yogurt and cucumber {much more than a} dip : mast-o-khiar

i was making mast-o-khiar (which literally translates to yogurt and cucumbers) last night when my daughter asked me what we were having for dinner. she reminded me that our french visiting student (who we are hosting for two weeks in our home) is arriving soon, and has clearly communicated her enthusiasm for eating real american food during her stay. i can tell this concerns my daughter as she watches me carefully peel and cube my persian cucumbers. i ask her what real american food means. she hesitates, looks at me for a few seconds and says: “you know, like burgers and fries, or maybe meatloaf”? meatloaf???? come to think of it, real american food is a combination of foods that have traveled here with people and cultures from all over the world. although the recipes have often been adapted and revised to accommodate their new environments, they have survived to make a new home for themselves and become a part of the american culinary experience. for most of us, true american food is what we eat every day-from the thai curries to the sushi, burgers and fries, and the very mast-o-khiar i am preparing-which is not just a dip, but a popular staple that is often served as a “condiment” alongside many dishes in iran. mast-o-khiar is very adaptable and easy to make as long as you have yogurt and cucumbers. the other ingredients are interchangeable based on your mood, the season, and what ingredients you have on hand. my husband  enjoys his with dry green raisins, but i prefer the small green grapes that are in season now. it is often topped with (soaked) walnuts, but luckily i had fresh pistachios (one of the best things you have ever tasted if you can find some-they are available in the fall in california), which  added an exceptionally fresh and delicious twist. one last note-in the summertime in iran, mast-o-khiar is often watered down (with ice cubes) to make a delicious cold soup that is called abdoogh-khiar (yogurt-drink cucumber), and served just before lunch to cool you off before you eat.

for 4 servings:

  • 2 cups greek yogurt (2%)
  • 1 cup (or about 5) persian cucumbers, cubed (peeled or not)
  • 1 small bunch fresh dill, finely minced
  • 1 small bunch tarragon leaves, finely minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced, or 5-6 scallions, finely sliced (my choice this time)
  • 1-2 tbs good quality dried mint (fresh is good too)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, finely cubed-not traditional-totally optional (my mom often adds tomatoes-but we are BIG tomato fans)

toppings:

  • dried rose petals (gol-e-mohammadi)
  • green raisins or small green grapes
  • fresh dill and/or tarragon
  • soaked walnuts 
  • pistachios
  • dried mint

preparation: this could not be any easier-add all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. taste for salt & pepper and adjust. top with your choice of toppings just before serving.

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