Wednesday, July 04, 2012

thin-slicing :: ethereal
summer salad

Whisper-thin ribbons of cucumber and onion, dressed with a tangy maple-caper vinaigrette.

As a kid, I consumed more than my fair share of thick cucumber slices, either seasoned plainly with salt and pepper or dipped in clotted sour cream [I preferred the former]. What I enjoyed most about the humble cucumber was its dependable crunch and sturdiness: it never let me down. I also loved how cooling it felt to snack on cukes during the hot summer months.

But a magical transformation occurs when you slice cucumbers just shy of paper thin. An almost waif-like lightness replaces the signature crunch, and the wider surface, glistening with water, is better-suited to absorb your dressing. Plus, the transparent celadon curlicues exude elegance. Even if you're eating this salad at home in front of the TV, you will somehow feel compelled to serve it on your prettiest plate and eat with a napkin on your lap.

The same is true for onions. Thick slices of raw onion are a welcome flavor when tempered by heartier ingredients, for example, when served in bun with a veggie burger, lettuce, tomato and ketchup. But slice an onion whisper thin, and its personality shifts from the aggressive kid who needs to constantly be at the center of attention, to a cooperative little do-gooder, ready to play nice with everyone. Its heat is instantly tempered and owing to the petite size, is more evenly distributed across your salad. The gentle magenta and white arcs nestled in and around the pale green cukes, contrasted with flashes of berry and parsley remind me of a stained-glass window. Scroll down for the recipe.

To properly thin-slice cucumbers or other vegetables, you really do need a mandoline. This is one I have. I love it and use it often, but be careful: the blades are dangerously sharp! Other fruits and veggies I frequently slice using my mandoline include zucchini, potatoes [esp when making chips], radishes, carrots, apples, pears, etc.

Welcome to the jungle. I used my windowsill basil in this recipe. And check out my tomato plant – thriving!

Ethereal Summer Salad with Maple-Caper Vinaigrette
2 large cucumbers, sliced thinly with a mandoline
1/4 small Vidalia onion, sliced thinly with a mandoline

1/4 small red onion, sliced thinly with a mandolin
4 or 5 large strawberries, thinly sliced [Don't use your mandoline for these; it will destroy them!]
About 1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

1 T best-quality balsamic vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T maple syrup [Agave nectar also works]
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed 
1 T capers, rinsed and chopped
About 5 large basil leaves, finely chopped 
Sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

Serves 4

Assemble your salad on plates or in a large bowl. 

To make dressing, whisk first 4 ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in the garlic, capers and basil, adjust seasonings. Add to salad, to taste.

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christo AKA doggybloggy said...

you made my mouth water -

foodfeud said...

Your writing is so beautiful and evocative, Dynise! I can't wait to try this and cool off. Love the idea of capers with cucumbers and strawberries!

Jesse @ Happy Go Lucky Vegan said...

Your salad looks so fresh and gorgeous. It's also exciting when tomato plants and herbs do well in the summer time - woot!

Anonymous said...

wow that looks beautiful! so fresh!

mamapasta said...

you're right, mandoline is the magician that turns plain vegetables into fairy delight...

Dennis said...

I love cucumbers as a snack. They are very satisfying and low calorie no matter how you slice them.