Sunday, March 4, 2012

To Be Cool as a Cucumber

I’ve been rather flaky with things in my life: missing appointments, missing hang out opportunities with people I care about, and simply not feeling as awesome as I could be. Love Your Body Week gave me perspective, but there were times where I was feeling “blah” about myself. My new fitness regimen, or possibly a stress I’ve yet to identify, has me craving fats like crazy. Peanut butter, almond butter, coconut oil, cheese… I can’t get enough. That, and I was waking up ridiculously early this week, one day as early as 3:20 a.m., and that’s thrown my appetite out of order. 

But it’s Sunday now. It’s the end of the old week, or the start of the new week. Whichever the case, I’m moving on to new experiences and a better tomorrow. For now, I want to share a new way of eating one of my favorite foods.

Regardless if you call it a fruit or a vegetable, the cucumber is an amazing food. There are quite a few varieties, but the English cucumber is the species I most enjoy. The have a thinner skin and are nearly seedless, and it is said that they are easy to digest. Unlike some other popular varieties, you don’t need to remove the skin to enjoy it.

I have had it sliced on top of salads and dipped into sauces. I’ve had it juiced and blended into gazpacho. I’ve never baked them into “chips”, and I’ve never pickled them myself. 

Seeking new ways to eat one of my daily foods, I looked in my Mama Dazz’s cookbook collection for a new recipe to try for my beloved cucumber. I found Jeff Smith’s (1990) The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors: Recipes You Should Have Gotten from Your Grandmother. It lists the different immigrant groups that came to the United States over the years, providing a brief history of their culture, the people, and most importantly, the food. I reveled in the amazing stories of the Basques and the Swedes. I rejoiced in the recipes of my ancestors, the Irish and the Dutch. He talked about the beauty of the American Indian and South American cuisines, whose food was soon traded and seen all over the world.  But living in such a diverse neighborhood where I grew up with families from Bangladesh and El Salvador as close neighbors, things like papusas and curry were normal to me. But the recipe I found I wasn’t used to, and of course I had to make it for myself.

So I made cucumber namasu (p. 239, Smith), from Japan. It’s the kind of recipe I tweaked slightly to fit my needs. And like most pickled foods, its flavor enhances the longer it marinates. Since I used sea salt, I do not recommend using as much as the book recommends, i.e., one tablespoon. Even two teaspoons was a bit much, so I used stevia to balance it out. It worked beautifully. And since it was the first recipe I photographed with my new lens earlier this week, I was ecstatic with its success.

Cucumber Namasu

518 g English (seedless cucumber), quartered and thinly sliced
1 – 2 tsp Sea salt (I used 2 tsp. and thought it was a bit much, so taste as you go)
60 ml Unrefined apple cider vinegar or Rice wine vinegar
2 ml Coconut aminos (or CGF Tamari for those who aren't soy free)
1 tsp. Ground ginger
1 tsp. White sesame seeds
1 tsp. Black sesame seeds
Stevia, to taste (optional)

Place the cucumber slices in a large mesh strainer over a bowl and sprinkle the salt on top.
Lightly toss and let it sit up to an hour for all of the liquid to drain.
In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients except for the sesame seeds.
When the liquid from the cucumbers is gone, drain the bowl and use it to toss the dressing with cucumbers.
Sprinkle and mix the sesame seeds throughout the salad, then chill for another hour before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

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