Easy Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 cucumbers
  • 1/2 or 1 whole white or sweet onion
  • 1.5 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill (or more, to taste)
  • kosher salt

1. Prep the cucumbers and onion: Wash and peel the cucumbers (I like to be lazy and leave strips of cucumber skin, also because I think it’s prettier at the end). Slice thinly, using a mandolin if you want to be a perfectionist about it (just watch your fingers!). Ditto the onion. Set the cucumbers and onion in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt, toss, add more salt, toss, etc. Put the colander in a bowl and set that in the fridge for about an hour to take some of the water out of the cucumbers and reduce the bite of the onion.

Wait one hour.

2. Prep the pickling. In a pot on the stove, combine the white vinegar, water, and sugar. Bring to a bowl and stir to ensure all the sugar has dissolved. Dump the cucumber and onions into a pyrex bowl (or similar — I like to discard the cucumber water run off and just use that same bowl for this next step) and pour the boiling pickling mixture on top of it. Add dill and stir to combine.

3. Let sit at least 3 (and up to 24 hours). Serve.

In summary: Easy, plus very refreshing and light — a nice thing to bring to a potluck or party where there will be a lot of heavy food. Theoretically you could even quarter the cucumber slices to make it even easier to eat, but that doesn’t bother me!

Advertisements

Thanksgiving Leftovers Salad

I couldn’t eat another plate of leftovers, but when I transformed the leftovers into a salad, I suddenly had my appetite back. Mixed one of my standard salad dressing bases of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt & pepper with a hefty dose of cranberry sauce. (If I hadn’t been lazy/anti-making more dishes, I would’ve added garlic, too.)

Then added several generous handfuls of arugula, topped with shredded turkey meat and some delicious stuffing (heated up first). Made for a fantastic salad! I served it to myself with a glass of apple cider mixed with seltzer.
Yum!

Salad Dressing Secrets

A friend of mine asked me for my salad dressing recipe recently.  The truth is, there isn’t one. I’ve never once thought about tablespoons or teaspoons when making salad dressing—I just add the ingredients, taste, adjust, and eat.

If pasta sauce is the hand-me-down of Italian families, then salad dressing is the hand-me-down in mine. I watched my parents make salad dressing hundreds of times over the years, and then at some point, I started helping and learning.

It goes something like this:

  • good (or at least decent) quality olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice (must be fresh! bottled is decent but nowhere near as good.)
  • freshly pressed garlic (DO NOT USE THE STUFF THAT COMES FROM A JAR)
  • salt (we prefer kosher)
  • freshly ground pepper

Those are the basics. The ratio of olive oil to lemon juice is about 2:1. We use a minimum of 2 garlic cloves in each batch.

Variations include:

  • Balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice. To this I’ll often add some Dijon mustard and honey. Then extra pepper. I love pepper! This variation is dark and savory. Yummy in the winter.
  • Rice vinegar instead of lemon juice. Add in soy sauce, reduce salt, and add some sesame oil for an Asian vinaigrette. You could even add some peanut butter or peanut oil instead of some of the olive oil.

My parents tend to be purists and just go with the original recipe, except they also have a little herb pot, so we often throw in a few sprigs of fresh thyme. To me, this is the taste of a delicious spring salad, usually arugula with shaved Parmesan and some fresh blueberries. Bright and delicious.

(And to all you garlic-phobics out there: Stop it right now. Garlic is amazing. Stop trying to resist and just accept it.)

Farmer’s Market Bounty Hunter

This past weekend, I was driving East on the Mass Pike when I spotted one of those signs for a farmer’s market at the rest area.

“Damn,” I thought, “it’s after 5:30, they’ll be closed!” But I decided just driving through the rest area couldn’t hurt.

Thank goodness I did! Though they were packing up, the farmer’s market still had lots of produce. I bought a quart of blueberries, about a pound of green beans, an eggplant, an Asian eggplant, a bunch of beets, a bunch of carrots, and a cucumber. The total was $14.10. Such a bargin for so much organic produce! I was so overjoyed with the fact that I’d made it in time, I gave the farmer $15 and told her I didn’t need change. She looked surprised, then grateful. (And then she told me to take another cucumber!)

We devoured the blueberries en route. I thought we’d munch on the green beans, but I never want them quite as much as I think I do. I think I confuse them in my head with snap and snow peas. I’ll make those with garlic and lemon sometime this week. The beets and carrots will get shredded and make a nice salad.

Tonight, though, I tackled the eggplants and the cucumbers: I sliced the cucumbers, salted and peppered them, and tossed them in some vinegar and olive oil with some freeze dried dill.

And then, whoops, I ate them all. SO TASTY!

For the eggplant, I braved the summer heat and warmed up the oven. I sliced them up, laid them on a cookie sheet, coated them in olive oil, sprinkled on kosher salt, pepper, and dried rosemary.

(Now, in retrospect, I can see that I need a pastry brush, since I definitely used too much olive oil. But if there’s one thing I hate, it’s chewy eggplant, so I erred on the side of caution.)

I stuck the eggplant in the oven on the top rack uncovered at about 350ish (my oven is old and I don’t think that it gets up to its temperature sometimes), waited about 10 minutes until everything was crispy and delicious. Then I put them in a bowl, got a fork, and devoured them all. The regular eggplant got softer than the Asian eggplant, but really, they were all SO TASTY!

(Now, in retrospect, I really should have blotted them with a paper towel. But man, they were so perfectly charred and the greatest combination of crispy and velvety that I couldn’t resist. But really, could they have been any worse for me than fries? I doubt it. Somehow organic eggplant plus olive oil can’t be as bad as partially hydrogenated oil-coated potatoes.)

Plus, while the eggplant was cooking and while I prepped the cucumbers, I marinated and then roasted some chicken for lunch this week. With fresh basil from my little basil plant, hooray!

Simple Summertime Dinner

Lately in the evenings I just want something simple and fresh:

  • Fage Greek Yogurt (drizzled with local honey)
  • Fresh Herb Salad (with lemon/mustard dressing)
  • Watermelon a la Rum (what? a girl can’t have a little rum drizzled over her fruit?)

It’s not a bad life, really.

Easy Summer Dinner

Made an easy summer dinner tonight:

Cucumber Salad: One cucumber, sliced thinly. Dressed with a light vinegar (I used rice and cider), salt & pepper, dill, a dash of olive oil, and about a tablespoon of sugar. Delish.

Broiled shrimp: One pound cooked shrimp at $4.99/pound. Tossed with Old Bay Seasoning, paprika, dill, olive oil, and salt & pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes while I let the oven get to broil. Put it all in a shallow baking dish, broiled for about 10 minutes (until starting to char at the edges). This actually wound up being too much for me with everything else, but if I’d had fewer other things, it would’ve been fine. As it was, I have some for lunch tomorrow.

I also cut a few pieces of quality bread and spread them with butter. Then I cut up a quarter of a watermelon. About half went for tomorrow’s lunch. But the other half was quickly gobbled up. Watermelon is so delicious!

Yay for summer!

ps. For the curious, tomorrow’s lunch will be: Watermelon, shrimp, bread, and maybe some boiled corn on the cob.