Cucumber salad with yogurt, mint & preserved lemon

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Summer vacation, 2015: lounging under a palm tree in Hawaii, sipping coconut-y cocktails. Summer vacation, 2016: sweating it out in Tangier, Morocco, navigating alleyways and battling salesmen in the souk. Don’t get me wrong- I love Morocco, and especially in the summer, when locals are out late, streets are packed with fresh fruit carts and there’s never a dull moment. Never.

But it is HOT in Africa in the summertime. The sun seems to be particularly strong and bright in this ancient North African city, hills are especially steep, and cultural standards had me wear pants-and-a-cardigan in shorts-and-a-tanktop kind of weather. When I returned home from my morning treks into the city, perusing rugs and visiting coffee shops, I wanted a cool shower and a long nap. But first, salad.

This is a simple salad, but don’t be deceived by the short ingredient list. Crunchy cucumber with creamy yogurt and a sweet-salty kick. It’s cool, tangy and satisfying, and would pair well with a spicy dish or fish entree. Or just eat it by the bowlful on a humid afternoon, when you can’t stand the idea of cooking or eating anything heavier than fruit and veggies.

* A note on preserved lemon: When I lived in Morocco, I became absolutely addicted to preserved lemon. I can eat it by the sliver, or chopped up into any salad to give it a sweet-salty kick reminiscent of warheads (remember those?). If you can find preserved lemon in a Middle Eastern grocer, do yourself a favor and buy a jar to make your salads just a little more exciting. You won’t regret it. If you can’t find them in the store, make them at home. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1/4 preserved lemon
  • handful mint
  • 1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 lime, juiced

How to:

  1. Peel the red onion and soak in a glass of water with vinegar. Let soak for a few minutes.
  2. In the meanwhile, prepare the dressing: Mix the yogurt with the teaspoon of mustard and lime juice. Finely chop the mint and stir into the yogurt. Set aside the yogurt mixture.
  3. Peel and slice the cucumber lengthwise. Scoop out the seedy interior and slice crosswise into half-moons.
  4. Dice the preserved lemon. Remove the onion from the water and vinegar and finely slice. Toss the cucumber with the preserved lemon and onion, and dollop the yogurt mixture on top.

 

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