Good morning summer and hello cucumbers! What’s your favorite cucumber? Lemon cucumber? English? Armenian? How about pickling? For many years I’ve grown lemon cucumbers, which are yellow and the size of a large lemon when ripe. They look sort of cool, but they can get seedy and they can be somewhat awkward to handle. This year I decided to plant Persian cucumbers instead, which are more delicate than the normal garden variety, and thin-skinned, perfect for salads. I hope you like cucumbers dear readers, because the summer has just begun and already my plant is taking over the sunny corner of the garden. It grows mad like zucchini, but with smaller leaves and a more vine-y approach to life.
For our first cucumber recipe of the season we decided to make a deconstructed white gazpacho minus the bread. Sounds fancy, but it’s basically cucumbers tossed with toasted blanched almonds, and sliced green grapes, with some vinegar and oil dressing. The almonds give it a lovely crunch, the grapes some sweetness, vinegar a touch of acidity. The ingredients just happen to be the core of a Spanish favorite cold soup. So, as weird as the combination may sound, it works. I even ran out of grapes at one point and made a batch with some golden raisins instead. That was good too!
We recommend a thin-skinned cucumber for this salad, so you can leave the skins on. But if you have regular thick-skinned cucumbers, those should work fine too, just peel them first.
Cucumber Salad with Grapes and Almonds Recipe
Prep time: 30 minutesCook time: 5 minutes
We are using thin-skinned persian cucumbers for this recipe. These cucumbers are mild and the skins are not bitter so we can leave them on. If you are using thick-skinned cucumbers, or cucumbers with a bitter peel, you'll want to peel them for this recipe.
Cucumbers have a lot of water in them. When you dress them, the salt in the dressing will leach out some of this moisture, resulting in a lot of excess liquid. One way to get around this is to salt the cucumbers first, let them sit for a while for the salt to work its magic, then rinse off the salt and drain the cucumbers. This is step one in this recipe. You can skip it if you don't have time, but the result will then be much more watery.
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1/4 cup slivered and blanched almonds
1 pound cucumbers, peeled if the peel is bitter, unpeeled if not
1 teaspoon minced garlic
About 20 green grapes, sliced in half
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced chives, for garnish
1 Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds in the middle, discard the seeds. If using rather large cucumbers, slice them again lengthwise. Then cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch to 1/2 inch slices. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Toss to distribute the salt evenly around the cucumber pieces. Let sit for 20 to 25 minutes while the salt helps pull excess moisture out of the cucumbers. Then rinse off the salt, drain the cucumbers, and squeeze out more excess moisture with paper towels.
2 Toast the slivered almonds in a small pan over medium-high heat, tossing them often, until they start to brown and smell good. Move to a bowl to cool.
3 Mix the cucumbers, almonds, garlic, grapes, olive oil, and vinegar together in a large bowl and add more salt to taste. Garnish with chives and serve.
Do you have your grill on? Here’s a quick and easy way to grill salmon. No marinade required. The trick to grilled salmon, so that your fillets stay whole and don’t fall through the grill grates, is to use skin-on pieces. Grill the salmon flesh side down first. Once you have some grill marks, turn over the salmon so that now the skin-side is on the grill. As the salmon cooks, the flesh tends to flake, but if the salmon does most of its cooking skin-side down, the skin will help keep the salmon together so it doesn’t flake apart into the grill. A little butter with dill is all you need to serve, with a few slices of lemon. Perfect!
Grilled Salmon with Dill Butter Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutesCook time: 10 minutes
Skin-on is helpful when grilling salmon, as the skin helps hold the fish together on the grill grates.
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4 6-ounce portions of salmon, preferably skin-on
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, plus more to wipe down the grill
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
One lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
1 Remove the salmon from the refrigerator and sprinkle a little salt over it. Let it sit at room temperature while you preheat your grill for high, direct heat.
