Dana Slatkin

Persian Cucumber Yogurt Salad

Cucumber Yogurt Salad

Cucumber Yogurt Salad

When something is on my mind, it usually ends up in my cooking. For instance, the minute I returned from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, I tossed lemongrass and nuoc mam into just about everything I cooked. After reading an article about the bustling night market of Audrix, France, where townspeople enjoy weekly dinners en plein air, there were breakfast tartines on the table every morning and walnut oil in all my salads.

Lately, Iran has been on my mind. My heart goes out to all the Iranian people who had their hopes for freedom dashed in the recent election. In solidarity, I invited some of my Persian friends over this week to show me how to make some of their favorite dishes, which they learned from their mothers and grandmothers. Happily, my kitchen is still filled with aromas of saffron, cardamom, mint, dill, sour plums and toasty rice.

This cool and summery salad (Maast-o-Khiar, or Cucumber Yogurt) makes a great mid-afternoon snack or a tangy cold sauce for grilled or poached fish. With each bite simultaneously creamy, crunchy, tart, salty and sweet, it covers all the bases. My friend Isabelle makes it every day for her three children as a healthy after-school snack. I prefer dicing the cucumbers rather than grating them, as in some versions, to retain a refreshing crunch. I also drain the salad while it is chilling, to eliminate the watery puddle at the bottom of the bowl.

Warmest thanks to Isabelle, Natasha, and Shoshana for graciously sharing part of their delectable tapestry of Persian cooking with me. You’ll find more of their richly fragrant recipes on my blog this summer. And to the people of Iran, may you be only a few spoonfuls away from the possibility of liberty and justice for all.

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