Not only was it a treat to see my cousin and her partner so happy, but it was also a chance for Mark to decompress and recharge. He was like a kid on Christmas morning, the weight of the farm temporarily lifted as we drove past Ohio farm country. He was enthralled with the top-dressed corn, the water laying in the fields, the farm equipment sitting out in open air. I drove the entire distance so he could take it all in. The quick trip did us both so much good.
After the summer solstice, the days seem to go by with ever-increasing speed. June is coming to a close, which means Independence Day is around the corner, followed by my birthday. After that mile marker, the rest of the summer will be a blur of harvesting, deliveries, farmers markets and food preservation. In the heat of July and August, nothing satiates me quite like a fresh, cold, crunchy veggie salad at mealtime. This cucumber salad is spicy, refreshing, vinegar-y, zesty, salty and crisp. I can't think of a better side to bring to a picnic because it's easy to assemble, inexpensive and you can let it marinate in the fridge. Plus, it can accommodate a wide range of diets...not that I'm necessarily concerned with that because fried chicken is this salad's best accompaniment in my opinion.
Asian Cucumber Salad
Makes 2 large or 4 small portions
Barely adapted from Bob Vivant
For the salad
1 large cucumber
1 large or 2-3 small radishes
1 fresh chile pepper
For the dressing
1 clove garlic
1 small nub fresh ginger, peeled
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp honey
Salted, roasted peanuts
Begin by cutting the cucumber in half and then slicing it lengthwise to make strips using either a mandolin or peeler. Cut the radishes in half and thinly slice. Slice the chile pepper in half and remove the seeds and stem, then finely mince and add to the cucumber and radish peels. Only add half of the pepper for less heat and add the seeds for more heat.
To make the dressing, grate or finely mince the garlic clove and fresh ginger into a small bowl (you need about 1 tsp grated ginger). Zest and juice half of a lime, then whisk in the vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and honey until emulsified.
Pour a tablespoon or two of the dressing over the fresh vegetables and toss well to combine. Let the mixture marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
To finish the salad, roughly chop the peanuts and cilantro, then add them to the vegetables. Lightly season the salad with salt, taste and add more dressing if needed. Serve cold.