Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Too Hot to Cook Cucumber and Tomato Salad

I've been a little kvetchy that it really hasn't been much of a summer in San Diego. May Gray slid into June Gloom, then eased into No-Sky July--and all the hot weather dishes I look forward to making this time of year just didn't have much appeal. Then August arrived and so did high temps and humidity. Meh. It was the old "be careful what you wish for" routine. But on the up side, tomatoes, which haven't appreciated the cloudy cool weather are now in full flush--a summer hallmark that had been missing--and I've been breaking out the no-cook recipes.

I'd mentioned my plan to make a batch of cucumber yogurt soup to my friend Trish Watlington so she stopped by my house on Sunday with some cucumbers from her Red Door Family Garden. I needed two, perhaps? She brought a shopping bag full. After giving some away to my next door neighbor (with her blessing) and putting some aside to make pickles, I still had a lot left the next day. Monday morning I looked around my kitchen and saw the pint of plump chocolate cherry tomatoes I'd picked up from Carlsbad Strawberry Fields at the Mission Hills Farmers Market that needed to be used right away. The wheels in my head started turning. I had a lunch meeting to attend. And I had about half an hour to pull something together to bring. And, at 10 a.m., my house was already 85 degrees inside.

So, I pulled out my handy little Kyocera slicer, set it to the thickest opening, and got to work. It took no time to slice two foot-long chunky cukes. Then I sliced the tomatoes in half in what, maybe two minutes? I clipped some mojito mint from my garden and rinsed and chopped that up in less than 30 seconds. Then I quickly mixed together a dressing using seasoned rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil. I layered the cukes in a serving dish with a two-inch lip, tossed the tomatoes over them, followed by the mint, then a few dashes of toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes. I sloshed the dressing over the salad, covered it with plastic wrap, and was out the door a few minutes later. When I got to my friend's house for the meeting I slid the salad into her refrigerator and helped her set up. By the time everyone arrived, it had had a chance to chill and marinate.

Really, even if you say you don't or can't cook, this takes so little effort and the flavor rewards are so great (since all these vegetables are at their peak ripeness) it would be a shame to not make this part of your homemade hot weather dinner repertoire.


Cucumber and Tomato Salad
(printable recipe)
Serves 8

2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced (if conventional cucumbers, peel the skin)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)

Dressing
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon good quality soy sauce
1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil

Layer the cucumbers in a bowl or flat serving dish with a lip at least an inch high to hold the dressing. Sprinkle the tomatoes over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the mint over the cucumbers and tomatoes. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and the red pepper flakes over the top. Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar, give it a good shake, and then pour over the salad. Cover and chill for an hour. The vegetables should absorb most of the dressing and the cucumbers will soften a little but still have a little crispness to them. If you want to add some protein to the salad cooked shrimp will work just fine.



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