Zen and the Art of Cucumber

December 16, 2012

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Believe it or not cucumber is a type of squash harvested far before reaching maturity. Cucumbers don’t take kindly to cooking, nor do they ripen into anything worth eating (as anyone who has grown them in their backyard garden can attest) but ply these young greenies with a little salt and they become as addictive as potato chips.

Okay, maybe not quite that addictive. But given enough time, thinly sliced cucumbers go limp and juicy, losing traces of bitter while somehow retaining just enough crisp to keep me coming back for more.

In this simple salad, I first marinated sliced Spanish onion in umeboshi vinegar (a salty, tangy, not-too sour Japanese vinegar made from salt-pickled umeboshi “plums” — more like sour apricots — and herby shiso leaves) for about ten minutes before tossing in the cucumber slices. In this case I didn’t wait for the cucumbers to soften, but you can. Either way has its merits.

I’ve been known to satisfy my salad itch with nothing but cucumber and umeboshi, but this little salad was prettier, made for a lunch guest, so I thought I’d share with you as well.

Also on the plate: a slice of baked butternut squash topped with hummus. (lightly oil a cookie sheet with olive oil. Cut the neck of a butternut squash into rounds about an inch thick. Rub them on the cookie sheet and flip each slice so both sides are oiled. Grind some coarse salt over each slice. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown around the edges and soft inside. See this post for my hummus recipe.

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