(Remember this, Eliz.?)
A couple of summers ago, I had the good fortune of being invited to tour the home garden of Rick Bayless, (famous chef, cookbook author, restaurateur and television personality) and then to lunch in his wonderful Chicago restaurant, Frontera Grill. Lest I make myself sound like someone important, I should add that Chef Bayless donated the outing to a school auction and the winner invited me to go along. Lucky me! Anyway, his city home has an amazing outdoor kitchen and a beautiful garden in which they grow vegetables for his dishes...I especially remember the tiny rows of micro-greens. I also especially, and fondly, remember the outstanding Cucumber Margarita that we had with our lunch. It was bright and fresh, prepared right at the table, and so perfect for a hot summer day. I checked to see if the recipe was published that summer and it was not, and I never checked again until I started thinking about cucumbers for this post. And there it was...right on his website...I'll bet he got lots of requests for the recipe!
First make some simple syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups water and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Remove form the heat and cool completely. Store in frig. if not using right away.
For the margarita:
1/2 of a medium (6 inch) cucumber, peeled and cut into thin slices
3/4 cup good quality blanco tequila (They use Milagro Blanco, as did I)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup simple syrup
Cucumber slices for garnish
Combine the cucumber, tequila, lime juice and simple syrup in a blender. Blend until mixture is as smooth as you can get it. In a cocktail shaker, combine half of the mixture with 8 to 10 ice cubes, cover and shake for a full 15 seconds. Strain through the shaker's top into 2 glasses (they use martini glasses at the restaurant) Garnish with cucumber slices. Repeat with the remaining margarita mix. Makes 4 drinks.
Hands down the best cucumber sandwich I've ever had. No need to throw a ladies tea to have an excuse to make these as they would also be a great hors d'oeuvre for a summer evening. This platter did not make it to the cocktail hour however. It was empty within minutes of these photos. Recipe by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford, in their book, Cocktail Food.
3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar.
2 cups very thinly sliced red onion
2/3 cup goat cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
12 slices white bread, crusts removed, cut into 3 inch squares (They suggest buttermilk bread. I used Pepperidge Farms Original White.)
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/16 inch slices, cut in half
Pour the vinegar over the onions and let marinate in a small bowl until the onions are soft and malleable, at least 30 minutes. Strain and refrigerate until chilled.
Mix the goat cheese and cream cheese together in a small bowl. Season with white pepper.
Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture on each piece of bread. Cut each piece into 4 triangles. Arrange 2-3 slices of the cucumber on each triangle. Top with 1 or two slices of red onion.
Makes 48 sandwiches.
Greek Chopped Salad
I love chopped salads and the classic Greek salad lends itself well to this style. Each bite can have the perfect balance of flavor...the boldness of the feta and olives with the mild freshness of the cucumber, lettuce and tomato. To make this a whole meal just add a side of grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp. This recipe was inspired by one published in Food and Wine magazine in September 2003.
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 of a small shallot
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups mixed greens, I used red leaf lettuce and arugula, coarsely chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, diced
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
In a blender, combine vinegar, shallot, sugar and olive oil and puree. Taste and season with salt and pepper. (Since these ingredients can vary so much, always taste a vinaigrette and be prepared to add a touch more oil or vinegar as necessary)
In a large bowl, toss together the chopped mixed greens, cucumber, tomatoes, dill and olives. Add half of the dressing and taste for seasonings. Then add the remaining dressing as needed. Sprinkle with feta before serving. Serve 4-5.