Cold Cucumber and Yogurt Soup

 

A recent article in the New York Times got me thinking about the nature and the power of optimism. While the article focused on the lack of optimism in the U.S. political arena right now, I’ve been considering it more on a personal level. What does it take to be optimistic? Is it a valuable resource in life?

Optimism takes a mix of personal strength and courage. I also think it takes an ability to look outside yourself, to connect with others, and to see the bigger picture of life even in dark times. I think it takes a willingness not to give in to dark emotions. Experience them, yes, but examine the darkness and push through it to a better place. Today I salute all the optimists I have met along the way in my life who taught me the power of the positive. To name a few:

  • N., who survived the Holocaust and told me that although the Nazis took away everything she ever knew—her home, her family, her village―she would never let them take away her humanity and will to live.
  • Mrs. A, a counselor who I saw in high school during troubled family times, who told me it didn’t have to be this way, that I had the power to get out and build a better life for myself.
  • My husband, Al, who met me when I was in a dark place after having a series of sudden personal losses. He had the courage and the patience to remind me that the glass is half full in life, not half empty.
  • My son, who saw his way through illness and trauma to move into manhood with the courage to want to use his experiences to help others, ease their pain, and in doing so enrich the lives.
  • My daughter, who had the courage to love us when we brought her here from China and has the courage to embrace an upcoming trip to visit the place she was born.
  • My friends, Y & Y, who immigrated to the U.S. and are about to become citizens of this country. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to leave everything they knew behind and build lives halfway around the world.

So yes, I do think optimism is a valuable resource. I plan to embrace it every chance I get.

Spring is the ultimate optimistic season when everything is in bloom and coming to life again. This Cold Cucumber and Yogurt Soup is filled with fresh spring herbs—mint, basil, and spring chives. The sour flavor of the smooth yogurt combines with the bite of fresh, crunchy cucumber and a bit of red pepper flakes to create a refreshing and delicious soup. Garnished with roasted nuts and raisins, we ate it for an appetizer during an impromptu celebration in honor of our friends’ upcoming citizenship. It is a refreshing way to start a meal, but could be equally good for lunch with a loaf of bread and a few hard cooked eggs. Any way you choose, enjoy.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors and sowing optimism, soon.

Dena


Cucumber and Yogurt Soup

Yield: 8 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup roasted walnuts or peanuts
  • 6 scallions, lightly chopped
  • Small handful mint leaves, rinsed
  • Small handful basil leaves, rinsed
  • Small handful chives, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 slices stale white country bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, preferably whole milk
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Sea salt, to taste

For serving:

  • Handful raisins

Instructions:

  1. Reserve a bit of the prepared cucumbers, scallions, chives and herbs for garnish at serving.
  2. Put all the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a glass jar or bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
  4. When ready to serve, divide the soup between 8 small bowls. Garnish with cucumbers, scallions, chives, herbs and raisins.
  5. Serve and enjoy.

Notes:

  1. This recipe was adapted from A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry.
  2. For a full meal, consider serving alongside a platter of smoked meats or cheeses, a Multigrain Focaccia a bottle of chilled wine, and a Simply Elegant Rhubarb Tart for dessert.

 

Persian Spring Salad

 

Every year on Mother’s Day my family has a tradition of heading to Cedar Circle Farm in Vermont to select annual herbs and flowers for our garden, and hanging baskets for our front porch. I’m not sure when the tradition began, but it’s a tradition I love because we do it together. It marks the beginning of time outside in warm weather after a long New England winter, and the flowers bring color into a world that is primarily, at the moment,  filled with muddy brown and a bit of green. Fresh plants and color― they’re symbols of new life and hope―much like how my husband and I see our children. This year is feeling especially filled with hope because both our son and daughter are thriving in new ways. Clark, our son, is at university in Montreal, studying successfully after having taken some time off to take care of his health. Immersed in literature while thinking ahead to the future of a career in public health, he’s never been stronger nor happier. Our daughter, Isabel, is preparing to finish middle school while tending to two charming toddlers twice a week, and running like-the-wind in spring track. She is coming into her own, and it’s lovely to see. In years past I’ve had trouble with the focus of Mother’s Day being on me but this year I embrace it. My family is happy, so I can be happy, too.

I found this recipe for a Persian Spring Salad in A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry. I was drawn to it by its beauty. Filled with delicate spring herbs and greens, and topped with edible flowers, it’s an uncanny feast for the eyes. This salad is perfect for spring because it incorporates leaves from freshly planted seedlings, and brings the fragrance and hope of the garden indoors. It’s delicious for a light lunch with a bit of bread and cheese; it will also fit well into any dinner menu. I plan to request it for part of my Mother’s Day dinner ahead.

Have a great holiday.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.

Dena


Persian Spring Salad

Yield: Six Servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups spring greens (spinach, watercress, baby romaine, radicchio), rinsed and dried
  • 4 radishes, rinsed, trimmed & thinly sliced
  • ½ small cucumber, rinsed, trimmed & thinly sliced
  • Handful each: dill leaves, mint leaves, scallions & Italian parsley, lightly chopped as needed
  • 1 cup radish sprouts
  • Edible flowers
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Mound the spring greens on a large serving platter. Top with radishes, cucumbers, herbs, sprouts and flowers. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Toss together gently.
  2. Serve and enjoy.

Note: 


This recipe was inspired by Diana Henry’s Change of Appetite.