Here are a couple of my go-to summer salads, great for avoiding heating up the kitchen. Both make use of cucumbers but in such different forms that you could easily serve the two at the same meal. The recipes are from my book Texas Q.
Minty Cucumber-Pea Salad
This evolved from the classic cucumber salad when I also happened to have peas on hand. If you have a mandolin to slice the cucumbers, it yields fast results as well as nice even rounds. You can use sugar snaps or snow peas for the whole pea pods, or a combination. It’s common at farmers’ markets to find peas in striking purple pods. They look especially beautiful in this salad.
Serves 6 or more
2 large English cucumbers, unpeeled, sliced very thin
1 small, sweet onion, sliced very thin
½ cup fresh peas
One good handful pea pods
1½ cups white vinegar
¾ cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh mint
- Place cucumbers, onions, peas, and pea pods in a large heatproof bowl.
- Combine in a saucepan the vinegar, water, sugar, peppercorns, and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Pour over the cucumber mixture. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature, with a slotted spoon.
Summer Peach Salad
We tend to save peaches for dessert, but during their short summer heyday, it’s a treat to combine them with savory ingredients too. If you’re awash in apricots, they can be subbed in for the peaches. If you’d like to have a vegan version of this, use crumbles or dollops of a cashew- or other nut-based cheese.
Serves 6 or more
Peach Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1 medium peach, peeled, in several chunks
½ cup vegetable oil or sunflower oil
½ cup white balsamic vinegar or other balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
2 pounds ripe but not over-ripe peaches, peeled and sliced in thin wedges
12 ounces cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and sliced in half-moons
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn if large
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
6 ounces creamy fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- Prepare the vinaigrette. Combine the ingredients in a blender, adding as much of the sugar as needed for a bright balance. Refrigerate until needed.
- Combine in a shallow bowl the peaches and cucumbers. Toss with several tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Scatter the herbs over and around, and crumble the cheese over the salad. Top with pine nuts. Serve right away.
Story and photographs by four-time James Beard Foundation Book Award-winning author Cheryl Alters Jamison.