(Becky, the Mama) Now that summertime is here in Colorado, it is hard for me to stay away from the perfect weather on our inviting back porch!
We nap, visit and eat outside as much as humanly possible. Yesterday, we hosted a group of young couples and little ones for an outdoor brunch. A friend dropped by last night and we enjoyed a plate of nachos and cool drinks as we rocked and swung and chatted in the evening breeze. Tonight we had some dear friends and their little girls over for an old-fashioned supper-on-the-porch that brought back memories of meals around my own grandmother’s table. I made garlic & lemon roast chicken, baked sweet potatoes, Asian peanut buttery green beans (recipe to come soon!), corn, and my simple rustic, pastry-style cherry-blueberry cobbler (a festive July 4 recipe, by the way, with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream and raspberrg sorbet).
But it was the refreshing side-dish that I prepared for tonight’s meal that made me wax nostalgic for potlucks and picnic tables of my childhood: sweet n’ sour refrigerator pickled cucumbers & onions. I updated this beloved Grandma dish by using the small Asian or Persian cucumbers that are often sold in little packages of six to twelve, and becoming increasingly popular in grocery stores everywhere. Sliced a little on the thick side they hold their crunch for days in this pickling liquid. I like to keep a container of these marinated cucumbers and onions hand in the fridge all summer long to add a crisp, cold delightful punch to almost any meal.
You can get creative and add some diced fresh tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts or any kind of cooked beans and a handful of fresh chopped herbs to this basic dish to create a quick, pretty, refreshing marinated salad for potlucks, picnics and summertime side-dishes. Crunch on and enjoy!
Crunchy, Easy, Refrigerator Pickled Cucumbers & Red Onions
6 to 8 small Asian or Persian cucumbers, sliced about 3/4 inch (leave peel on)
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced thin, pulled apart in strands
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on desired sweetness)
1 T. sea salt
T. dried dill (or 2 T. fresh chopped dill)
1 T. celery seed
1 T. black sesame seeds (optional)
Directions: Mix all of the above together in a dish with a lid. Let the mixture sit on the counter , with lid on top, at room temperature for about an hour and then put in fridge to chill until ready to serve. (Let the veggies marinate at least 3 hours for the best flavor through-out.) Will keep in fridge up to a week, maintaining its crunch.
My sister and my nieces, Whitney and Tori, age 9 and 11, are here this weekend and we are enjoying them so much! The youngest one, Whitney, is quite the food connoisseur, and has made me feel like the best cook on the planet with her over-the-top compliments. She describes the food on the end of her fork as one would describe a fine wine, “I can taste the layers of flavor! The hint of coconut, the tang of pineapple…”
As soon as she arrived from Texas she asked if we could make my sweet n’ spicy meatloaf again, together. She remembered it from three years ago, when they last came to Colorado! We did, and she said she loved squashing the meat and the seasonings together with her bare hands. When she took a bite of the cooked finished meatloaf she raised her hands, rolled her eyes heavenward and exclaimed, “This is even better than I dreamed it would be!”
Yesterday, I let the girls paint pictures outside under our tree and beach umbrella, and then made them each virgin cocktails. (Cranberry Sprite, OJ and slices of lemon, lime and orange on ice.) Whitney took one sip and said, “This is delicious! In fact, it is as good as meatloaf!” I wonder how many bartenders have had compliments like that. “This Long Island Tea is as tasty as meatloaf!” Gotta love kids.
With such an appreciative food critic in the house, it really spurred me on to bring out my inner chef. This is a very simple Asian salad that packs a powerful burst of flavor with very few ingredients, one the whole family loved! The key is the salt. Be sure to use sea salt, the best you can find. McCormicks now has a sea salt grinder, where you can grind fresh flakes of sea salt on to your food. It is quite good! You will be amazed how good fresh sea salt can be and the “layers of flavor” that come from using the finer, gourmet versions of it. This dish combines the smooth, richness of avocado with the crisp crunch of cucumber, the warmth of sesame oil and sesame seeds, and that final touch of freshly flaked sea salt. So easy, but so gourmet at the same time. I guarantee you, it is even as good as meatloaf!
Avocado Cucumber Sesame Salad
Serves two to three
1 ripe but still firm avocado, cut in bite sized pieces (we like a lot of avocado, so I sometimes double the avocado in this recipe)
1/2 English cucumber (or regular cucumber with seeds removed , but peel left on) cut in bite sized pieces
1 t. fresh lime juice
1 T. sesame oil
1 t. sesame seeds (toasted, white or black seeds –black seeds are actually quite pretty, but I did not have them on hand)
fresh sea salt to taste
Gently coat the sliced avocado and cucumber in a bowl with lime juice, pinch sugar, sesame oil and seeds. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Serve in a low-rimmed edge blow or plate.