Amelia Saltsman’s Chilled Spinach and Cucumber Soup and Courgette Latkes with Labneh, Sumac, and Thyme

Chilled Spinach and Cucumber Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Dairy

Ingredients

1 pound spinach (or 1 ½ pounds if it has long stems with roots attached)

1½ pounds (680 g) cucumbers, preferably Persian (about 6 cucumbers)

2 small cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

Kosher or sea salt

3 cups (735 g) whole-milk or low-fat plain yogurt

¹⁄3 to ½ cup (75 to 120 ml) cold water

1 to 2 lemons

2 teaspoons ground sumac

¼ teaspoon finishing salt, such as fleur de sel

Walnut oil for finishing

½ cup (25 g) snipped fresh chives or garlic chives, or a mix

½ cup (65 g) toasted (see page 17) and chopped walnuts

Method

Stem spinach as needed. Wilt spinach in boiling water, about 60 seconds. Drain and shock with ice to stop the cooking process and preserve color. Squeeze in towels to remove moisture.

Peel the cucumbers, halve lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with a small spoon. Cut the cucumbers crosswise into chunks.

Fit a food processor with a metal S blade. With the motor running, drop in the garlic cloves to mince. Add spinach, cucumbers, dill, and 1 teaspoon salt and process to a rough puree. Add the yogurt and process to a smooth, light green puree flecked with herbs.

Scrape the mixture into a large bowl or pitcher. Stir in enough cold water to thin the soup to the consistency of light cream. Add juice of 1 lemon. Taste, then add kosher salt and/or additional lemon juice as needed for a tasty, refreshing flavor balance. Cover and chill thoroughly. (The soup can be made to this point up to a day ahead and refrigerated.)

In a small bowl, stir together the sumac and finishing salt. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with kosher salt. Pour the soup into individual bowls and top each serving with a drizzle of walnut oil and about 1 tablespoon each of the chives and walnuts. Sprinkle a good pinch of the sumac salt over each serving.

Cook’s Tip: To turn this into a lovely summer luncheon or supper main dish, stir in 2 cups (340 g) cooked buckwheat groats—kasha—into the soup. Top as above, adding ½ chopped hardboiled egg to each serving. Serve with a side of cold boiled potatoes.

Adapted from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition by Amelia Saltsman (2015, Sterling Epicure).

Courgette Latkes with Labneh, Sumac, and Thyme

Makes about 30 latkes, 8 servings

Dairy

2 pounds (900 g) green or white (Lebanese) courgettes

2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

½ onion

1 large clove garlic

6 tablespoons (47 g) unbleached all-purpose flour or (55 g) potato starch

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, plus more for finishing

3 teaspoons ground sumac

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Mild oil with a medium-high smoke point, such as grapeseed or safflower

1 teaspoon finishing salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt

1 cup (225 g) labneh, homemade or store-bought

 

Using large holes of a box grater or a food processor fitted with the grating disk, grate the courgettes. Place in a colander set over a bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to drain. In batches, place the courgettes in a dish towel and wring dry to remove all liquid. (This step can be done up to 1 day ahead and then the courgettes can be covered and refrigerated.) Grate the onion on the large holes of the box grater and mince the garlic, or push the onion and garlic clove through the feed tube of the processor to grate.

In a large bowl, toss together the courgettes, onion, garlic, flour, thyme, 2 teaspoons of the sumac, and the remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir in the eggs. The batter can be made up to 1 hour ahead and held at room temperature.

Line 2 or 3 sheet pans with paper towels. Place the prepared pans, the latke batter, a large spoon, and a spatula near the stove. Heat 1 or 2 large skillets over medium heat. Generously film the skillet(s) with oil (not more than ¼ inch/6 mm deep). When the oil is shimmering (a tiny bit of batter dropped into it should sizzle on contact), start spooning in the latke batter, making sure to add both solids and liquid. Flatten each spoonful with the back of the spoon into a circle 3 inches (7.5 cm) in diameter. Do not crowd the latkes in the pan(s). You’ll get 4 or 5 pancakes in a 12-inch (30.5-cm) skillet.

Cook the latkes, flipping them once, until golden on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes total. Transfer the latkes to a prepared sheet pan. Cook the remaining batter in the same way, stirring the batter before adding more to the pan. Add more oil to the pan as needed to prevent sticking, and from time to time, remove and discard any little brown bits that accumulate in the pan as you cook.

In a small bowl, stir together the finishing salt and the remaining 1 teaspoon sumac. Serve the latkes hot, each one topped with a dollop of labneh and sprinkled with the salt-sumac mixture and thyme.

Adapted from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition by Amelia Saltsman (2015, Sterling Epicure).

Labneh

Makes 2 cups (450 g)

Dairy

2 pounds (900 g) plain yogurt

½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Stir together the yogurt and salt. Line a fine-mesh sieve with several layers of cheesecloth (or 1 layer of kitchen muslin) large enough so that the ends overhang the sieve. Rest the sieve over a bowl. Spoon the yogurt into the sieve, then cover with the ends of the cheesecloth. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

Scrape labneh into a bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Discard they whey or refrigerate it and use to thin and add tartness to soups.

Adapted from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Tradition by Amelia Saltsman (2015, Sterling Epicure).