Cucumber and yogurt salad with lemon

July 12, 2010 § 5 Comments

Some friends and I have a “band” that we started last year, known as The Muddy Gospel Band (we have also considered calling ourselves The Iran Contra-dance Affair, but I’m not sure that’s actually funny to anyone else).  Those quotation marks around “band” are key to understanding our level of professionalism and talent.  (Though we did do a single recording session last year, orchestrated by a sound technician who also happened to be a finalist in the International Beard and Mustache Competition, natural category.)  I mean, I don’t want to shortchange us, we’re all decent to excellent musicians and singers, but our method of practicing is approximately this:  randomly get together every couple of months, share supper, then grab some beers and sing your way through old gospel songbooks, Gillian Welch’s, and Dave Rawlings’ albums, finally end with some quality Bob Dylan.

Our four part harmony is not spot on; we crowd around a computer screen to read what the lyrics to the song we’re singing are; our mandolin player only knows 4 chords (er, that would be me); but the experience is always transcendent.  The stress, the anxiety, the conflict that seem to come with the territory of participating in this wonky world of ours, become transparent, wispy, insubstantial.  They float away like dandelion puffs on the breeze of our voices.  Every day, when I listen to the news or browse headlines online, I’m bewildered and saddened by our collective insanity and  apparently bizarre priorities.  Each time I share a meal or sing with friends, I rediscover some things that are true and good, and find a new little foothold to balance on.  Our Muddy Gospel practices have both, accompanied by lots of good old-fashioned belly-laughs.  “I don’t know what tomorrow brings.  It’s alive with possibility.  All I know is I feel better when I sing.  Burdens are lifted from me…” (that’s from “Method Acting” by Dave Rawlings – seriously awesome song)

I made this cucumber dish as a dinner accompaniment at our “practice” a couple of days ago.  I was told I had to put it on my blog because it was “cool, creamy deliciousness.”  And, who am I to deny my friends – also, I’m a total sucker for compliments.  This salad is like a hybrid of cucumber raita and traditional Norwegian agurk salat, with just a little preserved lemon thrown in because it makes everything better!  Cool, creamy deliciousness – plus a little crunch and zip – just about sums it up, I’d say.  When I make it, I don’t actually measure anything, I just whisk together the dressing ingredients and then add a little more of this or that until I like how it tastes.  The herb can be switched up, to play with the flavor.  For our Muddy Gospel supper, I made it with cilantro.  Mint would also be lovely.  But, I’d have to say that in the end dill is my favorite.  Dill is the taste and smell of summer for me.  Made with dill, this dish tastes of the evenings spent sitting out on the deck of our cabin, the sun still shining at 11 pm.  The grown ups would be drinking white wine while peeling shrimp and making open faced sandwiches, topped with a little lemon and dill.  I (being a tremendously misguided little girl!) thought I didn’t like shrimp, and would instead sit and eat bread with cucumber and dill.  Though I participate in the shrimp peeling now, I still hold a special place in my heart for the dilly cucumbers.

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad (serves 4-6)

  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • salt
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • a splotch of honey (a teaspoon, I’d guess)
  • a heaping scoop (¼ cup, or so) of thick, plain yogurt (Greek-style works best)
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced (only the light green and white portions) or 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp. of minced preserved lemon (or lemon zest, if you have blatantly ignored my advice up until now and have no preserved lemons 😉 )
  • 2 Tbs. of chopped cilantro, dill, or mint (you could also definitely try another herb, but most of those you’d only need half the amount)
  1. Toss the cucumber slices with a large pinch of salt, and let them sit in a colander for a half hour, to drain them.  Rinse them well, then pat them dry with a towel (otherwise they’ll be soggy). 
  2. In the meantime, whisk together the vinegar, sugar/honey, yogurt, green onion, lemon (or zest), and herb.  Allow this mixture to rest while the cucumbers are draining, giving the flavors time to mingle. 
  3. Once the cucumbers are rinsed and dried, toss them with the yogurt mixture.  Chill until ready to serve (you’ll also need to stir it up again before serving).  These are a great accompaniment to an open faced sandwich of rye bread, gravlax and mustard.  Or grilled fish, lamb, or an Indian spiced dish.  They also appear to go well with an evening of singing.
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