Friday, May 11, 2012

Cucumber and Radish Salad

I get really excited about cucumbers. They’re one of those vegetables I don’t often buy in the winter or even early spring because the ones shipped in with their weird waxy coatings just don’t measure up to my high flavor expectations. The fresh, local cucumbers (or those I can grow myself – fingers crossed) aren’t usually here until late in the summer, usually too late to enjoy alongside the early-season local radishes in a salad.

Well, it was like Santa Claus came early this year when I found some locally grown hothouse cucumbers just last week. Hooray! Cucumbers! And they were pretty darn delicious, too. I don’t think I even finished putting away the groceries before I cut one up to taste. Thank you Summer Santa!

Since there were also some beautiful and tasty radishes at the farmer’s market, which started up last Saturday (also hooray!), I got to put them together with the cucumbers in this supposedly Japanese-inspired salad. It’s a pretty simple salad and I changed very little from the original recipe this time. I swapped out the sesame seeds for peanuts (because that’s what I had), and I also removed the added salt and poured in some tamari instead. Now, I can see why you might choose the salt over the soy sauce if you want a really perfectly pretty salad. The soy sauce does add some, well, brownness to the dressing, but it tastes so good, I didn’t mind.

The dressing is mostly rice vinegar, which makes the vegetables take on just a bit of a pickled characteristic, especially if you leave yourself some leftovers to savor the next day. Since rice vinegar is milder than grape wine or cider vinegar (or distilled vinegar, which I pretty much only use for cleaning things), I found it to be just right and not overwhelming.

I know there are more cucumbers and radishes out there, so I hope to keep making this refreshing summery salad. I would like try scallions in place of the onions, and maybe even try some pickled ginger. There are a lot of ways this could go, and since there’s a lot of dressing in the recipe, one could just keep adding to the bowl without making more complicated changes. That’s probably what I like most about the arrival of the season of fresh vegetables. They do all the work (or rather the people that grew them did!) and the cook really doesn’t have to do much but sit back and enjoy them. Hooray for early cucumbers!

Cucumber and Radish Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2006

1 cucumber (or 2 smaller, about 10 ounces)
½ cup thinly sliced sweet onion
8 sliced radishes (about 4 ounces)
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp dark sesame oil (or infused sesame oil)
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts

1. Peel the cucumber(s) if desired. (Mine were very fresh and had tender skin, so I left it on). Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and slice into thin half-circle-shaped slices. Place in a medium to large bowl. Add the sliced onion and radishes to the cucumbers.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, tamari or soy sauce, sesame oil and crushed pepper flakes. Pour over the cucumber mixture and stir to combine. Chill for at least 15 minutes. Stir the salad a few times if you have the time.

3. Just before serving, sprinkle the salad with the peanuts.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Another recipe like this one: Cold Cucumber Soup
Holy cow, I can hardly believe this is the first cucumber salad I’ve posted to The Messy Apron! I’ve got some work to do!

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