Meatless Mondays, I usually try to feature a main-course type dish that's either vegetarian or vegan. Today, I'm going to break with that convention a bit, because I want to share this salad with you. It's more of a side than a main course, but would work well paired with a soup. It's quick and simple to prepare, and the flavors meld beautifully: sweet cucumbers with licorice-y fennel and crunchy roasted peanuts.
Salads like this are essential spring and summer dishes for me. Simple vegetables, served cold, are the perfect complement to sweltering evenings. It always amazes me how a few unassuming ingredients can combine into something so delicious.
The recipe uses salt to draw out some of the water of the cucumbers. Don't worry, this salad isn't very salty - you will rinse the salt off of the cucumbers before combining them with the other ingredients.
You might notice that there are some pretty little herb plants sitting behind this salad. I saw them at the grocery this weekend and couldn't resist - at less than $3 each, these thyme and oregano plants were an easy addition to our gardening plans.
Cucumber and Peanut Salad
I call for persian cucumbers here, which are smaller and sweeter than regular cucumbers and seedless. Feel free to substitute regular cucumbers if you cannot find the persian variety; whether or not you remove the seeds is up to personal preference.
Yield: 6 side-dish servings
6 persian cucumbers (about 4 cups chopped)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp honey
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
2/3 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
1. Slice the cucumbers into half-moon shapes, about 1/4 inch thick. Place in a colander and toss with the salt. Place the colander in the sink, and let sit for 15 minutes.
2. While the cucumbers sit, combine honey, lemon zest and juice, and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk to combine. To crush peanuts, place in a zip-top baggie and roll with a rolling pin a few times.
3. Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly, and drain well. Place in a mixing bowl.
4. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat. Add oil and fennel seeds, and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Pour this hot oil over the cucumbers, and toss to combine.
5. Add lemon dressing and toss again. Stir in the peanuts shortly before serving.
In other somewhat-related-to-gardening news, we're having trouble with a few birds trying to build a nest on our deck - on top of a light that is far too small, so their nests keep falling apart, covering our deck in mud and sticks. I'm not sure how to convince them to give it up, because it's clearly a poor choice of location, but I'm getting tired of cleaning up after them constantly! I think they're robins. Any ideas?