Mar 10, 2012

Friday Night Suppers

Every Friday night for a couple of years, my in-laws would invite us over for supper.

Maybe it was strange for a young, just married couple to hang out with their parents on a big Friday night instead of partying the night away to celebrate surviving another week.  But there was good (free!) food and many laughs.  After supper, father-in-law would set to making the coffee.  Serving it up in mother-in-law's footed porcelain coffee mugs.  The ones with the painted birds and the fine, thin handles I always thought I would surely break.  It was the best coffee I've ever had.  And, I believe, ever will.  It was also some of the best times spent with my in-laws.  Sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and talking.  As is the Cajun way.

The meal was often BBQ.  Father-in-law was the grill master.  He'd grill chicken, green onion sausages, and/or smoke pork steaks to rival Dwight's--well known across Acadiana for their Sunday BBQ.  Mother-in-law always made BBQ beans, her potato salad (which was her mother's recipe), and cucumber salad.

I don't like cucumbers much.  And they don't like me back.  When the dish was passed, I served myself just enough to avoid suspicion.  Not so much that anyone would think the cucumbers were my favorite.

Because one thing about my mother-in-law.  She likes to please.  If she knows you like something, she'll make it for you every time she sees you.  Sometimes to the point that you never want to see it again.

So for years, I ate the cucumber salad to be polite.

And then there were no more Friday night BBQ dinners.  The cancer came.  Then experimental treatments.  Then a phone call I wasn't home for.  And a trip back home that no one wanted to take.

This spring will make 5 years.  Now when mother-in-law serves cucumber salad, I don't serve myself to be polite.

Instead, I swallow them slowly, bite after bite.
As if I can taste the past.
Savor it.
Eat it all over again.

The I Heart Cooking Clubs theme this week is "March Mezze Madness."  I chose Tessa Kiros'  Cucumber Meze from page 143 of Food From Many Greek Kitchens, first because it was an obviously easy choice for the theme.  Second because it just seemed right.

Kiros describes this dish as "extremely instant and extremely simple."  And it certainly is.  It reminded me very much of MIL's cucumber salad--the lemon juice providing the acidic tang instead of vinegar and a little mint thrown in with the salt & pepper.  I used fresh mint rather than dried because that's what I had.  I thought it added a nice, summery freshness (if that makes sense).  This is the perfect recipe for when summer gardens are overflowing with cucumbers and mint.

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Cucumber Meze 

from Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros

2 servings
1 peeled, sliced cucumber
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp dried mint (I used enough torn fresh mint leaves to look right)
salt and pepper
about 1 TBSP olive oil

Put the cucumbers and lemon juice into a bowl and crumble in the mint.  Add salt and pepper.  Drizzle the olive oil over just before serving.

Some lagniappe for you...Roast Lemon Potatoes, also from Food From many Greek Kitchens (page 241).  We ate the Cucumber Meze and Roast Lemon Potatoes as part of a Greek feast with Tessa Kiros' pita bread and Kebabs.  Here, it's a nod to my MIL serving her cucumber salad alongside potato salad all those Friday nights.

As much as I like lemon in savory dishes, I have to admit that I'm still taken aback at the thought of lemony potatoes.  Even though I've been eating a version of these potatoes for years and love them.  To me, it's just something that seems not quite right but so totally is.  Kiros describes these potatoes as soft and moist and they are...not the browned on the outside, creamy on the inside standard roasted potatoes.  These potatoes cook in a lemony sauce full of oregano and come out wonderfully flavored.

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Roast Lemon Potatoes 

from Food From Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros

6 servings
2 pounds, 10 ounces potatoes, peeled and rinsed
juice of 1 large lemon
6 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper
1 heaping tsp dried oregano
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350.  Halve the potatoes lengthwise then cut each half into 2-3 wedges.  Spread them in an 81/2 x 12" nonstick baking dish.  Splash the lemon juice and olive oil over them, and add salt and pepper generously.  Crush the oregano between your fingers, letting it fall over the potatoes.

Turn the potatoes to coat them with everything.  drizzle 2 cups of water down the sides of the dish and give it a shuffle.

Roast until the potatoes are tender and melting and a bit golden here and there with still a bit of sauce in the dish, about 1 1/2 hours, turning them and basting every 20 minutes.  Add more salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

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  1. Some dishes do bring back such memories don't they. I know what you meant about wanting to eat some but not wanting to look like you love it. I've been in a very similar situation.

  2. I was the same way with English peas when I was a tot and for some reason, it never occurred to me that my aunt would find them under the rim of my plate after I excused myself from the table.... today I love them and clean my plate...
    beautiful tribute, brought a tear to this country boy as food plays a so much important part of holding on to memories of our family and heritage...

  3. Your memories of the cucumber salad brought tears to my eyes, too. Everything looks delicious Michelle. Those roast lemon potatoes were so creamy. We loved them!

  4. Beautiful post Michelle--what good memories. I really liked both of these dishes too--such lemony goodness in them. ;-)

  5. Your story resonates. Being the only "kid" that stayed close to home, the weekly dinners at the folks fell to me. I think I laughed and enjoyed those dinners more than any I had growing up. It'll be 5 years this year for my dad as well... and I nearly break into tears every time I eat a red velvet cake (it was his absolute favorite).

    I'm loving the lemony, minty cucumbers... something fresh and renewing for the Spring!

  6. Such a touching post. Reminds us to slow down and appreciate the time spent with loved ones. Very special.

  7. Your post really brought tears to my eyes - how some foods bring back such strong and special memories. I'm yet to try this cucumber meze, but I also made the potatoes this week and totally loved them. Also made the pita bread after you raved about them a few weeks back - you were totally right about them!!

    Thanks for sharing this at Cookbook Sundays.


  8. Your story brings me to tears. I've (unfortunetely) never met my mother-in-law because of cancer...
    Loved the cucumber an the roasted potatoes look lovely!

  9. That cucumber salad looks srumptious!

  10. That cucumber salad looks srumptious!

  11. good information ... I have read and will be added to my personal knowledge... thanks

  12. The cucumbers look fantastic. I loved your post. Great job!

  13. Thanks for linking up to Show Your Stuff!

  14. Love your cucumber story. Thanks for linking with Simply Delish.

  15. Anonymous3/17/2012

    The recipe is lovely, but the story made me want to cry. I am sorry for your loss.

    Thanks for linking up to Friday Food at

  16. I have such fond memories of dinners at my in-laws. My husband and his sister never understood why my m-i-l always made my favorites and not theirs. The secret was that I always expressed my appreciation and showed my enjoyment and they just took it for granted because they grew up with her good cooking, :)

    Your recipes remind me of my m-i-l's recipes. She taught me how to season veggies. I've pinned your recipes for my garden harvest.

  17. What a lovely post. It brought tears to my eyes. It is wonderful that you had those great Friday nights with your in-laws, and have all those memories.

    I like this recipe. My Mom used to do a cucumber salad with vinegar which I loved, but I really, really like the idea of the lemon and mint. It's perfect for this time of year as the weather becomes more spring-like!

  18. My daughter would love those cucumbers!! Great memories, Michelle. Thanks for sharing on Simple Supper Tuesday.


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