Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cooking the cukes.

When I saw that Bon Appétit's June issue featured a recipe for cucumbers in coconut milk, I immediately texted Louisa about it and told her that I planned to make them over the long weekend, come hell or high water. And, on Monday afternoon, that's just what I did.

I have a deep and abiding love for cucumbers, and while my love for Thai food isn't quite as long-lived, it's no passing affection, either. So, to see the two combined like this? Made my day.

While I think I'll always prefer cucumbers in their raw form, these lightly cooked ones are pretty darn good. And the cool, light melon flavor of the cukes plays gorgeously with the hot chilies, creamy coconut and rich tomatoes. (The bright squeeze of lime and the sharp kick of mint doesn't hurt, either.) I added a dash of fish sauce, and I think it's really the only right thing to do.

The trick is to cook them just enough - but not too much. If you're worried about finding the right balance, slice the cucumbers a bit on the thick side. Underdone is better than overdone - think warm salad instead of unpuréed vichyssoise. But the best way to eat them, in my opinion? Cold from the fridge the next day. Pure, spicy heaven.

Spicy Cucumbers in Coconut Milk
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 tsp. vegetable oil
2 cups fresh cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
Kosher salt
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 Thai red bird chilies, thinly sliced into rounds
1 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup mixed herbs, chopped (I used 2 parts basil to 1 part mint)
Juice of 1/2 lime

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the cucumber and saute just until beginning to soften. Season with a bit of salt, then add the scallions, tomatoes, garlic and chilies. Cook for another minute or two, until the vegetables are soft.

Add the coconut milk and the fish sauce and cook until the milk begins to turn a bit pink, and the cucumbers are warmed through - about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the herbs and lime juice.

Serve immediately, or chill and serve later as a cold side dish.


Serves two as a side. Maybe three if you don't have a cucumber obsessive in your midst.

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