Monday, May 17, 2010

Spicy Sweet Cucumbers

I’ve been looking for a new cucumber dish to serve as a side with my Asian meals. The cucumbers below came out nicely. One of my guests was a bit turned off by the red pepper flakes, but I think they add some really nice heat. Tossing the cucumbers with salt at the beginning is very important. Water will be drawn out of the cucumbers, to later be replaced with the sugar and spiced oil.

I've always had a fondness for cucumbers. As a kid I recall my grandmother and aunts all getting together to can in the fall. For some reason, the pickles stand out in my mind. I loved all the jars, lids, various produce and the opportunity to run around with all of my cousins. This was back in Michigan, where I live briefly, in the mid 70s. If I recall correctly, canned sweet pickles in the middle of winter were always a treat. Thanks to the global economy and geography, fruits and vegetables are never out of season in LA.

Spicy Sweet Cucumbers


4-6 servings

1 lb small pickling cucumber, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 inch peeled fresh gingerroot, julienned
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. Toss the cucumber wedges with the salt and let them stand in a bowl for 20 minutes.

2. Drain the cucumbers in a colander, rinse them under cold water, and pat them dry on paper towels. In a bowl dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, stirring, add the cucumbers, and toss them to coat them with the mixture.

3. In a small skillet heat the sesame oil and the vegetable oil over moderately high heat until the oil is just smoking, add the gingerroot and the red pepper flakes, and stir fry the mixture for 5 - 10 seconds, or until the red pepper flakes are several shades darker.

4. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the oil cool to room temperature.

5. Pour the spiced oil over the cucumbers, toss the mixture well and let it marinate at room temperature for 1 hour.

6. Refrigerate and cover, stirring occasionally. They can keep for a few days.

If you are worried about red pepper flakes clinging to the cucumbers, you could always strain the oil and discard the ginger and pepper flakes.

I love the smell of sesame seed oil when it's heated.

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