Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cool Neutrality


A cucumber is “about as close to neutrality as a vegetable can get without ceasing to exist.”...or at least that is what food historian Waverley Root believed. That neutrality is what makes a cucumber perfect for a summer salad... That and the fact that they really are as cool as a cucumber... A cut cucumber feels chilly to the touch and that makes them so refreshing!
Cucumbers not only make a great addition to a Summer meal they are also used in many home beauty treatments. When imagining a relaxing spa weekend who doesn't picture themselves dripping with mud with a cucumber slice over each eye?
I didn't plant cucumbers in my garden this year... but I plan to next year. According to the book Keep the Buttered Side Up "cucumbers are said to grow best if planted by a virile young man, preferably naked." Hmmmm think about that next time you are munching on cucumber sandwiches at some boring ladies function...

Basic Cucumber Salad

This is a great basic salad. You can use different types of oils or vinegars to change the flavor. You can even use lemon juice in place of the vinegar. Add slices of hot chilies or a dab of chili paste for an interesting contrast.

2 small cukes, sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced thin
1/2 C. white vinegar
1 T. oil (olive)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder (or just a clove or two of minced fresh stuff)
1/2 T. sugar

Mix all ingredients and marinate for at least 30 minutes. Chill and serve.

Korean-Style Cucumber Salad

The combination of cucumbers and sesame in this recipe is truly exceptional. It is a great salad on a hot day because it is wonderfully refreshing.

3 pounds cucumbers, peeled
1 medium sized onion
1 T. salt
3 1/2 T. lemon juice
1/4-1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. roasted sesame seeds
1 1/2 T. sesame oil

Cut the cucumber and onion into very fine slices. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for an hour. Drain all accumulated juice and discard. Add the lemon juice, cayenne pepper and sesame seeds & oil. Mix well.

Mint and Cucumber Salad

I adapted a raita recipe to make this cool and wonderful salad. This is a great accompaniment to vegetable biryani or any Indian food meal.

1-2 peeled and sliced cucumbers
1 large tomato chopped
2 scallions chopped (both white and green parts)
1 T. minced ginger
large handful fresh mint leaves, chopped
salt to taste
1/4-1/2 C. yogurt

Mix all ingredients and garnish with mint leaves

Raita

This is a must for any Indian dinner. For a thinner consistency you might want to process it in a blender or food processor. You can also garnish this with a sprinkle of garam masala. Raita is an excellent dip for bread and vegetables. You can also use it as a salad dressing or a condiment for any Indian meal. Lightly fried or toasted cumin and/or mustard seeds also make an delicious addition.

1 cucumber peeled and grated
2 C. yogurt
1 t. salt
pepper to taste
1/4 t ground coriander
1/4 t. ground cumin
cilantro for garnish.

Mix all and Serve in bowl garnished with coriander. Serve as a dip for naan or as a side salad.

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