2 While the grill is heating, mix the fresh dill with the butter in a small bowl.
3 When the grill is hot, scrape down the grates with a grill brush. Pour a little vegetable oil onto a paper towel, and use tongs to wipe down the grill grates. Coat the salmon in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and place, skin side up, onto the grill grates. Grill over high heat for 2-4 minutes (depending on how thick your salmon pieces are) undisturbed. Carefully turn the salmon with a spatula. If using a gas grill, reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, move the salmon to the cooler side of the grill. Cover and grill it for another 3-5 minutes, depending on how well done you prefer your salmon. The salmon should be just cooked through when done.
4 To serve, place a few thin slices of lemon on each plate. Remove the salmon pieces from the grill (it's okay if the skin sticks to the grill grates) and place on the lemon slices. Top each piece of salmon with about a tablespoon of the dill butter and serve at once.
Hello my friends, you are just going to have to trust me on this one. The first time I had a panaché (pan nah SHAY), a popular French drink that is simply a combination of a light beer and a citrusy soda like 7-Up, it was in Orlando at Disney World, on a typically hot May afternoon. My friends and I had been wandering the park for hours. My legs were tired. I was tired. If I had been 3 years old I would have been on the verge of meltdown requiring a nap or time-out. My dear French sweetheart found us a table in the shade and ventured off, returning with a platter of glasses filled with ice, a few beers, and a few cans of 7-Up. Now, if the thought of mixing 7-Up with beer makes your head want to explode, you’re not alone. But we were tired, our resistance down. We had a taste and with it, every reservation vanished. I can now tell you that on a hot day, there is no better drink in the world.
Why? Because a panaché is truly refreshing. Not cloying sweet like straight soda. You can drink several glasses before you even notice that there is a touch of alcohol from the beer in it. In France it isn’t usually served with ice (in general ice in drinks isn’t as popular in Europe as it is here) but in my Frenchman’s opinion, it’s even better with ice, and I agree.
I was going to wait until Bastille Day to share this with you, it being a French favorite and all. But here we are, it’s 104°F (40°C) in Sacramento today, and is forecast to be well over 100°F all week. Our friends in Arizona have it even worse (117° in Phoenix, yikes!). Wherever you are, stay cool. And try a panaché!
Update: Many readers have commented that this combination is known as a “Shandy” in many parts of the English speaking world, and goes by other names in other countries as well. ~Elise
Prep time: 1 minute
The proportions can vary from 1/4 beer to a 1/2 beer, with the rest being 7-up or Sprite. Just make sure you use a light (not dark) beer. It doesn't have to be a "lite" beer, though that would work too.
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1 part beer (not a dark beer, but a light one, like a Bud, or Miller)
1 to 3 parts 7-up or Sprite
It may seem somewhat counterintuitive, but sweet melons such as cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon taste even more special with a little salt to balance their sweetness. This is why watermelon with feta is such a classic summer salad. We’ve taken this idea a little further by adding a touch of zing from chiles to our melon salad. Don’t overdo it with the chiles. There should be just enough to make your tongue tingle. That along with the sweetness from the melons, a little lime or lemon juice, some mint, and a dash of salt, and you have a summer melon symphony. Enjoy!
Melon Salad with Chili and Mint Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes
Experiment with different shapes for the diced melon, including using a melon baller if you have one. This melon salad holds up well in the fridge, but the mint should be added at service.
This recipe easily scales up.
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4 cups of diced melon, honeydew, cantaloupe, or ambrosia melon, or a mixture, about 1 large or 2 small melons
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, more or less to taste
About 1/2 serrano chile, minced (taste the chile first to determine its heat, then add more or less to taste)
2 to 3 Tbsp lime juice or lemon juice
10 large fresh spearmint leaves
1 Put the diced melon into a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and toss to combine. Add the lime or lemon juice and minced chili. Toss to combine. Chiles vary in their level of hotness, so start with a small amount (maybe 1 teaspoon minced), and add more to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
2 When you are ready to serve, slice the mint leaves thin and gently combine with the diced melon. The easiest way to slice the mint is to chiffonade it: stack the mint leaves, roll them into a cigar shape and slice thin.
