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Posts tagged ‘cucumber’

Watermelon and Pickled Cucumber Coleslaw

It’s the peak of summer – time to cool down with some coleslaw!

Watermelon and Pickled Cucumber Coleslaw

When I think of summer, I think of outdoor barbeques. And when I think of barbeques, I think of coleslaw. Of course, like many folks, when I think of coleslaw I think of a few strands of slaw mix drowning in mayonnaise and sugar. Not exactly the most appetizing side dish. So when I stocked up on some watermelon and cucumbers from the Farmers Market, and also found a head of local cabbage for sale at Whole Foods, I decided to make my own version of this summer staple, bursting with veggies and not drowning in dressing!

To start, I cut up about seven slices of a large cucumber, about a cup of slices before quartering. I then quartered the slices so they’d be more “bite-size” in this salad. I then put them in a small bowl and covered them with rice vinegar to quickly “pickle” them. I got this technique from Eat This (Not That), and while they recommend using rice vinegar, I’m sure you could use white vinegar or even apple cider vinegar with similar success. I then let the cucumbers sit in the vinegar and “pickle” for 30 minutes. This results in a nice sour cucumber that’s still crisp and fresh, so don’t sub regular pickles that have been pickling for a really long time!

My mom used to slice up a cucumber, soak the slices in vinegar, then season them with cracked pepper and serve them as a side dish. It's so yummy!

The pickling is the longest part of the salad if you’re using pre-sliced watermelon, making the rest of the steps very easy! About halfway through the pickling process, I took a quarter of a large head of cabbage and shredded it. This can either be done with a fancy shredding tool, or by chopping the cabbage into strips, then chopping finely with a chef’s knife by moving over the cabbage in a half-moon motion, like a pendulum swinging over your cabbage. Both techniques result in a great coleslaw texture. I then put the cabbage in a large bowl.

Rather than dowse the cabbage in mayo or even vegan mayo, I decided to keep it light, spicy, and sweet by mixing German mustard with some agave nectar. You could probably use spicy brown mustard as a sub, but this may affect the taste! I then added the dressing to the cabbage, threw in some salt and pepper, and stirred to cover the cabbage. It may seem like there’s not enough, but trust me, it will taste just right!

Fun fact: "col" is the Spanish word for "cabbage"

I then measured out some watermelon chunks. I usually cut up my watermelon right when I buy it, storing the large chunks in the fridge for later use. I highly recommend doing this since it makes enjoying a large watermelon very simple, and it keeps very well in an airtight container! I then cubed the watermelon to make them more bite-size and added them to the cabbage, stirring to get them covered with dressing. I then drained my cucumber slices, added them to the slaw, tossed, and voila! A delicious, healthy coleslaw that’s bursting with fruits and veggies, while not drowning in fat. Everyone wins!

This coleslaw is especially yummy because of all the different flavors happening. The cucumbers are nice and sour, the watermelon is sweet and cold, and the cabbage, in both mustard and agave, is a happy harmony of both sensations. You can either have a big helping as a lunch salad, or serve up smaller portions alongside a grilled portobello burger or other vegetarian barbecue staple. Enjoy!

Watermelon and Pickled Cucumber Coleslaw (Serves 2 or more)

7 slices of cucumber (about 1 cup), measured first, then quartered

Rice vinegar, to cover the cucumbers (about 1/4 to 1/3 a cup)

1 quarter of a head of fresh cabbage

3 TB German mustard

1 TB agave nectar

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup watermelon chunks, measured first, then cubed

Pink pepper, to taste (optional)

Place quartered cucumber slices in a small bowl, then pour rice vinegar over the slices until covered. Let sit for 30 minutes, occasionally shaking the bowl to cover any floating pieces.

Finely chop or shred the cabbage, then place in a large bowl. Whisk together the mustard and agave until smooth, then pour over the cabbage. Add salt and pepper, then mix until the cabbage is evenly coated. If the cucumbers are still pickling, allow the slaw to sit to let the flavors meld.

When the cucumbers are ready, drain them, then add to the slaw. Add your watermelon, then toss to coat and combine with the slaw. When serving, garnish with pink pepper if desired.

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White Gazpacho (Gazpacho with Cucumber and Grapes)

Who says tomatoes should have all the fun?

White Gazpacho

As previously noted, I love making cold soups with cucumbers. Cucumber has such a nice, refreshing taste – it’s almost like water in produce form! I’m also absolutely crazy for white grapes. I like them a bit more than red grapes because they’re a bit more tart, and I love tart. Plus, they’re such a pretty green color!

So you can bet that when I found this recipe for White Gazpacho from Vegetarian Times, I was dancing in my livingroom. The soup looked refreshing, seemed easy to prepare, featured ingredients commonly found in my kitchen, and most importantly, looked REALLY TASTY!

To start, I sliced up one medium cucumber. I personally love cucumber skin and don’t really understand why cucumber soup recipes tell you to remove it. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I’d rather leave on the skin (and the vitamins that come with it) than strip down the cukes! You can remove the skin if you like though, as they instruct. I then added the white grapes, slivered almonds (which I bought raw and just toasted briefly in a skillet on medium heat), garlic (I used one smallish clove even though I halved the recipe, so this soup lends itself to a higher garlic content if you so please), and red onion.

