Persian yogurt and cucumber soup is my new favorite warm-weather soup. This cooling, refreshing soup makes a satisfying meal on a hot day. It’s the adornments that make this soup really special, and you can pick and choose what you’d like to add. Me, I choose all of them!
A little History on Monika’s Persian Immersion
(this section is long, but you can skip ahead)
Persian New Year
For you Quarantiners, you may know from my first post, the Good Ol’ Greyhound, that I am a bit obsessed, especially now, with all things Persian. (Check out that post for a rosewater addition to make The Persian Greyhound, a most delicious cocktail, I can attest!) It’s partially due to the fact that all my public library holds luckily arrived before the shut-down, an array of Persian-American authors with the most delightful fiction books, taking place both in Iran and the US. I immensely enjoyed all of those books (especially in my insomniac hours at 2 and 3 in the morning.) The beautiful prose in these books slowly dissolved my worries as they gently wove me into stories from far-away lands. Almost all of the books described the Nowruz holiday, or Persian New Year, delightfully coinciding with the first day of Spring. It involves throwing open the windows, washing the curtains, scrubbing your house from top-to-bottom, refreshing your wardrobe. It’s the ceremonial washing away of winter to welcome a brand-new Spring. I, too, in my copious spare time (ha ha) did some scrubbing, but mostly window-opening. Welcoming fresh air into my house in these stagnant times just feels good, even if it’s the cold Portland air. And then, a celebration follows, with friends and family (so just my daughter and I over here!) with delicious foods and new beginnings. I’ll take it.
For a list of the books I so enjoyed, you can hop to that original blog post. I’m thankful to Carole Wilson for her recommendation, The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan. Carole, I just love the beautiful writing and am ready for your next recommendation! (Fiction with any theme is fine, as long as it is a quality read.)
My Persian Connection
Fans of the Hipcooks Cookbook, Around the World in 12 Dinner Parties may remember my personal Persian ties: I’m a first-generation American with a dad from Argentina and a mom from Germany. The story divides and diversifies many times, one such is my Aunt Sigrun’s (one of my Mother’s 10 siblings) who fell in love in Germany with a young Iranian student, Hossayn Abkai. She moved with him to Tehran to begin a new life. They had 6 children — my Iranian cousins — 5 smiling girls and a boy with dark hair and bright green eyes. I’ll tell you their names because they are so beautiful: Maryam, Parwin, Fatimeh, Manijeh, Leyla, and Bahram.) I’ve met them in Germany and in the US. My cousins live in Germany now; Sigrun and Hossayn still live in Iran.
My Mother (2nd from left) with 4 of her siblings. Sigrun and Hossayn are in the center
All the Abkais are a delightful bunch: gregarious, warm, loving, kind, generous and so lively and spirited. I wish I could spend more time with them. I wish they were not so very far away. When I immerse myself in Persian food, books, or music, I feel like I nurture that connection, however tenuous. The more I learn, read, and taste, the more enamored I am with the rich history and culture that has shaped Iranians, particularly its emigrants, and the more connected I feel.
OK, Back to the Recipe!
If you joined us for last Saturday’s Hipcooks Instagram Livestream Happy hour Shakedown, the Cucumber Zinger Cocktail, you ended up with a delicious by-product: grated cucumber relieved of excess juices. Guess what, lucky Hipcooks? That byproduct is the base you need for this exotically delicious soup!
To the cucumber, you’ll mix in yogurt, cream, lemon, salt, and pepper. Then, adorn with raisins, sour cherries (I used goji berries!), dill, scallion, and chopped boiled eggs.
Reading the recipe is not enough, Hipcooks! Persian yogurt and cucumber soup must be made to understand
Sometimes, a recipe grabs you from the get-go: it has ingredients you love or a pretty picture that gets you salivating. I hope our pictures are pretty enough, but people, you have got to make this recipe! The grated cucumber gives a cool, crunchy texture, the yogurt and lemon are acidic, but the cream balances it all with a richness. With the garnish, it’s toe-tappingly good. You might even dance, or twirl — which is why I used my whirling dervish bowls to serve this delicious soup. Nooshe jân!
1½ English cucumber Grate the cucumber using a box grater, cheese-grater or Microplane. Squeeze all the excess juice from the cucumber. (Don't waste this liquid — add to lemon-water, a gin & tonic, or a Cucumber Zinger cocktail.) Stir the grated cucumber with the yogurt, cream, and lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste — use plenty of both! Garnish to your heart's content.
½ a container (16 ounces) plain, full-fat yogurt, or Greek yogurt is ideal, plain low-fat yogurt (Greek or otherwise) is a close second
½ cup heavy cream
juice of ½ a lemon
salt and fresh black pepper
Garnish: chopped dill and scallions, golden raisins, dried sour cherries (I used goji berries!), and chopped boiled egg
1½ English cucumber
Grate the cucumber using a box grater, cheese-grater or Microplane. Squeeze all the excess juice from the cucumber. (Don't waste this liquid — add to lemon-water, a gin & tonic, or a Cucumber Zinger cocktail.)
Stir the grated cucumber with the yogurt, cream, and lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste — use plenty of both! Garnish to your heart's content.