A dear friend of mine, Donna Gelb, has co-authored a wonderful book called Saladish (Artisan, $24.95) and I couldn’t resist this close up of a cucumber salad that I recently made from the book. Not only is the title stylish and modern, the book is dedicated to salad-like recipes, many with a twist on the usual ingredients. Along with clever illustrations of ingredients and techniques there are superb color photographs that show just how everything should be presented.
Donna [photo right, taken in a NYC restaurant this winter] is a great cook and freelance writer. We met more than 25 years ago and share common interests in food, friends, and Words with Friends. In her professional life, Donna has previously collaborated with South American chef Francis Mallmann on the award-winning book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way. For Saladish, Donna teamed up with Brooklyn, New York chef Ilene Rosen, of R&D Foods.
This is such a beautifully designed book! In a way, it’s almost too beautiful to bear the drips and crinkling that wet fingertips can add to recipe pages. But never mind. The flavor combinations suggested on these pages are bold, and often so unusual that reading and cooking become an exploration of seasonings and ingredients. So even if I’ve never handled adzuki bean miso or shichimi tgarashi, my pal Donna is there to guide me through the introduction to those and on to the various salad components.
I’m not a vegetarian even though I currently lean in that direction. Yet I’m far more fond of vegetable salads than vegetables in more traditional preparations (even stews) and I’m always on the lookout for combinations that stretch my salad definitions. There are so many in this book.
To take a taste of Saladish, my kitchen partner-in-crime Lisa and I decided to try the recipe for Cucumbers with Black Sesame Seeds and Sweet Lime Vinegar. So delicious and refreshing, it was an easy choice — thinly sliced (and salted) cucumbers tossed with a lime-juice gastrique (lime juice and sugar syrup) with grated lime zest for an extra punch of flavor. (Click on the book cover to get a look at the book on Amazon.com).
Toasted black sesame seeds provide dramatic contrast and an Asian-style interplay of citrus and sesame. For those of us who would need to drive an hour or more to find black sesame seeds at an Asian store, I’m pleased to say that toasted white sesame seeds were a substitution (which show in the photos) that worked beautifully for me.
As you can see, my experience with Saladish has been beautiful and delicious. I look forward to venturing further into these wonderful flavors. Thank you Ilene and Donna!
Cucumbers with Black Sesame Seeds and Sweet Lime Vinegar
- 1-1/2 pounds English (seedless) cucumbers, sliced 1/8-inch thick
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup Sweet Lime Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
Sweet Lime Vinegar
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Grated zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small limes
- 1. Sprinkle the cucumber slices with salt, spread them out in a large colander, set it in a large bowl or the sink, and let drain for 30 minutes.
- 2. Press down on the cucumbers to release as much liquid as you can, then blot them very dry and transfer to a serving bowl. Add the lime vinegar and most of the sesame seeds, reserving some for garnish. Toss to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve. They can remain in the fridge for 2 days or longer.
- 3. When ready to serve, using a slotted spoon, transfer the cucumbers to a serving bowl; discard the liquid. Add the lime juice and tarragon, toss to combine, and use a fork to separate the cucumbers. Scatter the reserved sesame seeds over the top and serve.>br>
For the Sweet Lime Vinegar
- 1. Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly syrupy.
- 2. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest and half of the juice. Cool enough to taste, then check for limey-ness, adding more juice if necessary. Cool completely before using. The vinegar can be kept for 2 weeks or longer in the fridge.
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