How’s the weather where you are? Here in Seattle, we finally got summer this week after months of whining and praying for it! And now that it’s here, we’re whining about how hot it is!
With summer comes BBQ season, cold soups and salads, and lots of Indian food too. Yes that’s right! Indian food in summer. Here in the US, spicy curries don’t come to mind when it’s hot outside. In India while the curries still remain spicy even in summer, different vegetables are featured. Various kinds of gourds and squashes are in season in summer.
The ‘Malnad’ (literally translating to land of rain) region of the south Indian state of Karnataka grows some of the juiciest, crispest and sweetest cucumbers around the area. This is where my mother’s family is from and we would visit every summer. Some of my best childhood memories are from summers spent at my grandparents, playing with my cousins, climbing trees, chasing away monkeys from the guava trees and of course devouring grandma’s savory and sweet treats. And yes eating lots of cucumbers.
Cucumbers contain a chemical called cucurbitacin that sometimes makes them taste bitter. My mom taught me to slice the ends off and then holding the cut end against the exposed part of the cucumber, rub it around it a circular fashion. This removes the white ‘poison’ as my mother called it. And supposedly the cucumber tastes less bitter. I say supposedly as I never use cucumbers without removing the ‘poison’. So if you think cucumbers have a bitter edge to them, try out this trick!
While cucumbers are perhaps not quite as tasty here as in the Malnad region, I’m so glad they are available. There are a couple of salads that are super easy to make that I’d love to share with you. The first one is an Indian style cucumber salad and the second a Moroccan style salad. When you look for cucumbers, look for ones that are tender and don’t have any yellow on them. English cucumbers are nice as they are practically seedless and are crispier but they’re also more expensive.
Indian cucumber salad – Serves 2
- 1 regular or English cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into spears
- ~ 3 sprigs cilantro (1-2 tablespoons), roughly chopped
- 1-2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
- 1 green chili, ends cut and slit lengthwise (optional)
- Salt to taste
Toss all the ingredients together (I use a tupperware box) just before serving. The cucumbers also make a great appetizer. You can prepare the salad ahead of time. But add the lime and salt, and toss again, just before serving. This is a very flexible recipe – use more or less of the ingredients as you like.
Moroccan cucumber salad – Serves 2-3
adapted from Kitty Morse’s Cooking at the Kasbah
- 1 english or regular cucumber, peeled, deseeded and diced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1/4 yellow onion, finely diced (Kitty Morse uses 2 green onions, finely chopped. I didn’t have any on hand)
- ~ 3 sprigs fresh mint (about 1 tablespoon), leaves separated and chopped finely
- 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground pepper
- Salt to taste
Mix all the ingredients together. Again, you can prepare the ingredients ahead of time and mix everything leaving out the lemon and salt till just before serving. This same salad with cilantro instead of mint is another version of the Indian cucumber salad. Make sure to use fresh mint. If the mint is not fresh, it can impart a bitter taste to the salad.
Now things just don’t get any simpler!