Cucumber Peanut Salad

Cucumber Peanut Salad Recipe

In addition to the Sharpie pens, the half-full mug of tea, the snapshots, the magazines, the letters to be mailed, and the stamps to go on those letters, I have two new cookbooks on my desk. Two books to really dive into. I've mentioned this before, but a number of us have been choosing cookbooks to focus on, and we've just chosen these to be next. Tender V.1 is by Nigel Slater, and How to Cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor was the other. These are the picks for the next two months, which should give you enough time to buy them or check them out from the library if you like. We did Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery last, and Moro East and The Essential New York Times Cookbook before that. Today's Cucumber Peanut Salad was my first foray into Sanjeev's book and it doesn't disappoint - chopped cucumbers, spices, toasted peanuts, coconut, and green chiles come together in a refreshing but surprisingly substantial salad.

Cucumber Peanut Salad Recipe

Tender V.1 is by Nigel Slater, and is one of the most beautiful cookbooks I've purchased. At its most simple and basic it is about one man cooking from his garden. But, as anyone who has spent much time with a Nigel Slater book knows, the simplest ideas, or ingredients, or cooking techniques often develop into something completely captivating. And his recipes deliver. So, this pick was a no-brainer. How to Cook Indian was a bit of a wild card choice. After my book signing in Berkeley, I was invited by the shop to choose any book I liked. I tucked the massive orange Indian volume under my arm, went home, and spent hours the next morning tagging recipes - so many! And today's salad was one of them.

Cucumber Peanut Salad Recipe

I took some liberties with this based on personal preference, and readily available ingredients. That's just how I roll when it comes to cooking Indian these days. I don't always have all the ingredients on hand, but I try not to let that deter me. Instead of trying to get thing perfectly "authentic" or as written, I wing it a bit, based on what I think will taste good within the general framework of a recipe. So, for this salad - I didn't have fresh coconut, but I did have big, dried coconut flakes. I knew I could toast them, and they'd be great. So I went with it. I like to leave some of the peel on my cucumbers - so that is what you see here. That sort of thing. I forgot to grind the peanuts - the sky did not fall.

Cucumber Peanut Salad

You can prep all the components ahead of time, but don't toss the salad until just before serving. If you do the peanuts will lose their crunch because the cucumbers give off a good amount of water. If you use two chiles and leave the seeds/veins in - this is quite a spicy salad, so feel free to adapt for your tastes. You can just use one chile, and if you're still worried, remove the seeds and veins. It can be made vegan by substituting sunflower oil for the ghee.

3 medium cucumbers, partially peeled
1-2 green serrano chiles, stemmed and minced
1/2 cup / 2.5 ounces / 70 g peanuts, toasted
1/3 cup / 1.5 ounces / 45 g dried large-flake coconut, toasted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon natural cane sugar
1 tablespoon, ghee, clarified butter, or sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
a handful cilantro, chopped

Halve the cucumbers lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and chop into pieces roughly the size of pencil erasers. Just before you're ready to serve, transfer to a mixing bowl and toss gently with chiles, peanuts, coconut, lemon juice, and sugar.

Over medium heat melt the ghee in a small skillet. When hot stir in the mustard seeds. They are going to sputter and spit a bit, and when this starts to happen, add the cumin for 15-30 seconds, just long enough to toast the spices. Cover with a lid if needed. Remove from heat, stir in the salt, and immediately stir this into the salad. Turn out onto a patter topped with the cilantro.

Serves 4.

Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's Cucumber Salad {Khamang Kakdi) in How to Cook Indian. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, April 2011.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 3 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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