when life gives you cucumber

My favorite cucumber dish is my mom’s summer cucumber salad. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. It’s very refreshing straight out of the refrigerator, cool on the tongue, with an addictive sweet-sour tang.

Most of the work goes into slicing the cucumber just right. (I don’t know where Mom picked this up, as I haven’t seen the technique anywhere else.) First she peels the cucumber, bisects it lengthwise, and scoops out the seeds. Then she turns each half cut-side-down on the cutting board and slices it by making a series of several shallow cuts, followed by one deep one. The result is a curved arc of cucumber held together at the ends, but separated in the middle. After the pieces are lightly pickled, the ends are still crunchy but the middle bits are silky and soft. It’s a fantastic combination of textures.

This is all that was left when it finally occurred to me to take a picture.

Summer Cucumber Salad

2 or 3 cucumbers
1/2 cup white vinegar (definitely use white; I tried apple cider vinegar once and the result was horrible)
1/2 cup white sugar

Peel the cucumbers and slice off the ends. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds with a spoon.

Turn each half cut-side-down on the cutting board and make a series of several shallow cuts followed by a single deep cut, as shown, until all of the cucumbers are sliced. Don’t worry if you mess up a slice or two. They’re still going to be tasty.

Toss the cucumber slices with salt and let sit in a strainer for an hour or two, to soften the cucumber and drain out some of the natural liquid.

Rinse the salt off the slices, drain, and put in a bowl.

In a measuring cup at least 1 cup in size, measure out 1/2 cup of white vinegar, then add enough sugar to equal a full cup. Stir to dissolve. This step can be hurried by putting the sugar-vinegar solution in the microwave for a short period of time; this will heat the vinegar and help the sugar dissolve.

Pour the sugar-vinegar solution over the cucumber slices, toss to coat, and let marinate for a couple of hours (or longer; I usually let it sit overnight in the fridge).

Strain the cucumber mixture to get rid of excess liquid. Serve cold.