Big Girls, Test Kitchen: Spicy Cucumber Salad

Posted by on Wednesday Jul 20th, 2011 | Print

OTHER CUCUMBER RECIPES: Vegetable Mint Salsa; Sweet and Sour Cabbage Salad; Grandpa Caprese Salad

As any of my high school friends will tell you (especially Cara and Jordana), I have a freakish love of garnish. You know, the random lettuce cup in the corner of your spring roll plate that contains nothing but a slice of cucumber and a carrot shaved to look like a rose? Most people who claim membership to the clean plate club will devour these flourishes before their server has a chance to clear the dish. But I eat them before even touching the spring rolls.

I have a few textural issues to work out—mainly, my fruit apathy, which stems from a deep shivering hatred of anything mealy and mushy. Vegetables on the other hand, I’ve happily devoured since birth. I can’t get enough of anything crunchy and full of refreshing moisture. Raw radishes, snap peas, carrots, and, most of all, cucumbers. (Garnish anyone?)

I think I first fell in love with the texture of cucumbers in my mother’s friend Vivian’s garden. She plucked a small slicing cuke from the vine, and handed it to me. I wiped it on my shirt like an apple, and chowed down like someone had just given me the most delicious candy bar in the world.

Most of us quarter-lifers aren’t lucky enough to have a garden to pluck cucumbers from and eat them like apples. But still, summer is the season for cukes, and if you can’t indulge yourself on a whim, then you might as well pick up a couple from the farmers market with the intention of making a big cucumber salad like this one. The inspiration for this salad’s flavors (pan-Asian) come from the restaurants that give me the most generous portions of garnish. The vinegar mellows the flavor of the shallots, while the chiles finish off the whole cool, refreshing mouthful with a big punch of heat.

When I was in Thailand, they encouraged us to eat as much spicy food as possible to help us cool down. I’m not sure of the biological science behind this, but if you take the Thais’ word for it, and summer persists as it has, I suggest you eat a lot of spicy cucumber salad–and not just as garnish, but as the main event.

From my kitchen, kicking up my cucumber habit by adding a notch of heat, to yours,

Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

**Recipes**

Spicy Cucumber Salad with Ginger, Shallots, and Mint over Crispy Pan-Fried Flounder
Makes 4 side servings

If you can’t find Thai chiles, you can use jalapeno or just substitute 1 teaspoon siracha for the heat. If you have a food processor, you can mince the ginger, shallot, and chile in that along with the vinegar and oil.

Ingredients
3 slicing cucumbers (or 1 large English cucumber), peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced shallot (from 1 small shallot)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (from 1-inch knob ginger)
1 thai chile pepper, minced
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon thinly julienned mint leaves

Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and toss to combine. Allow to sit for 20 minutes or so at room temperature. Taste for seasoning, and serve with fish, grilled meat, or on top of a bowl of rice.

**Summer Fest**

This post is part of Food Network’s Summer Fest! Check out the other great cucumber dishes below.

Summer Fest is a season long, bi-weekly event where Food Network editors team up with blogs to share tips and recipes about what’s available at the market.

Pinch My Salt: Chilled Cucumber, Kefir and Avocado Soup

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cucumber-Basil Gimlet

In Jennie’s Kitchen: Radish-Cucumber Crostini

Big Girl Small Kitchen: Spicy Cucumber Salad with Shallot, Ginger and Mint

Grecian Kitchen: Summer Cucumber Salad

And Love It Too: Cucumber, Mint and Watermelon Salad

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cucumbers Coolers with Agave Simple Syrup

Cooking With My Kid: Cucumber Limeade

FN Dish: Summer Fest: Cucumber Recipes

CIA Dropout: Relishing Cucumbers

Healthy Eats: Cool Cucumber Soup

Food for 7 Stages of Life: Cucumber Cherry Salsa

Cooking With Elise: Green Tea Cucumber Pops

Glory Foods: Cucumber and Shrimp Boat

Virtually Vegan Mama: Fire-Roasted Tomato and Cucumber Gazpacho

Food2: When Life Gives You Cucumbers, Make a Cucumber Cocktail

Cooking Channel: Cucumbers Stuffed with Crab-Mango Salad

Recipe Girl: Bread and Butter Pickles

Taste With the Eyes: Spicy Pickled Cucumbers with Wakame and Garlic Blossoms

Virtually Homemade: Cold Thai Cucumber-Mint Soup

Add a Pinch: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

The Cultural Dish: Ahi Tuna with Cucumber Sauce and Salad

Daily*Dishin: Cool n’ Zesty Cukes: 7 Minute Summer in a Jar

Daydreamer Desserts: Cubanita Margarita

Purple Cook: Cucumber Gazpacho with Indian Flavored Shrimp Relish

Indian Simmer: Cucumber at its Best with Chaat Masala

Big Apple Nosh: Quick and Easy Homemade Pickles

Sweet Life Bake: Agua de Pepino

The Sensitive Epicure: Tzatziki with Grilled Gluten-Free Pitas and Fresh Cucumbers and Peppers

Zaika Zabardast: Cucumber Gazpacho

A Way to Garden: Cucumber-Growing Q&A and the Best Pickles

Cooking with Books: Summer Fest: Cucumbers

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  • http://pinchmysalt.com Nicole

    This looks great!!  I love cucumber salads, but I’ve never tried one with ginger before. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • http://www.whatsgabycooking.com What’s Gaby Cooking

    cucumber salad is my all time favorite salad from growing up. My mom used to make them all the time – and this totally inspires me to make one for myself :)

  • Wesalvans

    A kindred soul! You just summed up my feelings toward fruits! I tolerate, & yes, sometimes crave specific fruits…but on MY terms.
    But give me a vegetable-ANY vegetable, and I’m a happy contented girl!
    Let’s hear it for the veg!!

  • Cookingwithelise

    This recipes looks amazing and your blog is precious! So happy I found you through FN Summer Fest. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with next time; what fun!

  • Brandis Roush
  • http://www.facebook.com/charity.curley.mathews Charity Curley Mathews

    Hi Phoebe! I was so happy to see your blog, not only for your great ideas but you share the same name as my toddler, who I write about on my own blog, Foodlets.

    So in honor of you both, to celebrate Summer Fest’s cucumber week, I’ll throw in this idea: Chicken with Pickle Sauce
    http://foodlets.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/chicken-with-pickle-sauce/

    Best – Charity