On any given late summer early morning, when I go out onto our deck, I pretty much expect to find "Joe's Vegetable Table" looking something like the above picture. Before he leaves for the office each day, weather permitting, he picks, rinses/cleans and organizes his prime produce for me. Upon my arrival at "Joe's Vegetable Table", it is up to me to decide how I'm going to prepare the day's bounty. Today I know we're having two great side-dishes for dinner tonight, my: ~ Perfectly Cooked Sweet Corn ~, and, ~ Crunchy Dilled-Cucumber, Onion & Tomato Salad ~, both recipes found in Category 4.
Sweet corn will be featured soon in one of my upcoming blogs. Today I'm talking about one of my all-time favorite salads, made with all of my favorite freshly-picked ingredients: cucumbers, onions, tomatoes and the native to southern Russia herb, dill (pictured below).
Simply explained by me, "Dill is to Russia as Basil is to Italy." This being said: dill is used in cuisines worldwide, including Lao, Thai, Vietnamese, Arabian, Indian and Iranian. I'm simply pointing out that dill itself is native to Russia. During the summer/early fall, it's fragile, wispy, fernlike, green leaves lend a sweet, subtle taste to all sorts of salads and dressings. Dill is also a common addition to many fish dishes, soups and anything that can be pickled... which is no surprise as Russia is renowned for its dilled-salmon, -borscht and -pickles. There are many variations to this pickled salad, but this one, hailing from my Eastern European heritage, as mentioned above, is my all-time, summer-time favorite!
2 pounds peeled, halved and thinly sliced fresh, garden cucumbers
3/4-1 pound peeled, halved and very thinly sliced yellow or sweet onion
1-1 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe, firm, garden tomatoes, cut into wedges, wedges cut in half or thirds (Note: Slightly over-ripe or over-ripe tomatoes will not work well in this recipe.)
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, more or less, to taste
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
2-4 tablespoons minced, fresh dill leaves, more or less, to taste
freshly ground peppercorn blend, for garnishing each portion of salad
dill sprigs, for garnishing each portion of salad
~ Step 1. Peel and slice the cucumbers and onions as directed, placing them in a large mixing bowl as you work. Slice the tomatoes as directed and set them aside.
~ Step 2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Using a large rubber spatula, stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Taste and add more salt, if necessary. Add this mixture to the vegetables, or stir in the optional red pepper flakes:
I like to add the red pepper flakes because my family likes this salad a little spicy. When I do, I set this mixture aside for about 10 minutes, to give all the flavors time to "marry". Then I taste and add more pepper, if necessary. Now add this mixture to the vegetables. What can I say, I'm very particular. I like getting my liquid mixture perfectly seasoned prior to adding it to my fresh vegetables!
I told you we were going to have two really great side-dishes with dinner tonight and we did! My Crunchy-Dilled Cucumber, Onion & Tomato Salad and Perfectly Cooked Sweet Corn recipes are the ideal side-dishes for any summer gathering.
Why not make these two the hit of your upcoming Labor Day holiday picnic celebration!?!
P.S. Look for my post: ~ The Corn Chronicles ~, coming soon!
Crunchy Dilled-Cucumber, Onion & Tomato Salad: Recipe yields about 6 cups.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; vegetable peeler; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; slotted spoon (for serving)
Cook's Note: Be sure to choose tomatoes that are firm. I like to use tomatoes that are about, "a day away from being great sliced and served on a 'burger or a sandwich!"
Extra Cook's Note: While this salad is marvelous made using fresh dill, for an equally delicious change of pace, occasionally I substitute minced, fresh mint leaves for the dill. I always make this change when I am serving it with my recipe for ~ Roasted Lamb Sandwiches w/Lemon-Mint Mayo ~, which is found in Categories 2 & 20!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2010)