Dinner usually does not feel right without a salad. Needless to say, I have shared more than a few favorites with you here and with spring and summer produce popping up at the grocery store and farmers’ market chances are good that in the coming months I will not lack inspiration to create new salads.
Rhubarb, asparagus and mangoes are already readily available but I still feel like the best is yet to come (produce and otherwise). I am still feeling a little out of sorts — what with the engagement, a busy week followed by a busy weekend, suitcases that still need to be unpacked (oh the shame!) and a few dust bunnies that need to find their way to the trashcan. Aside from buying milk for my coffee and cheddar and sliced sourdough for grilled cheese sandwiches I have not spent much time at the market this month. Late last week I had a few free minutes and I wandered around my local store searching the aisles for inspiration. Lo! and behold were a mountain of perfect cucumbers — just the right shade of green at just the right price. I bought three. Initially I planned to chop them into small pieces and toss with a thick dressing of yogurt, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper but that felt too predictable. Instead I turned to the Ottolenghi cookbook which had the most intriguing way to serve cucumbers — with a sweet and tangy dressing, spicy chilies and crunch little poppy seeds.
I ate half of this salad with dinner then ate the rest the next day as an afternoon snack. The overnight soak in the dressing softened the cucumbers somewhat — but they did not lose all of their crunch. The tang from the vinegar slightly mellowed and yielded to the sweetness in the dressing provided by the sugar, with each bite of the salad beginning to taste slight like a pickling brine — a delicious turn of events if that is your kind of thing.
cucumber and poppy seed salad
adapted from Ottolenghi
yields 4 servings
6 small or 2-3 large cucumbers
2 mild red chilies, thinly sliced
3T roughly chopped cilantro
2oz white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
4oz mild vegetable oil, like sunflower
2T poppy seeds
2T sugar (use finely granulated if you have it)
salt and pepper
Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice each half into half moons, on the diagonal if you are feeling fancy.
In a large bowl, mix together the cucumbers, chilies and cilantro. Whisk the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl to make the dressing. If you are using regular, granulated sugar, make sure to whisk long enough for the sugar to dissolve. Taste for seasonings and pour most of the dressing over the vegetables. Serve at room temperature.
If you are not serving this immediately, be sure to drain some of the liquid before serving.