just-picked Middle Eastern cucumbers—small, crisp, and not seedy give the best crunch to this Lebanese summer salad. when a cup of yogurt might be refreshing, adding thinly sliced cucumbers, garlic mashed to a paste with salt, crushed dried spearmint, and a little lemon juice makes a superb complement to barbeques, spicy entrees, or simply makes a perfect light meal all on it's own.
this chilled summer salad, the Lebanese cousin of Greek tsatziki, or Indian raita, or Turkish cacik, or Persian mast o khair which is very similar to the Arabic and Lebanese name, laban ou khyar, which is what mama called it so that's it's name in Alice's Kitchen: Traditional Lebanese Cooking on page 66.
this cucumber variety is called "muncher", an American version of Persian cucumbers or the Mid-East Prolific variety which i usually grow. it's the first time i've grown munchers, and am quite pleased. the blossoms on the plant are huge—almost 3 inches wide! and the cucumbers shown here are only about 4 inches long, picked when they're small and crisp.
my dear friend josephine gave me some Lebanese cucumber seeds a year or two ago, and i managed to have one plant that survived the slugs that feasted on lots of the garden this damp and cold june. pictured here is a mix of Lebanese and "muncher" cucumbers.
i forgot to mention the laban ou khyar salata was on the menu last week with the shish kebabs, along with the green fresh garbanzo beans (hommus or homsi) served as an appetizer...part of the Lebanese or Middle Eastern mezza (hors d'oeuvres). these were a special treat that simply required putting them in a bowl! look how cute they are...sometimes with "two chick peas in a pod".
if you don't grown your own (and i didn't grow these, although many years back i tried...and the graceful leaves of the garbanzo bean plant are lovely), you might be lucky to find these at a farmer's market, or as i did in a local employee-owned grocery store with an international clientele. add them to the mezza or appetizers you're serving along with an empty bowl for the husks, olive seeds, and pistachio nut shells which are essential components of a mezza.