I used a food processor for this gazpacho, but you can likely use a blender just as easily - just maybe chop the cucumbers a bit more depending on blender strength

Now, the recipe calls for a sweet onion, but all I had was a red onion. I actually recommend using the red onion in place of the sweet onion because the intense onion flavor combined with the grapes was absolutely amazing. I may or may not have exclaimed out loud by myself in the livingroom upon taking my first bite; but if I did, I can assure you that it was because the delicate intensity of the onion made this soup a real stand-out.

Once the solid ingredients were pureed, I added some almond milk, balsamic vinegar (which can be used as a sub for sherry vinegar), and olive oil. I also added pinches of salt and pepper directly into the soup and blended them in, as opposed to garnishing with these seasonings afterward. Once done, I placed in the fridge to chill for about an hour – a must not only to make the soup nice and cold, but to let the flavors meld together.  When ready to serve, garnish the soup with some grapes and almonds. The recipe recommends adding arugula to the garnish; I didn’t add this simply because I didn’t have any. I’m sure it’s very delicious though!

This soup is incredible as far as taste. All of the flavors go together really nicely, and each fruit, vegetable, and nut gets its place in the sun thanks to light seasonings. It’s perfect for a hot day, especially since cucumbers and grapes both have a high water content. Enjoy!

Cucumber Radish Soup

Summer’s here, meaning it’s time to cool down the soup!

Cucumber Radish Soup

I am a relatively recent convert to cold soups. It’s like having a smoothie, but less sweet and in a bowl; and they’re perfect for summer! Soups make a great meal because you can load many different kinds of vegetables into them, and they’re a change of pace from salads and the like. Gazpacho is a given as far as a tasty cold soup, and I have also tried fruity ones with success (I still dream about a cold watermelon soup I had at an Italian restaurant about a month ago). I am also a fan of cucumber soups, and decided to make my own with ingredients I had lying around the house.

I am also a recent convert to radishes. I’ve never disliked them, but I never really bought them to keep around the house for my culinary use. However, in my quest to largely stick with Farmer’s Market produce, I decided to give radishes a try, as they had some great-looking ones at the Farmer’s Market last week. Like most vegetables, radishes are (surprise) very good for you – they’re very high in Vitamin C, and the leaves are a good source of calcium. Plus, they’re nice and spicy!

Mm, radishes

I thought that spicy radishes would make a a nice complement to cool cucumber in a cold soup. So, I combined the two with a spring onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and almond milk in a blender, pureeing until nice and smooth. Did I mention that cold soups are probably one of the easiest meals in existence? The hardest part is waiting for an hour or so to eat it, since it needs an hour minimum to chill; so don’t make this if you’re hungry! Make it ahead of time and allow it to not only get cool, but develop a nice flavor. Speaking of, the spices are to taste; and the soup may seem a touch sparse upon first sip. I highly encourage taking a few bites before adding more seasoning, as the garlic, onion, and radish will hit you in the aftertaste! It creates a smooth, mellow taste that lingers as opposed to smacking you right away. But if, after a bit, it’s still too plain, feel free to add some more salt and pepper to your liking.

This soup goes well with a nice bread dipped in a seasoned olive oil. Dig in!

Cucumber Radish Soup (Serves 2)

1 small pickling cucumber (or half of a large cucumber)

2 radishes

1 large or 2-3 small spring onions, white parts only

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp dried peppermint OR 1-2 TB minced fresh peppermint

1/4 to 1/2 tsp cumin, or to taste

Coriander, salt, and pepper, to taste

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. You may want to chop the vegetables first (unless you have an incredibly strong blender). Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Welcome Back, Farmer’s Market!

Spring is almost over, and summer’s just around the corner. And in these parts, that means that the Farmer’s Market is back! *throws confetti*

Well, truth be told, the farmer’s market that I frequent is technically open year-round; but they spend the winter selling breads, cakes, tea, and pickles. While yummy, this doesn’t exactly constitute a well-balanced diet. So once the ground thaws and the plants start growing, I’m back at the Farmer’s Market faster than you can say “sweet potato.”

While sweet potatoes were not to be found at the market this week, I did find an amazing bounty. Anyone concerned that Farmer’s Markets won’t have everything you need produce-wise, look around. Today alone I purchased cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, spring onions, zucchini, yellow zucchini, kale, and miniature cucumbers. The market also had carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, yellow onions, basil … you get my drift. It’s well-stocked.

Not only are these markets well-stocked, but the produce is fresh and looks amazing! For instance, I found a head of cauliflower that was bigger than my own noggin. Check it out:

Attack of the 50 Ft Cauliflower!

Speaking of colossal, check out these spring onions. I’m just gonna laugh at the ones they keep in the store now, shipped in all the way from California. Hey CA, keep your minis – VA’s got the big guns!

What I’m most intrigued by, though, are the yellow zucchini. I’ve never had this variety of zucchini before, and while I have an iffy relationship with summer squashes (they sometimes make me nauseous), I couldn’t resist their pretty yellow color and the following description: “buttery taste.” I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes with these guys, and of course sharing my results!

Don't confuse yellow zucchini with yellow squash!

In short, my first 2011 foray to the Farmer’s Market was a success, and I look forward to getting local produce again through Autumn. To fresh and local eating!