Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice

There is a rolling continuum of the ingredients I cook with throughout the year, mounds of rhubarb in late spring toppling into the berries of summer, mingling on occasion in recipes like Nordic rhubarb and strawberry jam. In this way, fruits and vegetables help mark the changing seasons, ushering one gracefully into the next. Around this time each summer, when the midday sun begins to compete with the moist marine air around Seattle and the leaves begin their gradual display of changing colors, I feel compelled to embrace tomatoes, still vibrant and full of flavor, as often as I can and buy corn to grill for an outdoor meal, even if we must pull a sweater up over our shoulders while we dine.

This time of year, we do a lot of grilling. My husband prepares good quality meat or fish, seasoning it simply with olive oil and sea salt and maybe a little pepper and puts it on the grill while I make the side dishes and set the table. On Friday evening we needed little more than lamb chops and a couple of simple salads to make a meal.

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice and Tomato Salad

Cucumber salads have figured prominently in my home in recent months, with the sweet-and-sour cucumber salad and cucumber salad with dill that I made for June’s Midsummer picnic and a creamy salad of cucumber and radish. There are any number of varieties in Scandinavian cuisine, and even with similar ingredient lists they can taste much different, depending on technique, the palate and taste preferences of the cook, and the seasonings. I veered away from the traditional Nordic varieties this past weekend, taking cues from David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke instead. Peeling the cucumber and slicing it into half moons, I dressed it with yogurt seasoned with garlic, fresh dill and mint, and drizzled olive oil and sprinkled red pepper flakes over the top. Adding a simple salad of heirloom tomatoes, we were set.

Heirloom Tomatoes on Board

Soon enough the tomatoes will make way for the foods of autumn. Apples are already making their way into my baking, and soon artichokes and Brussels sprouts will take up significant parts of our meals. And don’t forget the squash and root vegetables that conjure up all the cozy nostalgia of autumns past. One season is beginning its gradual roll into the next, but I’ll hold onto every last bit of summer as long as I can.

Tomatoes and Summer Dinner

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Yogurt and Spice
Inspired by the Cucumbers and Yogurt in Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis

1 large cucumber
Salt and pepper
1 cup whole milk yogurt
1 garlic clove, pressed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Red pepper flakes

Peel the cucumber. Cut it in half lengthwise, then slice into half moons about 1/3-inch thick. Place in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add yogurt, garlic, olive oil, mint, and dill, and stir. Refrigerate while you’re preparing the rest of your meal–try to give it at least a half an hour. Check the seasonings and add more salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with red pepper flakes and drizzle olive oil over the top.

Serves 4.

The Reliable Cod Gets a Smoky Twist with Bacon

Bacon-Wrapped Cod with Roasted Vegetables

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a Norwegian man in possession of much torsk must be in want of variety. Zucchini and Bell Peppers

Cod is plentiful in northern waters, making it a staple in the Scandinavian diet. If you have had more cod–or torsk, as the case may be–than you think you can stomach in recent years, let me urge you to give this simple yet versatile fish a second chance.

Roasted Vegetables

Simply wrap it in bacon and serve it alongside a classic Scandinavian cucumber salad and some herb-roasted vegetables, and you’ll have a dinner fit for the most jaded palate. The fatty, smoky aroma of bacon permeates the air as the cod cooks, and whose nose can’t follow the smell of bacon to the kitchen? When everything is served, the classic white-on-white meal of cod and potatoes is nowhere to be seen. Instead, a rainbow of colors is splashed across the plate, with red tomatoes, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, green zucchini and herbs, and brown and pink bacon. Rounding out the bold and hearty flavors is a crisp, tangy, and fresh cucumber salad, standing in as the modest yet predictable anchor in this Scandinavian–yet decidedly original–meal.

Cucumber Salad with DillBacon-Wrapped Cod
This recipe–which would probably be better described as a technique–is adapted from The Scandinavian Kitchen by Camilla Plum, and is about as simple as you can get. Make it once and then file it away under ideas for what to make when a you’re a guest somewhere and can’t remember quantities–because you don’t need them!

Bacon, preferably uncured

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a baking dish and place the cod inside. Sprinkle a light touch of salt over the cod, and then drape strips of bacon crosswise, covering most of the cod. Bake until cod is cooked through and opaque and bacon is crispy, about 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

Herb-Roasted Vegetables
I have included quantities here, but please treat them loosely and trust your own flavor judgment.

3 bell peppers (1 each red, yellow, and orange)
6 small zucchinis
10 young carrots
4 medium tomatoes
8 cloves garlic, peeled
Large handful (about 1 cup) flat-leaf parsley (mostly leaves, upper parts of stems okay)
Leaves from 2-3 stems rosemary
Leaves from 2-4 stems thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Prep the vegetables: Cut bell peppers into thirds and remove the stem and seeds, then cut each segment in half again lengthwise so you have six segments per pepper. Remove the stem from the zucchinis, then cut each on a sharp diagonal into 1 1/2-inch slices. Peel the carrots. Cut the tomatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size.

Scatter the peppers and zucchinis on a baking pan. Steam the carrots until tender, about ten minutes. Set the tomatoes aside.

Make the marinade: Place garlic, parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt, and olive oil in a food processor and pulse until chopped and combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Roast vegetables: Add steamed carrots to the peppers and zucchini on the baking sheet, and toss with the marinade. Roast on the center oven rack for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add tomatoes and move the rack to the upper third of the oven and roast until the vegetables begin to caramelize in places, stirring gently so as not to break apart the tomatoes, about 15 minutes.

Scandinavian Cucumber Salad
Adapted from Scandinavian Feasts by Beatrice Ojakangas

2 large English cucumbers
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Dill sprigs, for garnish

Thinly slice the cucumbers using a mandoline and place into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour over the cucumbers and sprinkle with chopped dill. Cover and chill for at least three hours.

When ready to serve, stir the cucumber salad, drain the excess liquid, and garnish with sprigs of dill.

Serves 6.