Cucumbers in Labne with Chili-Sesame Dressing and Fried Shallots


Photo by Michael Piazza

Garlicky cucumbers swimming in thick yogurt with lemon and mint get a punch from warm chili oil spiked with crunchy toasted sesame seeds and crisp caramelized shallots—this is an easy and elegant dip for a hot summer night. Serve with plenty of soft pita bread wedges for scooping, layer it onto grilled toasts or serve under smoky grilled lamb chops.

Serves 6 as an appetizer

6 small thin-skinned cucumbers
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 shallot
½ cup neutral oil, like grape seed or safflower
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
½ cup sesame seeds
¼ cup minced fresh mint
1½ cups whole milk labne or Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon very green extra virgin olive oil, for serving
toasted pitas or naan bread, for serving

Using a mandoline, slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible, almost shaving them. Place the cucumbers in a colander in the sink, toss with the salt and squeeze them with your hands to remove excess liquid. Allow to drain in the sink while you make the dressing.

Slice the shallot very thinly and toss to separate into rings. In a small saucepan, combine the shallot and the oil and place over medium heat; cook until the shallots are deeply browned and caramelized (keep watch over the pot as they will go from perfect to burned in a matter of seconds!), about 10–12 minutes.

Remove the shallots and oil from the heat and stir in the chili flakes. In a small dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds, tossing them in the pan, until lightly browned and fragrant.

Remove from the heat and pour seeds on to a plate to cool slightly before adding them to the oil (otherwise they will hiss and pop).

Give the cucumbers one last firm squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible, then transfer them to a mixing bowl. Add the mint, yogurt, garlic and lemon juice. Add a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper, stir to combine and taste for seasoning; add more salt if needed.

Transfer the cucumber mixture to a wide shallow serving bowl. Dribble the sesame-chili-shallot oil over the top, swirling it into the yogurt, then drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with more cracked pepper and any leftover minced mint; serve with toasted pitas or naan bread.

This recipe appeared in the Summer 2019 issue as part of a larger story on Dips, Spreads and Sauces.