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.


Cucumber and Yogurt Soup

Yield: 8 Servings


  • 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


  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.


  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.

Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.