Um, internet? I’m in Paris (!!!). I’m sitting in a café, and I can barely contain my excitement, despite my best efforts to do so, so that people don’t think I’m crazy, sitting as I am grinning at my cappuccino (which I’m sure they are aware is, of itself, nothing to smile about). I’m in Monmartre, the sky is blue, the buildings are beautiful, and when I manage to silence the giddy five-year-old inside me, I can hear birds chirping.
On the way here, I passed by shops selling olive oils from Provence, small antiques stores, and bakeries with lines spilling onto the sidewalk, each display more arresting than the next: jam jars beneath glass domes, pale purple gloves on long bronze fingers, meringues of the softest white piled high atop elegant pedestals. We were on our way to lunch, and were running late, made even more so by my stopping every few feet to take pictures. But before I deluge you with photos of intricate facades, and couples lingering in cafes at nightfall, and blooms tumbling from urns lifted by cherubs of stone, I want to make a last stop in Tel Aviv, where I enjoyed a salad so refreshing, so perfect for this intersection of warm weather and busy schedules, that it would be a crime not to share it with you, right now.
In Tel Aviv, I stayed in a loft with a wall of glass that stretched out tall and uninterrupted. The view was one-third cityscape, the ocean wrapped snugly around it, and two-thirds sky. Baby blues in the morning, pale pinks at sunset, glimmering lights strung across the city come evening: all of it a soft, warm, nursery dream. I gazed out at the summer sky, and I felt a fourth wall opening within me, as I allowed myself to be soothed by this midsummer lullaby, this ever-changing horizon of beauty.
On one of my ventures down into the streets of the city, I ate a salad so refreshing that I recreated it again and again in the days that followed. It’s almost deceiving in its simplicity: a tumble of simply seasoned vegetables are piled atop a soft pillow of labneh and drizzled generously with olive oil. But don’t let its simplicity mislead you: one bite into the salad- the vegetables fresh and juicy, the rich, tangy labneh softly caressing your tongue- and you’re in for a sensual celebration of summer. Served with warm focaccia, the salad becomes substantial and satisfying, as you tear pieces with which to scoop up the vegetables and dip into the cheese, until the salad is done, and you brush a few final morsels across the plate, sweeping up the last puddles of labneh pink with juices, until no trace is left but the scent of olive oil, of grilled bread, of firm tomatoes exploding with juice, lingering on your tongue like a final bouquet of summer.
Summer Vegetables with Labneh & Mint
Inspired by Bistro 1887
Begin by slicing a tomato into thick wedges, and a cucumber into long, elongated spears. Next, halve a few cherry tomatoes, and thinly slice a few radishes and a bit of red onion. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.
In a large, deep dish, place a few tablespoons of labneh,* spreading it out with the back of your spoon. Pile the vegetables on top of the labneh, drizzle with olive oil, and top with torn mint leaves. Serve with warm focaccia.