For as long as I can remember, I've
So needless to say I was less than thrilled when I got the season's first cucumbers in my CSA basket. They paled in comparison to the rest of summer's bounty, playing second fiddle to more popular produce like summer squash, beets and my beloved kale. But they were a part of my share and would undoubtedly crop up again throughout the summer, so I'd have to find a way to make peace with cucumbers one way or another. I immediately considered dumping them in a gazpacho where I could mask their flavor somewhat with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. But that would be cheating, since I signed up for a CSA for (among other reasons, of course) the express purpose of learning how to face challenging ingredients head-on, and really make them shine. So after a few days of opening the fridge door and staring blankly inside, I decided to put some brain muscle into it and break down the advantages of cucumbers. What is the best thing about cucumbers?
What a dummy, pickles, of course! While making pickles would take some time and also mask their flavor, I remembered a recipe from one of my cookbooks for a quick pickled cucumber salad with a delicious soy sauce dressing. While I'd never made it myself, I knew that the quick pickle (letting the sliced cucumbers marinate with salt and sugar) would draw out the water and concentrate whatever flavor was in there. And the dressing sounded light, with a salty-sweet kick that I hoped would bring some kind of flavor out of the cucumber. And wouldn't you know it? It was super tasty! The cucumbers developed a lovely sweetness (albeit a subtle one) that paired really nicely with the dressing and the salt it absorbed. This salad would be a great cooling side to barbecue, maybe even a healthier replacement for coleslaw. And it's perfect for picnics if you take it nice and chilled. So even though I won't be eating cucumbers in my regular salad any time soon, this all-cucumber salad has definitely opened my mind up to new possibilities. Here's the recipe with a few tweaks from me.
Chilled Cucumber Salad
adapted from Kylie Kwong's Simple Chinese Cooking
5 small (or 3 medium) cucumbers, peeled
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp sea salt
pinch ground black pepper
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1/4 Tbsp finely diced ginger
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1. Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds using a spoon (skip if yours are young or seedless). Place cut side down on a chopping board and cut on the diagonal into 3/4 inch pieces. Place cucumber in a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and salt, then mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Whisk together the last four ingredients in a small bowl and set aside
3. Drain the cucumbers and, using your hands, gently squeeze away any excess liquid (discarding extra liquid). Combine the cucumber in a serving bowl with the dressing. Sprinkle with pepper and serve immediately.