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When I’m making spicy Thai styled foods, like Sesame Crusted Yellowtail Tuna with Two Sauces, or Salmon with Thai Red Curry Sauce, I like to serve a simple cucumber salad with it. The salad, like raita in Indian cooking, helps cool down the heat of the curry, offering you a pause that refreshes.
Cucumbers, while in reality are a fruit, are considered by some to be a vegetable. As a member of the gourd family (remember your pumpkin is also a fruit); cucumbers have been cultivated since the middle ages. They are incredibly easy to grow and can be left to crawl on the ground, or trained to climb a trellis. All they need is some fairly decent soil, water, and sun. Bees love cucumber flowers and happily pollinate your plants for you.
Cucumbers are divided into three categories, slicing, pickling and burp-less, but there are hundreds of varieties in each category. For this recipe you could use any slicing or burp-less variety, I used a hothouse English variety (those long ones that come all wrapped up in plastic), but in the summer I use whatever I have growing in the garden.
I use my mandolin to slice my cucumbers, but a sharp knife will work as well. I like the mandolin because it keeps all the slices exactly the same thinness, but a little variation isn’t going to really hurt anything. If I have a red onion, as I did today, I like to add a little to the salad, but it’s not necessary. Because I was serving this with the Sesame Crusted Yellow Tail, I did not sprinkle in the optional sesame seeds, that would have been sesame seed overload! But otherwise, it’s a nice addition.
Use a gentle hand with the sesame seed oil as well. You want to have the ying/yang of sweet and sour and sesame seed oil is very powerful. Very powerful indeed, so just a few drops to round out the acidity of the rice wine vinegar. Adding the salt and sugar directly to the cucumber helps to soften them and helps release their juices, a desirable result.
If you are not making a spicy dish to serve this Simple Cucumber Salad with, then you could spice up the salad itself by mixing some chili garlic sauce in instead of the red pepper flakes. Either way, this salad is super easy, and super low calorie and low fat, so enjoy it anytime.
Toss the cucumber and red onion, if using, with the salt and sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes then add the other ingredients. Mix well. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes for all the flavors to blend. Taste and adjust with salt and sugar as needed. Serve. See, simple!
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