my parent's community garden where four tabouli salads turned up to feed  twenty people.  The same could be said for insalata caprese, its innocuous and frankly, not that exciting.

This week I made three different cold salads, ones that require minimal stovetop use and like most marinated things - tastes better the following day. While the weather has been unseasonably cool, you might as well plan ahead and try and tweak these recipes to your liking.   Here is the first. I love this salad and have made it three times for different events. It is hearty and packed with protein. The parsely and cilantro give it a nice springy taste and the jalepeno, a bit of a kick. I have varied the types of feta cheese in this recipe. If you have picky eaters on your guest list, go for the milder varieties of feta.

Chickepea, Cilantro and Feta salad - adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros

1 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained

1 small red onion, chopped finely

1/2 jalepeno pepper, cut in a fine mince, remove seeds if you want

2 cloves of garlic (the original recipe calls for five, this was plenty)

1/2 cup olive oil (yes, I said 1/2 cup, and that is an adjustment down from the 1 cup specified)

1 1/4 cup chopped parsely

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 to 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (I used both light and the real stuff - both worked fine)

2 green onions chopped (white and light green parts)

1 lemon, juiced (I will admit to adding more than that, I like things tangy)


Saute onion in 2 T olive oil until soft (7 minutes for me), add garlic and chopped jalepeno and cook until you can just start smelling the garlic (ca. 2 minutes), remove from heat and let mixture come to room temperature (Note: you could do this ahead of time if you were more prepared than me).

Assemble the rest of the salad while the onion mixture is cooling.

Place chickpeas, parsely, cilantro, green onions in a bowl. Add cooled onion mixture and mix to combine.  Next add crumbled feta cheese to mixture and again, mix to combine.  Lastly add remaining olive oil and lemon juice mixture until it is well distributed.

Season to taste - add more lemon if you want, add salt and pepper, but the feta is a salty cheese and you many not need to add any.  Garnish with remaining parsely.

Refrigerate until served. This salad is delicious right out of the bowl or a few hours or days later. 

Props to Maggim for allowing me to use her lovely picture. I could not do this salad justice.