Three Cucumber Salads

Cucumber Salad

Why three cucumber salads in one post? Because I got 15 pounds of cucumbers from the Food Bank’s Harvest Share program and cucumbers do not keep that well without some vinegar. So, I spent a long time slicing and dicing and mixed up three huge salads. Two of them based on my mom’s delicious old-fashioned cucumber salad.

This is mom’s recipe. Slice your cucumbers no more than 1/4 inch thick. I used a mandoline and easily sliced wafer thin slices. Layer the slices in a container with high sides, lightly salting between layers. I used Glad’s 13 cup family size container which held about 8 -10 large cucumbers, sliced. I put a sheet of wax paper over the container and set my cast iron fry pan on top of the wax paper and then put my tea kettle on top of that so it was weighted down heavily. I left it for a few hours and came back to add the dressing.

After two hours, I dumped the cucumbers into a big colander and let them drain. Rinsing the Glad container to get the saltiness out, I mixed the dressing right in the container while the cukes drained. I used 2 cups of white vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 TBSP of dill weed, 1 tsp of garlic salt, and 2 tsp of celery seed.  I squeezed the juice out of the cucumbers, added them back into the container with the dressing and refrigerated overnight so they absorbed back the fluid I had drawn out with salt. Now they are saturated with a fresh dill flavor that has a mild bite. Makes 10 cups of salad.

Cucumber Salad

I only made about 7 cups of this salad because I used oil so it won’t last as long. To make it I cut the cucumbers into 4-6 inch long lengths that I shredded on the mandoline, making threads of cucumber. I also sliced and diced finely two purple onions. I salted and let rest for about an hour. Squeezing out the excess, I grated the zest of two limes over the salad, mixing it in. Then,  squeezed the lime juice into a sauce bowl for the dressing. I added 3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, 1/4 cup light olive oil, 2 TBSP of soy sauce, salt, pepper, and 2 tsp of red pepper flakes. I poured on top of the cucumber and onions, shook and let sit to absorb flavors for a few hours. This is a spicy, tangy salad with that delicious earthy tang of limes and the heat of peppers.  It’s delicious on a sandwich with pulled pork. Makes six cups of salad.

Cucumber Salad

These are pepper-salted cucumber slices, also a recipe from my mom. As before, I sliced the cucumbers, layering with salt until I filled the 13 cup container. I added weight on top of them and let them sit for two hours to draw out the liquid. I drained them in a colander, squeezing out all the liquid I could.

In the 13 cup plastic container, I added 2 cups of vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1 TBSP of pepper. I mixed together, Added the cucumber and let it soak up the vinegar overnight. This has a fresh vinegary taste with a bit of bite from the pepper, fresh and cool followed by just a bit of heat. Makes 10 cups.

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Apricot Pear Sandwich Slaw

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Chop about 1 cup of red cabbage and lightly salt, setting it aside while you make the dressing.

Chop up 5 dried apricots into small pieces. Heat a clean, empty saucepan (no oil, no butter) to med. Add about 5 anise seeds and warm until aromatic. Toss in the dried apricots and an equal amount of water, about 1/4 cup. Cook until the apricots fall apart and are tender, adding more water if necessary. When the water is all soaked into the apricots, add 2 TBSPs of rice vinegar and stir quickly. Toss into cabbage, season with salt and pepper to taste.

With just four ingredients, this achieves a subtle and complex flavor, blending the aromatic pungency of the anise with the sweet tartness of apricots, the bite of the vinegar and the fresh crunch of cabbage. It’s delightful on its own but I made it as a sandwich slaw to use with slice pork roast on bread.

However, before I started to make this, I got a wild idea to make a different kind of sandwich and ended up using it in an amazing sandwich made with Bacon, Eggs, Onions, Pears and Parm. This is plenty for 4 to 6 sandwiches, or a couple small side salads.

Mushrooms and Red Chard with Barley

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I cooked up some barley for breakfast and decided to make some extra to cook up something for lunch. Of course, barley and mushrooms go together perfectly and were my first thought. I had some red chard that really needed to get used and soon, so I decided to go for it. My favorite spice with mushrooms is paprika, so I thought I would give it a whirl. This made four servings. I figure that if I am going to cook something for 45 minutes (the barley) I am going to make more than one meal out of it. When I cooked the barley, I strained it and saved all the barley water to use in this dish.

I started with eight mushrooms that I cleaned and sliced. I patted them dry with a clean towel. I heated up a sauté pan and tossed them in and let them cook on medium high for about 8 minutes. This dry sauté evaporates out a lot of the fluid and enriches the mushroom flavor. Now when I cook them with the other ingredients, they will not get mushy.

While it was sautéing, I would shake the pan every once in a while to keep them from sticking. Meanwhile I thoroughly cleaned a bunch of red chard, separating the leaves from the stems. Red chard requires several rinses and careful attention to be sure you get all the dirt off it. I hold it under the water and run my finger up and down the stem a few times to make sure all the dirt is gone. No one wants to bite down on some sand or dirt in their lunch.

I chopped the stems into 1 inch long pieces. I also chopped 1/4 of white onions. Chopping up the leaves, I kept two cups and saved the rest for a salad. I set the red chard leaves aside for later.

I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and swirled it around the pan. I added the red chard stems and onions. I added 2 tsp of paprika and salt and pepper. I sautéed everything until the onions were transparent. I then added the barley water I had saved from this morning. I added the red chard leaves and the 2 cups of cooked barley I had reserved. I let this simmer until the chard was done (3 to 5 minutes) and tasted tested it. It was good, but a bit one-dimensional – very umami, but the brightness of the chard stems was missing. So I squeezed the juice of one lemon at the end and that lifted up the chard flavor – giving a multi-layered flavor profile that begins with the heart umami of the mushrooms and barley and ending with a bright, fresh chard tartness. It was delicious.