Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mandy's Bytes: German Cucumber Salad

One of the perks of my current "day job" as a home health nurse is that I have been sent home a few times now with fresh eggs and home grown cucumbers. I'll be honest, the first time they gave me cucumbers I didn't really know what to do with them. The first two things I think of when I hear cucumber are pickles, and putting slices over your eyes during a fancy spa treatment. I'm not big on spas and I don't have canning equipment so those were out.

My boyfriend's mother is German, and I hear tell makes fabulous German food, including his suggestion for the free produce: cucumber salad. When he explained a little better the basic gist of the dish, it sounded pretty damned good, so I was sold.

The first batch I made was decent, except for the fact that one cucumber out of two was extremely bitter, but you can't look a free cucumber horse in the mouth. It may not have been perfect, but it was tasty none the less. So today when I received three more cucumbers, I was pretty excited to get home and jump right into Round Two. After which I now present to you my perfected (IMHO) recipe.

German Cucumber Salad:
- 3 cucumbers
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 tbsp vinegar
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp chives
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp dill
- 1/2 tsp minced onion

My first warning about this recipe is that it makes quite a lot, my second warning is that you really should make a lot, or it will be gone very fast.

That said, the first step is to prepare the cucumbers, wash them first, and then peel them. You don't need to be precise with the peeling, you mostly just want to get the prickly bits off. And while I'm sure you don't need a photo demostration of peeling cucumbers, I wanted to show off that I have, quite possibly, the best vegetable peeler ever. It's shaped like a bird and matches my squid whisk, hedgehog vegetable brush, octopus dish scrubber, and piranha pizza cutter.

The next step is to thinly slice the cucumber. You can do this by hand, very carefully (see ingredients: no fingers), or
with a mandolin slicer. I happen to be lucky enough to have "inherited" the Chef's Envy mandolin slicer from my mom, who got it at the As Seen On TV store and decided in retrospect that it was too dangerous considering her track record with knives. And to be fair, it is probably the most dangerous item in my kitchen in that even a reasonably careful person could maim themselves with it.

In addition to not maiming yourself, I have a couple other pointers when it comes to slicing the cucumbers. First of all, taste test each cucumber before
you combine them. If you get a very bitter cucumber there's no harm done if you leave it out (except less salad), but no amount of extra sour cream or seasoning will save your salad once those bitter slices are mixed in with the rest. The other piece of advice I learned is to separate all the slices, unsticking them may seem tedious but it's a much more difficult task when they're slathered in dressing, trust me.

Don't let a recipe hold you back!
At this point, the hard part is over with, the easiest way to go about the rest is to start by making a sort of well in the cucumber slices by pushing them to the sides of the bowl. This will make it a lot less messy when it comes time to mix it all up. Into this well add all of the other ingredients; sour cream, vinegar, water, chives, salt, pepper, onion, and dill. You can adjust the seasoning measurements to your own tastes, and feel free to add spices or leave out the ones you don't like.

For the mixing step, I had the best luck with a firm spatula, it has the strength to get the slices moving without damaging them. It's a little tricky to get the cucumber slices to cooperate as well as convincing the sour cream to be friends with the vinegar and water, which like to just puddle at the bottom of the bowl. Which brings me to the sign that the salad is done: when you push the slices aside with a spatula there should be no puddle at the bottom. 

Om nom nom!
Now just serve it up as a side dish, or by itself as a refreshing snack on a hot summer afternoon. I can't officially vouch for how long it will keep in the refrigerator, all I can say is that it never lasts long enough to go bad at my house.

No joke: I'm eating a plate of it right now as I write this post. It's amazing.

P.S. Don't forget to enter our giveaway for some free digital scrap-booking software, the giveaway ends Wednesday!

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