In honor of my 50th birthday, which was yesterday, I dedicate this posting to my mother, Helen Redman, who taught it to me and who doesn’t think of herself as a cook, but she did make this when I was growing up. She got the recipe from her dear friend Radka Donnell, may her memory be for a Blessing. Radka was Bulgarian and an extraordinary quilt and fiber artist. This portrait of her done by my mother is from when they were both young women.
This is the perfect soup for summer and it takes fifteen minutes to prepare but has to sit overnight or all day, so you can’t make it and then just eat it. I recommend preparing it early morning, if you want it for dinner or the night before. It is better two days out and not good after four days. It’s got a perfect window and within that window, there is absolutely NOTHING like it to cool you down and refresh your palette, and there is a super plus benefit of this being one of the easiest recipes in my repertoire, so even you can make this soup!
- two to three cucumbers, you can use a combination of Armenian, Mediterranean, English or just two or three thin green ones. DO NOT USE A FAT bitter cucumber for this recipe and don’t use lemon ones, either.
- a cup or so of walnuts, roasted right before you chop them up
- a large container of organic whole milk or low-fat plain yogurt, Greek or Bulgarian is best, but any good whole milk yogurt will do. (don’t ever use non-fat for this recipe, if you do, I’ll come haunt you in your sleep)
- fresh dill
- olive oil
- good salt and freshly ground black or white pepper
Dump the yogurt into a large glass, porcelain or stainless steel bowl (don’t use plastic for any of my recipes, EVER! Fill the container you just emptied with exactly as much water as there was yogurt previously, put the lid on the container and shake it up, dump half of it into the bowl, then shake again, get all the yogurt out of the container. Whisk this together by hand until it is all one consistency, you do not need to use an electric mixer, this takes less than a minute by hand. Pour in at least a tablespoon of really good olive oil, I sometimes do more. Add a pinch or two of good salt and some freshly ground pepper and whisk all of that together really well. Then add the peeled and chopped cucumbers.
Directions for proper way to cut the cucumbers: peel the cucumbers, don’t argue with me about this, this soup needs peeled cucumbers. Cut them into long quarters, so in halves lengthwise and then in half again and then slice them really thin. Taste the cucumber before you put it in the soup, if it is bitter, then don’t use that cucumber.
Next, chop up into small pieces, your 1/2-cup to one cup of walnuts, you decide how much walnuts you want, I LOVE the walnuts and so I use a full cup. I roast them whole in my cast iron pan and have them on hand all the time for snacking. Please don’t use old rancid walnuts. When you are cooking something fresh, use fresh ingredients for all the parts, so prepare ahead of time by buying fresh walnuts, or if you buy nuts and aren’t eating them regularly, keep them in your freezer, not in a cabinet in your kitchen.
Then add the freshly chopped up dill. If you cannot get fresh dill, buy some dried dill from the bulk bin at your local health food store, don’t use your old crusty dill that has been sitting in your spice cabinet for three years. I will rant for a minute about this. Most DRIED spices are only good for a limited time, I buy smaller amounts of them from my bulk bins and use them up and then get new ones. Also, if I travel or have friends traveling I ask them to pick me up spices from Morocco, Turkey, Spain or Israel, because they are frankly an order of magnitude stronger and better. Americans are generally way too moderate of palette where flavor, spices and all things food is concerned.
Add the nuts last, mix it all up with a large spoon then transfer this to pint size mason jars or whatever large GLASS containers you have with lids, DO NOT USE PLASTIC. You need to be able to shake or stir the soup once or twice before serving it, so don’t fill the containers up all the way.
Refrigerate for at least six to eight hours and stir, shake it up once or twice during that time. You will want to add salt individually to this soup when you serve it and not over salt it during the making of it. I always have a variety of salts on my table available for folks to dip into and add to their individual bowls.