Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I picked four fat cucumbers from my garden the other day. This is my first time growing cucumbers – in fact my very first time growing a garden of my own. I've never before tasted cucumbers this fresh from the plant. They were crisp, sweet, and perhaps – no, definitely – the best cucumbers I've ever tasted. I am sure these cucumbers are the best tasting in the same sense that my cat (or your dog, or your kid for that matter) is the cutest thing ever. But hey, why burst our bubble?
Anyway, since these cucumbers were the best ever, I couldn't possibly just use any recipe for it. I grew these babies with blood, sweat, and tears. Ok, not really, I put the starter plants Cynthia gave me into the grown and gave them water and they practically grew themselves. Hmm, now where were we, oh, yes.. growing them with blood, sweat, and tears – or just dirt and water, rather – I wanted something special the celebrate them. A little bit of tinkering in the kitchen produced this recipe, a salad of crisp cucumber slices. It's not exactly Thai, but the inspiration certainly is from that general direction.
The dressing here is a classic Thai blend of lime juice, fish sauce, chilli, and a pinch of sugar. I don't want the lime juice to be so pronounced and to overpower the brightness of the cucumbers, so I use a little less and temper it with a bit of rice vinegar. If your fish sauce is old and getting quite stinky, I suggest using a bit less and adding some salt instead as well. You want the dressing to be light, bright, and delicious, not stinky, sharp, and muddy, so be careful. A little bit of herb gives the salad a lovely complexity, so I suggest Tia To or Vietnamese Perilla if you can find it (regular Shiro leafs or just plain mint will do in a pinch), and also a bit of cilantro. Finish the salad with a generous sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes and fried shallots, and there you have it. The salad in the picture has some poached shrimp in it, since I had that for lunch and thought I needed a little protein. You can skip it entirely, or use poached chicken torn into strips, or tofu, or nothing at all.
Oh, you want a recipe, that was it. Ha. Ok, not really.