Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cucumbers Aren't Just For Pickling. Fast Salad For An End Of Summer Feast

  Cucumbers, poor poor cucumbers. If vegetables were going to Cinderella's ball, cucumbers and parsley would be the two ugly stepsisters. Cucumbers are always those things you push to the side of the plate with the other unwanted garnishes; the anemic tomato, the noodly carrot strip, the faded celery having a bad leaf day. And that's when they're rocking their pickles. Overly sweet or too to salty, mushy pickles. Poor, poor cucumbers. They're such a decent vegetable. They're the brown shoe'd squares of the food world. What's a cuke to do?
  Cukes, are in desperate need of a makeover. I'm not talking about going all Jersylicious on their ass. I'm just talking about a simple nip and tuck, a little subtle work. Trust me darlings, you can do this and still go out to lunch after. In fact you'll want to go and take your cukes with you.
   This is a very simple recipe that can be made ahead and is good to go where you want to take it, whether you're off to a barbecue or a picnic  or just staying home over the Labor Day Holiday. It's vegan and gluten free which has been fairly important around our house lately as I'm doing some cooking for friends dealing with some pretty stringent health related diet needs. So there's that. Plus cucumbers are in season, which means they're a bargain, (yes, I'm talking to you, cheapie) and the ingredients can easily be found in most markets...what's not to like. I mean, cucumbers have been in all over the planet for like a bazillion years. It's even been said by Pliny the Elder, and he should know being the Perez Hilton of the early AD set, that Emperor Tiberius always had them on his table summer and winter, and believe me this guy wasn't suckin' on pickles. He's a freakin' marble bust after all!
  Now, I don't know if Tiberius ever made it to India, (they did find a few of his coins there) but if he had cucumbers the way they fix them in South India, it's no wonder he didn't want to be without them. Here's what to do:

Cucumber Salad

The Salad
   Soak 2 Tbs of mung dal in 1 cup of water for 1 hour.
   Meanwhile peel and chop 1 lb of cucumbers. I like to use kirbys, the smaller pickling cucumbers for this recipe because of their firm texture and great flavor.
  Add in:
   4 Tbs grated dried coconut
1 fresh green chili seeded and chopped finely.
 1 small bunch of chopped cilantro leaves
 Salt to taste
 1 Tbs of fresh lemon juice
 Add in the drained, soaked mung dal.
 Mix everything together, it's time to blend:

The Chaunk
In a small skillet heat:
 2 Tsps of vegetable oil
When the oil is hot add in:
 1 tsp of mustard seeds
 1 tsp of cumin seeds
 1 tsp of Bengal dal (yellow split peas)
 1 tsp of urid dal (optional)
 1 dried red chili pepper broken in half
 A few curry leaves, usually found in Asian or Indian markets (if you can't find them don't worry there's no substitute)
 Stir everything around.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, pour everything into the cucumber salad and give it a good mix.
  Blend it well and serve. You are good to go. Serve it at room temperature or chilled.
 If Tiberius never had his cucumbers this way, it would have been worth his while to have gone over to India to try it out.
    Try cucumbers this way and trust me, you'll never look at pickles the same way again. Coming up next, great vegetables and gluten free treats. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


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