Summer is almost here and we’ll all be busy grilling. We desperately need a cool side dish that delivers do-ahead service, stands up on buffet tables, avoids spoilage risk (hit the road mayo), and doesn’t threaten those swimsuit physiques (you too pasta salad).

Both recipes, inspired by twowell-respected chefs, relying on two flavor combos that equally delight. One leans toward heat and one toward sweet, can you match the country to its taste characteristic?

swedish quick pickled cucumbers

It would seem the coldest country might desire heat, even in spice form, but it’s the opposite. Spicy foods can cool down a body in hot weather, by forcing sweat. Also,people in warmer regions of the world benefit from eating spicier foods, because spices are natural antimicrobials. Food-borne pathogens and parasites are more prolific in warmer climates, and spices can kill or inhibit their growth.

pickle me elmo

David Tanis, author, former chef at Alice Water’s famed Chez Panisse and columnist for the New York Times, provided inspiration for Vietnamese spiced cucumber. Marcus Sameulsson, world-class chef from Aquavit, Ethiopian decent but raised in Sweden, where pickling is a national sport, inspired the sweeter version of cucumber salad that will please all palates. For a country that gave us IKEA directions, this recipe is a cinch.

Swedish & vietnamese cucumber salads

Flavors are strong for both recipes.  Adjust measurement to suit your taste and taste as you go.

Vietnamese Cucumbers

preptime: 15 min                                            serves 8-10

  • 4 large or 2 English (hot house) cucumbers
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (nuoc mam) or  or Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 1″ piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-3 Tbsp palm sugar (or use raw brown sugar)
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1-2 fresh Thai chilies (or serranos or jalapenos), finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped mint
  • 2 Tbsp chopped basil
  • 1-2 thinly sliced scallions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds with a spoon, if they are large. Slice the cucumbers into thickish half-moons and put in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle lightly with fish sauce, then add the ginger and a couple of tablespoons of palm sugar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss well and let cucumbers sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add chopped chili according to your heat tolerance.
  4. Squeeze in the juice from two limes, toss again, cover, and refrigerate until serving.
  5. Just before serving, add roughly chopped mint and basil leaves.
  6. Garnish with thinly-sliced scallions.

Sweet, Swede Quick Pickled Cucumbers

preptime: 10 min (hands on)                       6-8 servings

  • 1 English (hothouse) cucumber
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 allspice berries
  1. Slice the cucumber as thin as possible (use a mandoline or other vegetable slicer if you have one).
  2. Put the slices in a colander, toss them with the salt, and let stand for about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, and allspice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. Rinse the salt off of cucumbers and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
  5. Put the cucumbers in a medium bowl and add the pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours before serving.

recipes adapted from David Tanis and Marcus Samuelsson and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com

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