Cucumber salad.

I always worry that one day you’re going to realize that we drink an almost unacceptable amount of wine, more than we need to, and that your response is not going to be “I should come over!” See above for exhibit A, and the equivalent of four bottles for four people. Summer is for laughter and sharing.

To be fair, there was enough food for eight people, and once I got going on a simple meal of fried chicken and cucumber salad, the menu somehow spiralled until it included candied sweet potato and apples, whole-wheat baking powder biscuits, peas in butter with scallions, and macaroni and cheese with chipotles for Jaz, Tracy’s boyfriend, who is a vegetarian. Somehow, it all got eaten. The night ended earlier than usual because we all needed to head to our respective beds to sleep it all off.

This is the point at which I want you to think you’re invited over, because you are. Anytime, so long as you’re not planning an intervention. Wear elastic-waist pants. If you think of it, try to call the night before.

We almost never issue invitations, because there are always friends passing through, either to play games or watch games on TV, or to share wine and gossip, or to catch up because somehow we all got very busy and the constant togetherness sort of died off. The latter has been the case with Tracy, who runs a fantastic arts and lit magazine and works four-thousand jobs and still finds time to win awards and go to Toronto and get into grad school to study publishing, and I have got to stop whining about being tired from my one job and my no other things. Tracy has been away and returned, and the night before she came over, she sent me a message to indicate that it’s been too long/forever, and let’s eat.

So we did.

A lot.

And I didn’t realize it, but I make a lot of cucumber salad come summer. It goes with everything – fried chicken and biscuits, with spicy Indian food, with delicate pieces of fish or with big hunks of grilled meat. It’s the easiest thing in the world, and I have been eating it at summer meals since I was approximately an infant. Here’s my spin on it, which you can easily adapt to your own summer table.

Cucumber salad

  • 1 long English cucumber, sliced into very thin rounds
  • 1 small onion, sliced paper-thin
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped herbs (your choice, and depending completely on what you want to serve – I like parsley, mint, dill, or cilantro)
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • Pepper, to taste

Place cucumber and onion slices in a large bowl, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat. Cover, and place in the refrigerator for two hours.

Drain liquid from veggies, and toss with yogurt, lime juice and zest, and pepper.

Serve immediately, garnished with more chopped herbs. I also like a sprinkle of paprika, sometimes, or a little bit of ground coriander.

See? So easy. So cooling, and so practical. So totally enough for way more than four people.

We’ll be back to much smaller dinners tomorrow, and a weeknight’s ration of wine. Both dinner and wine will be more than enough for more of us if you think you’ll feel like stopping by.

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9 thoughts on “Cucumber salad.

  1. Ohhh true love. We eat a lot of cucumber salads, too. In Peru, we just salted the cucumbers and drained them, because they were fresh from the field and so refreshing. But I grew up with them either as you show them there (vinegar rather than lime, but y’know, I like limes), or straight up pickled with red onions and apple cider vinegar.

    My latest obsession is cucumbers, salted, drained and then pickled in rice wine vinegar with sugar, grated ginger, and red pepper flakes. It is SUCH a perfect salad. Yum.

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    1. I want so much to be a part of salted, fresh-from-the-field Peruvian cucumbers right now … it has rained here for days and a little South America would be pretty fantastic right now!

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  2. They don’t do frozen or canned produce there, so everything was from scratch. I was doing a study on social interactions in the marketplaces, so had full reign to wander around the markets and traveling market fairs every day — in fact, the duty to do that! Asking questions, taking notes, making friends, buying things. I don’t like tropical fruit, but the veggies were so fresh sometimes they still contained the field heat. The best thing was fresh shelling peas, right from the field. We devised a recipe using spectacular local produce — field peas sauteed in a sauce of caramelized sweet red onions, fresh tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, and ginger, to be served over rice. I still make it back home, but it’s just not the same. Boo hoo.

    Em, if you want a relatively authentic taste of Peruvian tropical cooking and can get your hand on key limes and mild red onion, do this: cut your small red onion in half, then cut each half into paper-thin vertical slices. Rub in some salt — it makes them mild and pleasingly changes the texture — and then squeeze over some key lime juice (other limes will work, but key limes taste authentic). Some people add a smidge of finely minced hot pepper and/or cilantro (and some add oil, but I don’t like it in this.) Serve with any meat and starch that needs perking up. It’s called Zarsa Criolla and it’s wonderful. (I have seen friends drink the bowlful of salty oniony lime juice after barbecues — but don’t, it’s too much salt.)

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  3. I am going to have to remember the name of the key lime/onion salad. That sounds exactly like what I’ve been craving lately, and so easy!

    You know, I would totally buy a book on all the stuff you mentioned you researched. Please write it?

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  4. Eek! I should, before I forget it entirely — because after my preliminary fieldwork, I left the graduate program and am never writing my dissertation. Travelogue, here I come!

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