Happiness is … finding a half-full can of chipotle chilies in adobo in the fridge, when you have burgers to grill! These smoked red jalapeños add pizzaz to almost anything grilled. Fold minced chipotles into your burger mixture, form patties and grill. Top the burgers with melted jack cheese, sliced avocados, and a little cilantro. If you want even more heat, double down and add strips of roasted poblano chilies.
Chipotle Burger Recipe
Prep time: 15 minutesCook time: 20 minutes
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1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/3 cup grated onion
2-4 chipotle peppers (from a can of chipotle chili peppers in adobo), depending on how much chile heat you like, minced, plus 1 Tbsp of the adobo sauce
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 hamburger buns
6 slices jack cheese
2 avocados, sliced
Chipotle hot sauce to taste (we use Tabasco brand)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
2 poblano chile peppers, roasted, seeded, peeled and sliced (optional)*
* Optional step for roasted poblanos. Coat the poblanos with a little oil and grill or broil them until they are blackened on all sides. Alternatively, you can take the plain, un-oiled peppers and place them directly on a gas stovetop burner, turning them as needed, until they are blackened on all sides. Place the blackened peppers in a covered bowl for 15 minutes or so to steam. Peel off the charred skin and remove all the seeds. Slice into thick ribbons and toss with a little vegetable oil and salt and set aside.
1 Mix the ground beef, grated onion, minced chipotles, the adobo sauce, salt, cumin and black pepper together in a large bowl. Mix gently, just until the ingredients are combined. Do not over-mix or the burgers will be tough.
2 Form 4-6 patties from the burger mix, about 1/4 pound to 1/3 pound each. Tip: form the patties with a little indentation in the center and as they cook the patties won't bulge as much in the center.
3 Grill the burgers over medium-high heat (with the grill lid down) until done, about 6-7 minutes per side, depending on how hot your grill is. Cook until the internal temperature is 140°F for medium rare, or 160°F for well done. When the burgers are almost ready, place a slice of jack cheese on each patty and close the grill lid. The cheese should melt in a little over a minute.
4 If you want toasted burger buns with your burgers, toast them after you've flipped the burgers. Watch that the buns don't burn; when they are lightly toasted move them to a tray near the grill. When the burgers are ready, place them on the buns. Top with slices of avocado, then some of the roasted poblanos (if using) a little cilantro and hot sauce.
Who says you need mayo for a tuna salad? Here’s an Asian inspired tuna salad with radishes, green onions, and shredded carrots, dressed with rice vinegar and sesame oil. Great chilled or at room temperature. Perfect for picnics or potlucks. Serve it over chopped lettuce, in a sandwich, in lettuce wraps, or our favorite, tossed with Japanese buckwheat soba noodles. My advice? Make a double batch. This one disappears quickly.
Asian Tuna Salad Recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
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10-12 ounces of canned white albacore tuna packed in water, drained
8-10 small radishes, cut into wedges
1 large carrot, shredded
1 clove garlic, smashed and minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1/2 to 1 serrano chile, seeded and minced (taste for heat and adjust, can also sub some chili pepper flakes)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar (or plain rice vinegar with a teaspoon of sugar)
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 whole green onion, chopped
Optional: 8 ounces (dry) soba noodles* or fresh lettuce
*If mixing in with soba noodles, cook soba noodles according to package directions, and rinse with cold water.
1 Place the drained tuna, radishes, shredded carrot, garlic, ginger, chile, vegetable oil, dark sesame oil, and rice vinegar in a large bowl. Gently toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
2 When ready to serve, stir in the chopped cilantro and green onion.
Serve with lettuce, or mixed in with cold, cooked soba noodles.