Cucumber Salad with Grapes and Almonds
Good morning summer and hello cucumbers! What’s your favorite cucumber? Lemon cucumber? English? Armenian? How about pickling? For many years I’ve grown lemon cucumbers, which are yellow and the size of a large lemon when ripe. They look sort of cool, but they can get seedy and they can be somewhat awkward to handle. This year I decided to plant Persian cucumbers instead, which are more delicate than the normal garden variety, and thin-skinned, perfect for salads. I hope you like cucumbers dear readers, because the summer has just begun and already my plant is taking over the sunny corner of the garden. It grows mad like zucchini, but with smaller leaves and a more vine-y approach to life.
For our first cucumber recipe of the season we decided to make a deconstructed white gazpacho minus the bread. Sounds fancy, but it’s basically cucumbers tossed with toasted blanched almonds, and sliced green grapes, with some vinegar and oil dressing. The almonds give it a lovely crunch, the grapes some sweetness, vinegar a touch of acidity. The ingredients just happen to be the core of a Spanish favorite cold soup. So, as weird as the combination may sound, it works. I even ran out of grapes at one point and made a batch with some golden raisins instead. That was good too!
We recommend a thin-skinned cucumber for this salad, so you can leave the skins on. But if you have regular thick-skinned cucumbers, those should work fine too, just peel them first.
We are using thin-skinned persian cucumbers for this recipe. These cucumbers are mild and the skins are not bitter so we can leave them on. If you are using thick-skinned cucumbers, or cucumbers with a bitter peel, you'll want to peel them for this recipe.
Cucumbers have a lot of water in them. When you dress them, the salt in the dressing will leach out some of this moisture, resulting in a lot of excess liquid. One way to get around this is to salt the cucumbers first, let them sit for a while for the salt to work its magic, then rinse off the salt and drain the cucumbers. This is step one in this recipe. You can skip it if you don't have time, but the result will then be much more watery.
- 1/4 cup slivered and blanched almonds
- 1 pound cucumbers, peeled if the peel is bitter, unpeeled if not
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- About 20 green grapes, sliced in half
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sherry or white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons minced chives, for garnish
1 Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds in the middle, discard the seeds. If using rather large cucumbers, slice them again lengthwise. Then cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch to 1/2 inch slices. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Toss to distribute the salt evenly around the cucumber pieces. Let sit for 20 to 25 minutes while the salt helps pull excess moisture out of the cucumbers. Then rinse off the salt, drain the cucumbers, and squeeze out more excess moisture with paper towels.
2 Toast the slivered almonds in a small pan over medium-high heat, tossing them often, until they start to brown and smell good. Move to a bowl to cool.
3 Mix the cucumbers, almonds, garlic, grapes, olive oil, and vinegar together in a large bowl and add more salt to taste. Garnish with chives and serve.