I've become totally obsessed with cucumbers lately. I'm not sure why, but every summer I seem to get totally obsessed with one thing that is refreshing, easy, and does not require turning on the oven. It is as though being obsessed with one item takes away the work of coming up with what to eat when the heat makes you not hungry at all. Last year, I ate watermelon gazpacho every day. I totally got sick of it at the end of the summer, which will probably happen to cucumbers too. But for the time being, check it out!
Here is the first one I made. My goal here was to copy the sauce my sister made for the bacon wrapped asparagus. I also didn't bother peeling the cucumbers completely or scraping out the seeds, but I think after the cucumbers are in the fridge in a dressing even over night it makes it much less soggy to complete those two steps. So pretty much: cucumbers, ginger, jalapenos, sesame seeds, and a dressing of sesame oil, lime juice, rice vinegar, little bit of brown sugar, cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper. This one was really, really delicious. It tasted a lot like a cucumber salad we loved at Ala Shanghai (where we had to stop going because they fed a person deathly allergic to nuts peanut butter). I did wonder though whether the dressing really needed the brown sugar and whether it could get by with less oil. Thomas Keller always seems to point out that vinegar is a seasoning and if something actually tastes like vinegar you have failed to achieve a balanced dish. I mostly agree with that, except for maybe in the cases of cucumbers and three bean salad. Cucumbers that taste mostly of vinegar would be just fine with me.
The second one I tried was a bit of a variation on my sister's dressing, only tailored to my tastes. Here I did take the extra steps to peel the cucumbers and scrape out their seeds. I also added some chopped up red and yellow peppers. The dressing I went for something like this: cumin, turmeric, soy sauce, a lot of rice vinegar, a small amount of sesame oil, sesame seeds, salt and pepper and quite a bit of sriracha. This one was less greasy and sweet. I did like the way the first one was sweet, salty, tangy, and spicy all at the same time, but after a few bites it is a bit much. This one relied a bit more on the vinegar and hot sauce instead of the oil and sugar, and I liked the lightness of the flavor.
For this one I went in a slightly different direction. Again with the cucumbers, but I also added onions, sweet cherry peppers, and green and red bell peppers. For the dressing I went with a lot of dill, paprika, garlic, salt and pepper, a whole bunch of Marie Sharpe's hot sauce, white distilled vinegar and champagne vinegar. This is more like the cucumber summertime salad I remember as a kid - soaking in vinegar and dill. This one would be great with some pasta or even garbanzo beans added to it. Cucumber and dill are a classic combination, and I am sure this one is going to make a great lunch tomorrow!
Also, I have been crazy for making sourdough. I got a sourdough starter and this recipe from the proprietor of Burnt my Fingers blog at the From Scratch Club food swap last week. It is so fun, so delicious, and completely worth all of the effort. Also, it is an easy way to impress your friends. It looks like something you'd pay a fortune for at a fancy bakery. Check it out:
Looks like I am all set up for summer. Now I just have to decide what I am going to supply to the communal salad bar at my upcoming salad bar party I mentioned in this post. Cucumber salad anyone?