Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cucumber Salad

The Japanese have a lot of recipes with cucumbers. A cooling and refreshing vegetable that will take some of the bite out of hot summer days, here's one of our favorite recipes. This salad is best after marinating for at least 30 minutes.

cucumbers (armenian or regular american)
Japanese mirin (sweet sake vinegar)
seaweed (dry sheet for making sushi)
toasted sesame
carrot (optional)

add these variations for an Italian influence
omit the seaweed for these variations
tomato (optional)
red onion (optional)
cracked black pepper (optional)

Wash and dry cucumbers. Use a mandoline or a very sharp knife and slice as thin as possible creating circles. (A decorative touch for slicing cucumbers: peel the cucumber leaving strips of green skin; slice as instructed.) Toss into a small colander to drain excess moisture. Take (1) seaweed sheet and gently toast it over a low flame. Careful, it will burn and curl very quickly. Just hold it above the flame and quickly turn it over using a rapid motion. Do this for 10 to 20 seconds. Put aside. Heat a small frying pan using a low heat. Toss sesame seeds into pan without any oil and heat them until you see a slight darkening to the seeds. Take out of pan and put to the side to cool. Toss the drained cucumbers into a decorative bowl. Add the Japanese mirin until cucumbers are thoroughly covered. Let stand until ready to eat. Take seaweed sheet and fold in half and then in quarters. Using kitchen shears, cut the seaweed into thin slices. Before serving the cucumber, add toasted seaweed strips and toasted sesame.

A decorative addition to this cooling salad is to cut carrots into thin matchsticks and add for a crunch. Another modification towards a more Mediterranean diet is to add small wedges of tomato and sliced red onion. Yum, and it becomes more like an Italian salad with an Asian kick. If you add the tomato and onion, omit the seaweed and don't forget to add some cracked black pepper.

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