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.

Approaching the end of summer

In normal years I imagine summer to be filled with gin and tonics on the front porch, fresh corn on the cob grilled in their husks alongside simply seasoned steaks, grilled sardines paired perfectly with a bottle of chilled rosé… the list goes on. If this were a normal year those items–and many more–would have been on my summer list. The problem with moving is that typical routines get shaken up and it can take a while for all the pieces to fall back into place. For example, this year’s summer list never got finalized, meaning that if something was to happen, it would in a spontaneous fashion. Though we didn’t manage to host our annual rib fest this year, and though we’ve yet to properly break in our new front porch, this has still been a special summer, and one we’re sure to remember for a long time. Here are some of the highlights.

Introducing my dad to the beauty of Walla Walla during a family wine-tasting weekend in June

A trip to Kauai, which served as a much-needed transition for my husband and me from the structure and demands of the academic year to a summer that ended up feeling even busier

The annual zucchini blossom and anchovy pizza, a re-creation of a pizza we ate at Forno in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori during our honeymoon

Many wonderful grilled meals, from salmon and vegetables on my parents’ deck overlooking Puget Sound to the most amazing tender and flavorful ribs perfected by my husband

Cheers! From a celebratory toast at the kitchen island in our new house…

…to the first pie rolled out and baked on that same island a few weeks later when we officially “broke in” our new kitchen

Watching my cat, Max, scared and traumatized by the move, adjust and become comfortable in his new home

An inaugural meal at our new dining room table, which was a gift from my in-laws

Those just scratch the surface of the memories created this summer. I’ll never forget my parents’ generous gift of time and work as they spent countless hours painting at our new house or the weekly dates my husband and I spent at our favorite French cafe in Seattle. The forecast suggests continued warm weather into late September, so hopefully there will still be opportunities for afternoon drinks on the front porch and maybe even some candlelit dinners outside. But regardless of what we manage to fit in during the next few weeks, it’s been a good summer. And autumn is always full of its own delights to anticipate.

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