Bread is the food that binds us together. Bread is the food that brings us together at the table, as we "break bread". This act is found all over the world, in cultures near and far. The simple act of "breaking bread" is the nearly the same, yet the difference is the type of bread as well as what is put onto the bread. But this isn't a recipe for bread (maybe in a future newsletter I'll give you a bread recipe); rather today's recipe is for what I'm eating on top of my bread right now!
I recently took a road-trip with my husband and daughter to Shephardstown, WV, just a little over an hour from our home. It was a beautiful sunny Saturday, the perfect kind of day to get outside, away from home, and explore. We arrived in time for lunch and followed the locals to a sweet little cafe and patiently waited for a table, while ignoring our growling bellies. I ordered a kombucha, my husband ordered a beer, and we took a look at the expansive menu. The first item that I noticed was their Cucumber Bruschetta, which sounded intriguing, if not a bit odd. I'd never considered anything other than tomatoes to be used for bruschetta! While I didn't order that dish, and settled on a bowl of delicious house-made soup instead, I kept the idea of a cucumber-topped bread in the back of my mind, knowing that I would make my own recipe from that inspiration.
A week went by and I still hadn't played around with my own cucumber salad-bread situation yet. Perhaps I was scared to create a recipe that included bread, since I have been actively avoiding the consumption of gluten for over 3 years? More about my dietary preferences as it pertains to gluten another time; I finally started playing around with some chopped cucumber and today's recipe is the result! I had to wrap my head around the idea that cucumber could become the anchor in a salad recipe, in a way that I've never used this common vegetable before.
As we come into the warmer part of the year, it's important to keep seasonality in-mind when choosing fresh produce. Cucumbers, while available year-round due to greenhouse growing and shipment from all over the world, are planted in mid-May in Maryland (according to The University of Maryland Extensionservices). By mid-summer, our local farmers markets are overflowing with cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers. I'd venture to guess that many people use the bumper-crop of cucumbers to make pickles, but with my easy recipe, you'll have another way to put those cucumbers to use.
A few simple tips for using cucumbers in a salad: remove the seeds, if not using a seedless cucumber. The seeds add a lot of moisture (and sometimes sliminess) to a salad, which isn't desirable. Note that I used an English cucumber in my salad, which has very small seeds that I did not discard. Salt acts to draw moisture out of cucumbers, so adding salt to the salad will cause the cucumber water to leach-out and turn the salad into a soggy mess. Also undesirable. Some other tips for this recipe: toast the walnuts to add a nice bit of nutty crunch to the salad! Use the freshest lemon and dill that you can buy, the flavors of both really shine though in this recipe, so make sure that they're the best available. And the olives provide the salt in this recipe - there's no additional salt added! If you're not familiar with Moroccan dry-cured olives, this variety is my favorite for adding intense briny flavor to many of my recipes; they're worth seeking-out at the olive bar (I get mine at Whole Foods).
As we slowly (but finally) transition into warmer weather, take some time to thank Mother Nature for nurturing you and our Earth through this longer colder winter. Hot and steamy summertime weather will be here before we know it!
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Cool & Crunchy Cucumber Salad (+ Tartine)
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
2/3 C chopped walnuts, toasted
1 C diced English cucumber (1/2” dice)
2T Moroccan dry-cured olives, coarsely chopped
1/4 C fresh dill, chopped
1 T lemon zest
1 t lemon juice
2 T extra-virgin olive oil + additional for toast (if desired)
1 T ground sumac
4 slices crusty artisan bread, toasted
Toast the walnuts. Place a small skillet over medium heat, and once hot, add the chopped walnuts. Stir occasionally until fragrant and lightly toasted, approximately 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan to cool.
In a large bowl, add the toasted walnuts, chopped cucumber, chopped olives, chopped dill and lemon zest. Toss gently. Pour the lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil onto the mixture and toss again to coat all of the ingredients with the oil. Cover and chill salad in the refrigerator for an hour, to allow the flavors to blend.
After an hour, gently stir the salad and place into a smaller serving bowl. Sprinkle ground sumac on top of the salad and serve.
If serving the salad as a tartine, toast the bread. Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil on top of the toast. Add a large spoonful of the salad atop the toast and enjoy.
recipe yields 4 servings
the salad does not do well as leftovers, so make and eat it on the same day! The walnuts can be chopped & toasted in advance to save time.
use the best bread you can find, preferably a sourdough bread