Crisp, cool cucumbers optimize summer. As I slice them their fresh aroma fills the house & I love that smell. Sadly it was missing from my life for nine long years thanks to a partner who despised both their taste & smell so I didn’t eat them either. I like cucumbers so I got rid of him & now that is behind me & I’m juicing them, putting them on sandwiches with tomato & onion & tossing them into salads. I never pickle them but I do vow to come up with a really good gazpacho recipe this summer. My favorite way to eat this diet-friendly food is in salads. This super easy cucumber salad was born from the cucumber condiment that’s served with Thai fish cakes.
The humble cucumber really is a dieter’s dream: 1 cup of sliced cucumber is a mere 16 calories. Cucumbers are an excellent source of Vit C & K, silica, potassium & it’s recently been discovered they contain antioxidant & anti-inflammatory properties. With my crappy knees I need to be eating more of them apparently. They belong to the same general family as melons & are reasonably easy to grow. Not being a cucumber aficionado & at the risk of upsetting cucumber growers the world over I’m playing it safe with the names. My favorite cucumber varieties are the small, crisp kind – called Lebanese cucumbers in Australia – they’re like Persian/Kirby/Chelsea cucumber in North America. I also like the long English cucumber – called telegraph cucumbers back home. And they’re what I used for this recipe. For juicing I just use the regular garden varieties. I pay about 50 cents each for them here in Florida!!!
So these little guys, small red chilies, can sometimes be tricky to find for whatever reason so I buy bags of them and put them into a jar & freeze them. That way I have them on hand. They look a little daggy & wilted once they thaw but because I’m either slicing them of chopping them I don’t care. Freezing them does nothing to diminish their heat or flavor.
Fish sauce is another ingredient I always keep on hand. This pungent sauce might be smelly but it adds a salty, depth of flavor to Vietnamese and Thai dishes so don’t leave it out. A bottle will keep forever in the fridge. This is the brand I’ve been using for years in all three countries I’ve lived. Don’t be leery of it – ’tis good.
This salad will be good served with grilled chicken, pork, beef, shrimp or lamb & some steamed rice – especially coconut rice. Instead of just dumping the salad on the plate I think it looks nice in a straight-sided glass vessel like I’ve used above. It’d even work in a small mason jar or a nice white bowl – pop it on the plate with the rest of your meal.
You could swap the cashews for peanuts too if that is more your thing. We always have cashews in the cupboard or freezer (because I’m addicted to them) so I tend to use those but peanuts work perfectly. If you have nut allergies I’m not going to state the obvious.
This salad recipe is extraordinarily easy to make & uses only a few ingredients. Which is pretty perfect during these hot, summer months. The heat from the chilies is a perfect contrast to the cool, clean taste of the cucumbers along with those sweet & salty flavors cucumbers love. It is best to combine the cucumbers & the cooled dressing together right before serving as the sliced cucumber can lose some liquid as it sits, diluting the delicious dressing. In the recipe I refer to slicing – the thinner the slices, the more liquid they’ll lose. You don’t even have to slice them, chopping them would work too. Work your magic – cest voila!
- SWEET DRESSING
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar or grated palm sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 or 3 small red chilies, thinly sliced
- CUCUMBER SALAD
- 2 medium English (telegraph cucumbers), sliced*
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup chopped cashews or peanuts
- To make the sweet dressing, combine vinegar, sugar & water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2 minutes to thicken slightly; let cool completely.
- Stir in lime juice, fish sauce and chilies.
- To make the cucumber salad: Add cucumbers, onion and cashews to dressing & toss to combine. Serve immediately.
- * Note the thinner you slice the cucumbers, the more liquid they’ll lose. I used a mandolin/V-slicer and they did lose a lot of liquid. This is why I stipulate to serve them immediately. If you hand slice them using a sharp vegetable knife & don’t slice them paper thin, you’ll find they’ll stay crisper longer & won’t lose so much moisture.