The temperature in SoCal has been hovering around 95º for a month. Suffice it to say, it’s salad weather. Both of these salads combine Persian cucumbers with summer fruit and salty cheese, with delicious results.
The first recipe comes from Kismet, a favorite Middle Eastern restaurant here in LA. Homemade labneh becomes a creamy base for cucumbers, quick-pickled cherries, and a dusting of Za’atar. You can make your own labneh very easily by draining Greek yogurt in the fridge for 1 day. Za’atar is a versatile spice mix made with thyme, sumac and sesame seeds. I love the elemental nature of this salad, and its clean, bright flavors.
The next salad pairs cool cucumbers and cantaloupe with salty feta and fiery Fresno chiles. It’s an interesting twist on the classic watermelon feta salad, and just as refreshing.
Cucumbers with Labneh, Pickled Cherries, and Za’atar
recipe slightly adapted from Kismet & NYTimes Food
for the cherries
1 cup sweet cherries, halved and pitted
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tblsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
for the Za’atar
1 tblsp toasted sesame seeds
1 1/2 tsp sumac
1 tsp dried thyme or oregano
1/4 tsp salt
2 tblsp dried rose petals, roughly ground (optional)
for the Labneh
1 cup plain Greek yogurt, drained for 24 hrs
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, pressed or grated on Microplane
1 tblsp lemon juice or rose water
1 tsp honey
for the cucumbers
5 Persian cucumbers, rinsed and cut in 1/2-inch slices
juice of 1 lemon
watercress, rinsed and dried well (optional)
1. 24 hours ahead: Drain the yogurt: Wrap it in cheesecloth and set it in a strainer over a medium bowl. Place in the fridge. Pickle the cherries: Place the cherries in a bowl and toss with the vinegar, sugar and salt. Cover and let sit in the fridge.
2. Make the Za’atar: combine all spices and sesame seeds. Make the labneh: place the thickened yogurt in a small bowl and combine with salt, pepper, lemon zest and juice, garlic, and honey. Make the cucumbers: Toss cucumbers (and watercress, if using) with lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
3. To assemble, cover the labneh with cucumbers and cherries, and sprinkle 1 tsp of za’atar on top. Serve immediately.
4 tblsp Champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
6 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/2 medium cantaloupe, rind and seeds removed, flesh cut into 1-inch cubes
1 English hothouse cucumber (or 4 Persian cucumbers), sliced 1/2 inch think
2 Fresno chiles, thinly sliced
1 shallot, sliced thin (let sit in red wine vinegar while you make the rest)
1/4 cup toasted pepitas or sunflower seeds
2 oz feta cheese, drained and cut in 1 inch cubes
sumac, for serving
1. Make the vinaigrette: In a large bowl, use a fork to whisk together vinegar, salt, pepper, coriander, and cardamom. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the chopped cilantro and mint.
2. Add cantaloupe, cucumber, and chiles and toss to coat. Let sit, uncovered 15 minutes.
3. To serve, add shallot, feta, and toasted seeds to the salad and toss gently. Plate and top with sumac.