Cucumber Sesame Salsa

cucumber sesame salsa

The highlight of my day was hearing Francis Ford Coppola on KUOW this morning. I was stuck in the car for an hour and a half (long story--messed up my schedule) and decided a) I could be cranky and impatient or b) I could realize I'd been given some rare time alone and just relax into it.  I chose the latter, and split my time between prayer and public radio. Not too shabby.

He was engaging, sweet, and frank--the sort of person I'd love to spend a few hours and a few glasses of wine with. He's 70 and still constantly learning.  He said "I have no career, no future.  So now I can do what I really want to do. I'm like an old guy that golfs, except I make art films."  I love that.

This stayed with me all day--"You've got to stick your neck out in this life, otherwise you'll just do things the way everyone else has done them.  The things that get you fired now are the things that will earn you accolades later." I'm not risk-averse, but I could certainly take  more risks.  I took two today.  The first was some workplace coaching that I'm really proud of.  And the second (more pertinent) was to put sesame seeds in my salsa.  But I knew you wouldn't fire me for it.

Visiting Bellingham included a trip to Mediterranean Specialities, where they sell lots of delicious Lebanese foodstuffs, and I lounged around in my Mom's front yard reading Lebanese and Turkish cookbooks.  My mom is the sort of person who STUDIES UP on something like Lebanese cuisine, then makes a feast so mind-blowingly authentic people talk about it for years. I don't have the stamina or attention span for that.  Like I've said before, I am (regrettably) the sort of person who often prefers to know something rather than learn it.  

So I'm not making Lebanese feasts, but I did bring home a container of "Old World Lebanese Zaatar."  If you follow along with this blog, you may have to go find yourself some, because I am addicted.  It's gone into everything this week--hummus, on pita chips and sandwiches, and in this little salsa which I'm making for the second time this week.

There are lots of varieties of Zaatar, and it's used in Morocco, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, etc.  It's toasted sesame seeds with dried oregano, thyme and salt, and sometimes cumin, fennel, or coriander.  I generally don't think to combine oregano and sesame, which is what I love about exploring other traditions.  With all my cooking experience, there are still so many uncharted waters. Okay--I guess I do like to learn things as long as there's a snack at the end.  Not too different from a kindergartner in that respect.

salsa juice

The first night, we put it over our savory galettes.  Tonight, we took it on our picnic with zaatar pita chips.  When the pita chips were gone, Yancey ate it straight out of the bowl.  If nothing else, I have a feeling I'll still be taking risks in the kitchen at 70.  And 80.  And until I can't stand at the stove anymore.

Yancey and Loretta

Cucumber Sesame Salsa
If you can't find zaatar (and PFI would be where I'd start), you can make your own by toasting some sesame seeds, then tossing them with dried oregano and some salt.  To toast sesame seeds, throw them in a hot, dry skillet and stir them around until they're golden, 1 or 2 minutes.  Watch them carefully!  I used fresh basil and cilantro from my garden (sorry. rubbing it in), but you could use just cilantro, and mint would also be delicious.  You could also throw in garlic and/or red onion.  I liked the mild taste without them, though...the better to taste the zaatar.

I large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
3 roma tomatoes, finely diced
2 Tb. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tb. chopped fresh basil
2 green onions, finely sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
1 Tb. zaatar
juice of one lime (or more to taste)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Gently combine all ingredients in a bowl.

Zaatar Pita Chips
Heat oven to 350.  Take 3 or 4 stale pita breads, and cut them into triangles.  Toss with 1 Tb. olive oil and 2 ts. zaatar.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until golden and a mostly crunchy but with a little give still.