Shanghai Cucumbers

One of my favorite dishes that I’ve had at a restaurant is PF Chang’s Shanghai Cucumbers.  The first time I had them, I went home and recreated them.  It is a quick and easy recipe that is delicious with a number of dishes.  All you need is a cucumber, toasted sesame oil, tamari or shoyu, and gomasio (toasted sesame seeds).  I found out recently that PF Chang’s also adds a small amount of white vinegar to the sauce, but I don’t tend to do that when I make it, although it does add a slight amount of tang (that isn’t unwelcome) to the dish.

Shanghai Cucumber ingredients

I believe that cucumber choice is the key to success with this recipe.  I am a huge fan of the local Dominion Organics Middle Eastern (or Persian) cucumbers and feel that this variety tastes the best, especially for this recipe.  English cucumbers are my second choice, when the Middle Eastern ones are not in season, and the nice thing is that those are generally local year round (they are grown in BC in a hot-house).  If neither of these varieties of cucumbers are available to you, then you can of course use your standard cucumber!

Another key ingredient that I use is the Ohsawa brand organic gluten-free tamari.  We don’t carry it at the Co-op, but owners can special order it in quantities of 3 (it works out to be about $9.60 a bottle – I saw it for as much as $21 a bottle on Amazon!).  It is much pricier than other tamaris on the market, but it is vastly superior so it is worth the extra cost.  We carry Ohsawa Nama Shoyu at the Co-op (if you can tolerate wheat) which is also pricier than other shoyus, but again, it is vastly superior.  It is the only unpasteurized (and therefore raw)  shoyu on the market – and neither the shoyu or the tamari is made with grain alcohol.

Anyway, back to the recipe!  Start by peeling strips off the cucumber – this is more for looks than anything else!

Once you have done that, hold your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber and slice into bite-sized chunks.  Rotate cucumber a 1/4 turn and slice again – repeat until you can’t cut any more off!

Next, mix your sauce ingredients in a small measuring cup or in a small bowl.  Pour over your cut cucumber, sprinkle with gomasio, and you’re done!

This dish takes about 5-7 minutes to make (depending on how quick you are with your knife!) – if you make it ahead, I like to reserve the sauce and add it right before serving.  If you have leftovers, they will still be delicious (and slightly more intense!) the next day, although they won’t look as pretty.  I make these at home to go with steak, Asian cuisine, and just for a snack.

Shanghai Cucumbers

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Middle Eastern or English Cucumber
  • ~ 2 T GF tamari or shoyu
  • 1/4 t toasted sesame oil
  • Gomasio (to taste)
  • Optional—1 t white vinegar

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wash your cucumber of choice.  With your vegetable peeler, peel strips off the cucumber, being sure to leave some of the skin.
  2. Holding your knife at a 45° angle to the end of the cucumber, slice cucumber into mouth sized pieces, rotating a 1/4 turn after each cut.  Place cut cucumber into a bowl.
  3. In a small measuring cup or bowl combine tamari/shoyu and toasted sesame oil.  Add vinegar if using.
  4. Toss cucumber with the sauce.  Sprinkle gomasio to taste.
  5. Enjoy!

To make your own gomasio:

  1. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. Add raw sesame seeds to pan, and shake continuously until the seeds become slightly browned and become very aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from pan; Optional—sprinkle sea salt (to taste) over seeds and mix well.
  4. Keep in airtight container in the fridge.

You can use any kind of cucumber in this dish, but Middle Eastern/Persian and English cucumbers work the best.  If you use a regular cucumber, then you will need to peel the whole thing and deseed it first.

Shanghai Cucumbers PDF

Chilled (local) Cucumber Yogurt Soup

Spring has sprung, and that means more local produce is showing up every week.  Right now we have local, organic rhubarb, Napa cabbage, red mustard greens, asparagus (the only local organic asparagus that you can buy at any grocery store in town, I might add!), salad mix, and my favorite – English and Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cucumbers from local grower Dominion Organics.

I sampled the English cucumbers last week for customers, so this week I had to pay attention to the Mediterranean cucumbers – as I have stated in the past, they are my most favorite local produce item (well, until the honeycrisp apples start showing up from Bellewood!).

As I was surfing the web for recipes, I ran across a bunch of cold soup recipes.  I know, cold soup sounds really yummy, huh?  Most everyone has heard of gazpacho, but a plethora of chilled soup recipes exist out there, and I found a couple more that I will prepare and sample this summer as we get more local produce in stock.    Just like any soup, these recipes can have a large range of ingredients, so I looked for one that I knew could be made with all local products once the growing season really gets going (except the lemon and olive oil – we’ll never get those locally due to our climate!).

This soup would be great on a hot summer day because it really is refreshing (and soooo easy to make!).  The flavor profile is similar to mint raita (cucumber/yogurt condiment – see our January Meal of the Month recipe), and it has a little bite – followed by creamy smoothness.  One of the recipes I found suggested serving the soup with a garnish of raisins, which I though would be really strange, but they add a nice touch of sweet and added texture to the soup, though they may not appeal to everyone!

This is a (mostly) one-pot meal – all of your ingredients go straight into the blender or food processor.  The recipe I adapted (from allrecipes.com) indicated that you should use raw garlic, but that flavor doesn’t appeal to everyone, so I did blanch the garlic for about 45 seconds before I added it to the blender.  I used a 4 cup blender, and the soup came out to about 4 1/2 cups, so it just fit – any more ingredients and I would have had to make it in two batches.

I used the Greek Gods non-fat yogurt, but any yogurt will work – I will make it with the local Grace Harbor Farms yogurt next time.  You can also use English cucumbers, but I don’t recommend regular cucumbers for this recipe as the flavor is different and you would have to de-seed them first.

Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup Photo © 2010 Sassy Sampler

Chilled Cucumber Yogurt Soup

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 c yogurt

1/2 c sour cream

1 t olive oil

3 large Middle Eastern/Mediterranean  cucumbers, peeled and grated

1 T fresh lemon juice

1/2 bunch mint leaves, chopped (about 1 c)

1/2 bunch fresh dill, chopped (about 1/2 c)

2 cloves garlic, crushed and blanched (can also be used raw)

1/2 t salt (optional)

1/4 c raisins (optional)

Instructions

1. Combine yogurt and sour cream in blender or food processor (fit with blade attachment)

2. Add olive oil and blend.

3. Add cucumber to blender/processor and  combine until smooth.

4. Add lemon juice and pulse to combine.

5. Add mint and dill, combine until smooth.

6. Add blanched garlic and combine until smooth.

7. Add salt if using.

8. Refrigerate soup after final blend, or serve immediately.

9. Serve garnished with about 1 T of raisins (if using), or leftover herbs.

This would be great served with lamb, or just some toasted pita bread.

To blanch garlic—

Heat a couple of cups of water in a small sauce pan until boiling.  Add crushed garlic cloves and allow to cook for about 45 seconds.  Remove garlic from water and let cool on cutting board.  This will mellow the heat of the garlic, and is not a necessary step if you are a raw garlic fan!