Suzi's Blog

Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad

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This is the salad Suzen pairs with a Moroccan Spiced Chicken [yesterday’s post!]. The chicken is hot out of the oven, coated with a sweet and spicy sauce. This salad has its own heat, from different sources, and its own sweetness from honey. The salad is served cold so you can alternate bites of “hot” chicken and “chilled” salad.

This contrast is delightful and, in Suzen’s menu, amplified by a Moroccan Couscous that sits between this salad and the chicken. The recipe for the couscous come tomorrow.

We adapted this recipe from the cookbook Ottolenghi, one of the three exceptional volumes by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. You’ll enjoy the deliciously authentic, and often simple, recipes in those books. Even better, you’ll find them an inspiration to experiment and create.

In this recipe, different vinegars and honeys, different chilies, or exceptional salts can make a substantial difference in the final salad. Yes, even the poppy seeds can be swapped out for your personal favorites.

Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 small cucumbers
  • 1 small onion, finely minced
  • 2 mild red chilies or jalapenos thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon parsley for garnish, optional
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Chop off and discard the end of the cucumbers. Slice the cucumbers at an angle, so you end up with pieces ⅜-inch thick and 1-¼ inches long.

Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl. Use your hands to massage the flavors gently into the cucumbers. The salad should be sharp and sweet, almost like a pickle.

If not serving immediately, you might need to drain some liquid off later. Adjust the seasoning again afterward.

Sources: adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.0 for 1/25th second at ISO-3200

 

 

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Cold Cucumber Cream with Tomato Salsa from Michele The Scicolone’s Italian Vegetable Cookbook

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Recently I posted a very positive review for Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Vegetable Cookbook. And I’m on a tear for making agua frescas.

Here a unique “blend” thanks to Michele. It’s a soup but it’s almost an agua fresca. Leave out the vinegar [and maybe salt and pepper] and you could happily drink away Michele’s combo of cucumber and water.

Cucumbers are perhaps the most versatile of our foods. We eat and drink them, even slice them and put them on our eyes. They are subtle, delicate, distinctive, versatile.

In making this soup/cream, you want to retain the power of the delicacy. This cream/soup should just ever so slightly drift across your palate letting the cucumber aroma and coolness embrace you like an autumn fog. So, go easy on the salt and pepper and vinegar. You want those ingredients to intensify the cucumber flavor, not overwhelm it.

You can serve this dish as the starter for any meal. For a long dinner with several courses, this can be a surprise intermediary, a break between two heavier dishes to lighten up the mouth and refresh your guests.

On a hot summer night, combining this dish with a salad will create an accomplished meal.

Cold Cucumber Cream with Tomato Salsa

Yield: serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ pounds cucumbers [3-4 large or 8-10 Kirbys]
  • 2 scallions chopped
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoons white vinegar [more or less to your taste]
  • Salta and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation:

Peel the cucumbers and cut lengthwise in half. With a small spoon, scoop out the seed and discard them.

Finely chop enough of the cucumbers to make ½ cup. Cover and refrigerate for the salsa.

Cut the remaining cumbers into 1-inch chunks. In a blender or food processor, combine the cucumber chunks, 1 of the scallions and the water. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the soup into a covered container and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

Just before serving, cut the tomato in half through the step end. Remove the core and squeeze the halves to extract some the seeds and juice; discard them. Cut the tomato in ½-inch dice and place in a small bowl. Finely chop the remaining scallion and add it to the bowl, along with the chopped cucumber and the basil. Toss with the oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Taste the soup for seasoning. Spoon it into chilled bowls, top each bowl with some of the salsa and serve.

Source: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/5.6, 1/50th second, ISO-3200