Cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup

cucumber soup 1.JPG

What makes a tradition a tradition? Does it have to be associated with a holiday or a particular culture? Does it have to be grounded in ritual or repeated in the same way, at the same time, over and over again? Maybe it can just be a regularly repeated practice that is inextricably bound up with memories and stories?

In considering what to cook this week to share with you all, I racked my brain for “traditional” recipes that my grandmothers made that seemed seasonal and suited for the giant heatwave that has overtaken New York City. Try as I might, however, I couldn’t think of much. In my family, neither set of grandparents cooked too much in the way of hot-weather food. My German grandmother’s limited summer repertoire included icebox cakes and German potato salad. My Hungarian grandmother made cold cherry soup, and beyond that, proceeded as she always did in the kitchen, with hot dinners of heavy traditional dishes without a crispy, crunchy vegetable in sight. Is this because really hot weather wasn’t a part of their lives in Europe? Or is it a facet of the times in which they grew up?

I realized that even though my grandparents seem to have been happy to continue to cook and eat heartier, winter-ier food throughout hot New York summers, those traditional recipes have only made their way into my cooking habits during cooler seasons. This fact got me thinking about what happens to a set of recipes or a traditional way of cooking when it gets displaced from its original context and usual climate. No longer grounded within their original culture, traditional recipes change, slowly but surely. Ingredients are substituted when the right ones can’t be found, or they are replaced with something new that’s deemed preferable. As time passes, new tastes are acquired and different ways of life impose new routines that necessitate changing how and when and where we cook.

chopped cucumbers

But, as far as I’m concerned, sometimes a family recipe doesn’t have to be a part of your cultural heritage to call it a family tradition. When it came to summer cooking in my childhood, many of the traditions I remember and plan to pass down were started by my mom, the original family foodie. On the first hot day of summer, when my appetite decreases, all I really want to eat is my mom’s cold cucumber soup, which was a summer staple when I was growing up.  It’s an easy to prepare, refreshing, and healthy family favorite, which my mom has been making for as long as I can remember. Where did she get the recipe? She can’t recall.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large onion, diced.

  • 1 long seedless English cucumber, chopped (about 3 cups)

  • 4 cups (1 32 oz box) chicken broth (vegetable broth would work just as well).

  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt

1.     In a large saucepan or pot, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat.

2.     Add the diced onion and sauté until it is soft and translucent.

3.     When the onion is soft, add the English cucumber and broth, and bring to a boil.

cucumbers and onions

4.     When the broth comes to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook 5-10 minutes.

5.     Allow mix to cool completely.

6.     When the mixture is cool, puree in a blender together with ¾ cup of yogurt. pulsing until smooth.

7.     Season to taste. Refrigerate.

8.     Serve well chilled with a side of good bread or some crostini.