Ginger Cucumber Salad with Scallops

While I’m waiting for the orange cake to come out of the oven, let me tell you about the wonderfully light and tasty cucumber salad I made. Taken straight from Mark Bittman at the New York Times, this salad is perfect for a light lunch or quick dinner before going out to hit the town (you want something in your stomach, but not too much ’cause you’ll probably end up eating more later). This has a distinctly asian flavor about it, and reminds me of those yummy little pickled cucumbers that you get as a palate cleanser between courses at (I think) Japanese restaurants. So, if you like those, you’ll love this salad!

It comes together quickly (with a bit of time to sit), and requires minimum time in front of a stove so it’s perfect for summertime. Speaking of coming together quickly, I finally broke down and bought a mandoline. Mine is an OXO one and kind of spiffy with lots of different blades and an adjustable dial to change the thickness of whatever it is you’re cutting. I used it for both the cucumbers and the onions. (Sure, I could have easily sliced the onions by hand and I can get slices that thin with cucumbers too, but that many of them? That would have taken a while and, unless I went even more slowly, at least some of the slices would have been much too thick or too thin.) Now, I just need to use the mandoline more – and certainly enough to justify it’s existence in my kitchen cabinets.

But, back to the salad. It has seared scallops! How could it not be good, right? (You could easily use shrimp instead.) When I made this for myself I only cooked up half the scallops, thinking I’d quickly sear off another round when I ate the other half. However, I have to tell you that the leftovers, cold from the fridge and without the tasty seafood, was delish! I might have liked it better than the original. Part of that could be that I added some cyan pepper to the leftovers because I thought the salad needed a bit of heat. I’ve adjusted the recipe accordingly, don’t you worry!

Ginger Cucumber Salad with Scallops

adapted from Mark Bittman
serves 2 (doubles easily)

  • 1 large asian cucumber (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger (but I won’t tell if you use the stuff out of a jar!)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 small Thai (or other) hot chile, finely diced
  • oil for searing the scallops (see note below)
  • 1/2 pound sea scallops
  • salt and pepper
  • dash of tumeric
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

Using your spiffy new mandoline, slice the cumberer into 1/8 slices. Remember not to slice your fingers off when you get to the end. Combine the vinegar, ginger, sugar, salt and chili and pour over the cucumbers. Set the bowl aside for the acids to go to work on the cucumbers and the flavors to combine for at least half an hour, but longer if you like. Or, stick it in the fridge and come back to it later; it’ll be fine.

Lightly coat the bottom of a non-stick skillet with the oil. (Note: Bittman says to use “grapeseed or other neutral oil” which I didn’t have so I just used vegetable. I would steer clear of olive oil though, with its distinctive flavor. While I love olive oil, that’s not the flavor we’re going for in this dish.) Heat to medium-high, and sear the scallops for about 2 minutes on each side. Set them aside.

Add another tablespoon of oil, turn the heat down to medium, and saute the onions with the tumeric until they soften and turn transluscent. A little bit of browning is okay, but remember the tumeric will color the onions so don’t just rely on color to determine if your onions are cooked.

While you’ve got the onions working in your large skillet, heat the sesame seeds in a small one until they just start to smell good. Keep an eye on them ’cause, like most seeds and nuts, they’ll go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Once everything is cooked and off the heat, get your cucumbers. Drain most of the vinegar marinade from the them, and add the onions to the bowl. Stir gently to combine. Plate half the cucumbers and onions and top with half the scallops. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

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