Cucumber Soup with Mint

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A while ago I was at the New York Vegetarian Festival. It takes place once a year and the objective is for branded vegetarian food items to get showcased. So you can find anything and everything related to vegetarian cooking. It was at that expo where I discovered the VITAMIX. That machine can do it all. It makes smoothies, soups, ice cream, nut butters…. you name it. I was sold.

Since then, every opportunity I get to pulverize down the proliferation from my CSA, I pull out my Vitamix and hit, pulse. One week this passed summer, I received 6 giant cucumbers. (Sorry for the late post, just found these photos in my camera) While cucumbers are a welcome respite from the hot summer months, it was just too much of a good thing. That’s when I decided to stir up this cucumber mint soup. I grow mint in my garden and use it regularly when I want to freshen up a dish and it especially pairs nicely with yogurt. What I love about this soup is its simplicity and yet its layers. The ginger and cumin seeds form the undertone in the soup, with just the right amount of bite, while the yogurt cools you down with its creamy tang. As in all soups, it’s best slurped the day after, when the flavors have had a chance to marry.

From the Silk Road, I present this chilled cucumber mint soup.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seeds
3/4 cup scallions (green onions), finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
4 medium sized cucumbers
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Freshly grounded black pepper, to garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the cumin seeds and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the scallions and grated ginger and saute for about 5 minutes or until the scallions have turned a dark green color and wilted.
  2. In a blender, like a Vitamix, combine the cucumbers, yogurt, fresh mint and salt. Slowly stir in the scallion mixture and blend until smooth.
  3. Chill the mixture for a least 2 hours in the fridge and serve with freshly ground black pepper and a few sprigs of mint.

Grilled Zucchini with Yoghurt Cumin-Lemon Sauce

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When you belong to a CSA, especially in the Northeast, at some point the CSA goes into overdrive with certain vegetables. In other words… it’s too much of a good thing.

In the beginning of the season, we get so much lettuce that I am thinking to get a rabbit to consume all these leafy greens. Then the next bout of vegetables that come in plentifully are zucchinis. It’s not like we get 2 or three zucchinis, we get 6 HUGE zucchinis at a time. This is the time you may want to fire up the grill and char those greens. That is the simplest thing to do, and when you combine it with a super uber cooling cumin yoghurt sauce, you’ll consume those green squashes in just one sitting. Zucchini has a tendency to be all water. So when you grill it, it shrinks. This is the case where size means nothing. So bring it on zukes and enjoy this deceptively easy dish that speaks volumes in flavor.

Grilled Zucchini with Yogurt Lemon-Cumin Sauce

Serves about 6

Ingredients

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon tahini
2 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove finely minced
About 6 (each) zucchini, sliced lengthwise
4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided)
Sea salt, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
¼ cup chopped mint

Directions

  1. Mix together the first 5 ingredients along with a pinch of salt and 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil. Set aside while making the vegetables.
  2. Heat broiler. Arrange vegetables in a single layer, cut side up on two baking sheets. Brush on both sides with 2 tablespoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil until deep golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. OR arrange coated vegetables on grill rack (over medium-high heat); grill vegetables 8 minutes or until just tender, turning once. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  4. Place vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with chopped mint and dollop of sauce on top.

Rice & Kale with Yoghurt Za’atar

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I have been avoiding writing on my blog lately. I just did not know how to start again….
My father passed away on August 9th, while I was in London. I flew to Israel to bury him, and met with the remainder of my family as we sat shiva there for seven days. I felt whirl-winded to say the least.
A very sullen feeling came over me.
My father was the ultimate trooper and was an eternal optimist. I could hear his words in my ear, lingering… “Dahling, carry on with your life” AKA as darling, carry on with your life. Imagine that in an Afghan/Indian accent.
I am doing exactly that, and exactly what he showed me and how he lived. Nothing lasts forever, but cherish what you have and live to the fullest. He did just that.

The gift, and there are many, is that my family and my father’s family from Italy and Asia were all in Israel, coincidentally. We could share in stories of my father. He was a one of a kind – gentleman, leader, mediator, and always opened up his pocket and business to help anyone in need.

Now that I have left my father in his final resting place in Israel, there is a craving for Israel.
Interestingly, my son, who flew in from Thailand to be at the burial in Israel has decided to move to Israel for now. My niece and nephew who flew in from Miami for the burial wished they could study in Israel. I like to think that the grandkids are clinging onto my dad – his essence– but I know that I have his essence where ever I am.

While I am still in full CSA season mode, I received a bunch of kale. To bring some Mediterranean influence into a well known European vegetable, and a little feeling of my father in Israel into my food , I decided to use some za’atar and greek yoghurt for this Rice and Kale bowl. Love the hearty crunch from the kale, that almost has a charred feeling to it and pairs perfectly with the yoghurt, capers and za’atar.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

olive oil
1 bunch of kale, destemmed and chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice or any grain you prefer

To serve:

capers, rinsed, dried, and pan-fried until blistered in olive oil
sunny side-up egg
dollop of salted greek yogurt
drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil
za’atar, to taste
toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the kale and a couple pinches of salt. Saute until the kale softens a bit and darkens.
  2. Stir in the cooked rice, and cook until the rice is hot. If your rice is on the dry side, you might have to add some water.
  3. Serve the kale rice topped with (preferably) all of the following: the capers, egg, yogurt drizzled with olive oil, and plenty of za’atar.

 

Dovgha ~ Azerbaijani Yogurt Soup with Rice, Spinach, and Mixed Herbs)

Dovgha  ~ Azerbaijani Yogurt Soup with Rice, Spinach, and Mixed Herbs
This is a yogurt cream soup has its origins from Azerbaijan- a Turkic state that is right in the middle of the Silk Road. Russia to the north, Georgia (the country, not the state) to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.
Finely chopped Scallions and Coarsely Chopped Spinach
Azerbaijan’s climate contributes to the fertility of the land, which in its turn results in the richness of the country’s cuisine. It is famous for an abundance of vegetables and greens used seasonally in the dishes. Fresh herbs, including mint, coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leek, chive, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress are very popular and often accompany main dishes.
Yoghurt, Rice flour, olive oil and salt
The main course of Azerbaijani cuisine are over 30 kinds of soups, including those prepared from plain yoghurt. This is my favorite soup now and so fulfilling. It’s made of yogurt mixed with water, rice, and as many green herbs that you can get your hands on. It can be served hot or cold depending on the season. I love it either way.
Whisk the Yogurt into the pot so that it does not clump
DOVGHA
(Tangy Azerbaijani Yogurt Soup with Rice, Spinach, and Mixed Herbs)

 

Yields 6 servings
Ingredients
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup brown basmati rice
2 cups plain, whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons brown rice flour
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons Sea Salt
3 loosely packed cups coarsely chopped spinach
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce) can cooked chickpeas* *
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley leaves
Directions
  1. Bring broth or water to a boil with the rice in a large soup pot over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a medium heat, and gently boil, covered, for 20 minutes.
  2. Combine yogurt with flour, olive oil, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Very slowly pour the yogurt mixture, a little at a time, into the pot while vigorously whisking with the other hand to prevent curdling. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to a medium-low heat and gently boil for 10 minutes for yogurt to thicken slightly.
  3. Mix in the spinach leaves, scallions, and cooked chickpeas and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, uncovered. Add mint, dill, and cilantro (or parsley) leaves, and cook an additional 10 minutes, uncovered.
  4. Serve hot or warm garnished with extra chopped herbs and/or scallions.
* * To Prepare chickpeas: ¾ cup dried chickpeas; soaked overnight, drained and rinsed and boil for an hour. Remove outer layer; once cooled.