The Secret Ingredient is Technique: Mom’s Cucumber Salad

Even if you have the best quality ingredients and top-of-the-line kitchen tools to use, your recipes can sometimes flop. I’ve learned this the hard way, using my tools incorrectly or inefficiently. Last week I thought it would be a good idea to use the crockpot to make some vegetable lasagna. I’ve seen it done before, should be no problem! Well… Instead of individual layers of ricotta, tomato sauce, and mushrooms & spinach, it turned into a giant indiscernible pot of vegetable mush. Apparently zucchini noodles I made with my mandolin don’t hold up as well as real lasagna noodles.. But lesson learned! Oven vegetable lasagna probably works better than the crockpot version.

Technique is important to learn. One of the best examples I’ve learned was from my mom’s sweet and sour cucumber salad. She always told me the secret to this dish wasn’t in the ingredients, but how thin you cut all your veggies. That is what made it delicious. This week I’ll share the recipe and technique!

The mandolin is one of my favorite kitchen tools, it make simple slices so easy, saves time, and is perfect every time. A mandolin makes perfect slices of whatever you run over it, making it ideal for cucumber slices, super thin onion slices (paper thin onion slices are divine if you’ve never had any!), zucchini, and more.

This mandolin by Kyocera is my favorite to use, It has a porcelain blade so it stays sharp and does not rust. Look for that if you’re shopping in the market for one. The Kyocera also has adjustable settings for thickness, a must have feature.  This is a handheld unit, there are table top units with more attachments and different blades for making shoe strings, and more, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a big  stainless steel set, but this one has the price set right, and I mostly only ever need the slice setting anyway.

Recipe: Mom’s Sweet & Sour Cucumber Salad
Few ingredients makes technique important

2-3 fresh in season cucumbers, peeled and sliced at a 1.3mm thickness on a mandoline (or very sharp knife if you have the knife skills 😉
1 onion, halved and sliced paper thin at 0.5mm thickness on a mandoline
1 cup of apple cider vinegar
1 cup of natural sugar
1 cup of water
1-3 teaspoons of freshly cracked black peppercorns (this really flavors the dish)
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, to taste

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, water and vinegar and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add your mandolined cucumbers and onions and stir with a spoon to cover all with the juice. Season with the salt and cracked black pepper. Let sit for at least 3 hours in the fridge to infuse the flavors, this salad is best served the next day and only gets better as it sits.

Notes: Because the cucumbers and onion are sliced so thin, the sweet & sour dressing easily flavors them and vise versa, the dressing is flavored by the onions and cucumber. If your onion is particularly strong, feel free to add less than the recipe calls for.

Bonus Recipe: honey sriracha chicken stirfry

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use this fresh ginger and garlic in this weeks bag! You can make a simple, yet flavorful and delicious restaurant quality stirfry. 

Recipe: Honey Sriracha Chicken Stirfry

1-2 lbs chicken breast, cut into cubes
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
olive oil
splash of rice wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons of dry sherry (or other wine)
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sriracha (or to taste)
1-2 teaspoon of sea salt
chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons corn starch

1 small head of cabbage, chiffonade or chopped
1 white onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic minced

spring onions, sliced


Marinate: Combine chicken breast, garlic, ginger, olive oil, sesame oil, vinegar, and salt in a ziplock bag and marinate for at least 2-3 hours, overnight is better. 

Sauce: in a bowl, whisk together honey, wine, vinegar, sriracha, salt, and cilantro. This is our yummy sauce for everything. In a separate bowl, mix together broth and cornstarch, this is our thickening agent.

Stirfry: Add to a hot wok or preheated large pan some oil and the diced chicken (reserve leftover marinade) and toss chicken to sear and cook for 3-6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan, add more oil to coat bottom of pan and add cabbage, onion, garlic, and reserved marinade. Toss to combine and cook until cabbage is tender. Add the honey sauce and toss to coat, then add the thickening broth and heat stirfry till sauce is bubbling. Its done! plate and garnish with spring onions

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