When you life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what do you do when you’ve got cucumbers instead? Easy American-style spicy cucumber salad!
I had lovely cucumbers from the farmers market, but they sat a bit too long in my refrigerator, making them unsuitable for simply throwing into a green salad. As I pondered what to do with them, my eyes lit upon another item in my refrigerator, a jalapeño pepper – sitting all by its lonesome. Bingo! The main ingredients of an incredibly simple cucumber salad that is a bit Asian and ever so slightly Tex-Mex. Like America, this cucumber salad is a melting pot that works because the ingredients meld together.
I first served the cucumbers with my seared watermelon and swordfish dinner; subsequently I found that they also went well with barbecue pork sandwiches (more as a condiment than a side dish), and then we finished them up as part of a do-it-yourself salad bar. Somewhere between a pickle-type condiment and a salad that stands on its own, these cucumbers are a versatile and easy side that take no skill and just a few minutes to prepare.
Three notes on the ingredients:
- This salad works best with small cucumbers (sometimes called Persian), or if you can’t find them, with the long English ones. If you use large, fat cucumbers, it’s best to scrape out the seeds or the salad will get overwhelmed with their water as it marinates.
- Jalapeño peppers are not very hot (compared to other hot peppers) and their heat varies. On the Scoville scale, which rates the heat of various peppers, bell peppers score 0, poblanos score 1,000-1,500, jalapeños score 2,500-8,000, and habaneros score 100,000-350,000. Most of the heat of a pepper is in its seeds, so I prefer to leave them out and use a bit more of the “meat,” tasting a tiny piece to determine how hot the individual pepper is before I put it in a dish. Keep in mind that your pepper may be hotter – or less hot – than mine. Use your own judgement and taste to adjust the amount you use. Also, in cutting a hot pepper, be careful not to touch your hands to your eyes and wash your hands after cutting the pepper.
- Rice vinegar, typically used in Asian cooking, has a light, delightful but tangy taste that works well in salad dressing. Be sure to get the unseasoned type, as the seasoned version contains added salt and sugar.
Easy American-Style Spicy Cucumber Salad
Servings – 4 small or 2 medium Cost – $1
- 2 small cucumbers (1 cup sliced)
- 1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon dried dill or ¾ teaspoon fresh dill (for substitutions, the typical ratio of dried to fresh herbs is 1 dried-to-3 fresh)
- ½ -1 teaspoon finely diced jalapeño pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon table or fine sea salt (I don’t use kosher or coarse sea salt in this dish. Their crystals are bigger than table or fine sea salt, which makes the salad seem saltier.)
- freshly ground black pepper or white pepper (The latter, more finely ground, is not as visible in the final dish)
- 1 tablespoon of mild-tasting oil (safflower, canola or similar – not olive oil)
- 2 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- Vegetable peeler
- Cutting board
- Small knife
- Small bowl with cover or plastic wrap
- Measuring spoons
- Jar or small container with tight fitting lid or fork for stirring
- Wash the cucumbers and peel off the skin vertically in stripes. If you prefer you can take off all the skin, but the salad looks nicer with the bit of dark green from the stripes of skin and the skin helps the slices stay a bit firmer.
- Thinly slice the cucumbers and set them aside in the small bowl.
- Chop the chives and pepper into tiny pieces. Add them to the oil, rice vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper in the jar or container. Close the lid and shake well or stir if you haven’t got a lid. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and let them marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.