A Summer Salad and a Cold Glass of Ayran
NPR had a feature yesterday on Soviet cuisine, highlighting the lighter side. As they explain here, some of those Russian dishes don’t necessarily come from Russia, itself. They describe a great light salad from Azerbaijan. With temperatures these days regularly over 100 F, we are all enjoying light foods and cool drinks. Here is both the description and the recipe:
Most Russian salads aren’t the lettuce-based affairs we think of. They’re more a collection of various summer vegetables, chunked up and tossed together. This particular version, adapted from Culinaria Russia, edited by Marion Trutter (H.F. Ullmann 2007) comes from Azerbaijan. In the early fall, you can garnish it with pomegranate seeds, but during summer it’s lovely as is.
Makes 4 to 6 servings, as a side dish
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 cucumber, peeled and diced small
- 3 sweet Italian peppers, diced small (substitute bell peppers if desired)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place the tomatoes, cucumber and peppers in a serving dish. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and scallions to form a dressing, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve.
It really is great in the summer. One of the reasons it’s so great is that the summertime in Azerbaijan is overflowing with fresh, delicious tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s standard to have tomatoes and cucumbers on the table year-round, but when they are in season in Azerbaijan, it’s unbeatable. Taking advantage of it and putting together a light salad for summer delight is perfect.
The other feature they have up there is okroshka. That Russian version is foreign to my palate, but around here, okroshka is one of my other favorite summer standards in Azerbaijan, known here in Lənkeran as Ayran. Ayran (eye-rahn) is fantastic. It’s a thin-yogurt drink, a little sour, a lot delicious. Served chilled, you can drink it plain, as described in this recipe by Sofya, or you can add some more goodness to it. Here in Lənkəran, the cold yogurt drink is mixed with finely chopped dill, mint, and cucumber, seasoned with a pinch of black pepper. Those combine with the slightly sour taste of the yogurt and to create a cold, refreshing drink for the hot summer days we are slogging through. This drink is not only popular here in Azerbaijan, but also in Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries. Nuş olsun!