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Salads, Vegetables

Spicy Cucumber Salad

Spicy Cucumber Salad | www.hungryinlove.com

Has anyone been to Momofuku? Visiting a David Chang restaurant has been on my short list for many moons. And a few weeks ago serendipity intervened. I was in DC for work and as the cab pulled up to my hotel, I spied a telltale electric pink 'milk' sign belonging to Momofuku CCDC just across the way. Cue the heart eyes emoji. But my luck didn't stop there. By some small miracle I had no plans for lunch or dinner that night. I made a quick calculation as to whether this good fortune outweighed the impropriety of going to the same restaurant twice in one day. It totally did and so I went. Don't judge. 

Among the many ridiculously delicious things I ate between my two outings (pork buns, shrimp buns, spicy noodles), it's the cucumber salad that's been occupying my daydreams. It's the kind of salad you want to eat a bucket of - crunchy, refreshing, salty, and spicy. I more or less did eat a bucket since the cucumbers were such a perfect foil to the rest of the rich, heavy fare we ordered. Although I had the good sense at the time to ask our server how it was made I did not have the good sense to write it down. Of what she shared all I recall is 1) it's finished with togarashi and 2) the dressing contains pureed scallions. Curiously though you use only the light and dark green parts. This stayed with me since it's the opposite of what I've been conditioned to do with scallions. 

I did a bit of Googling but the internet failed to turn up a recipe so below is my best attempt. Is it spot on? Of course not. I'm no David Chang. But it was pretty darn good and should hold me over until Momofuku sets up shop in Boston.

Cukes | www.hungryinlove.com
Spicy Cucumber Salad | www.hungryinlove.com
Spicy Cucumber Salad | www.hungryinlove.com
Cucumbers | www.hungryinlove.com
Spicy Cucumber Salad | www.hungryinlove.com
Spicy Cucumber Salad | www.hungryinlove.com

Ingredients

  • 4-6 mini seedless cucumbers (these require no peeling and have less water than the big honkers)
  • 2 scallions, roughly chopped (light and dark green parts only, toss the white bulb)
  • Handful cilantro leaves (about 1 cup, loosely packed)
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled + roughly chopped
  • 5 Tbs. neutral oil (canola, peanut, or safflower)
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted
  • 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • Togarashi spice
  • Kosher salt

Prep

  • Chop cucumbers into small chunks (split in half and then slice crosswise into 1 inch pieces).
  • Line a colander with paper towels. Place cukes in colander and sprinkle generously with salt.
  • Let the cucumbers sit at room temperature (or in fridge)  for about 30 minutes. This will infuse flavor and also sweat out some water.
  • While you're waiting make your dressing. Place scallions, ginger, cilantro, oil, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a blender. Puree until smooth and taste for seasoning.
  • Toast almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to brown. Let cool and then roughly chop.
  • When ready to dress and serve, pat cucumbers dry with a fresh paper towel.
  • Toss cukes, dressing, almonds, and serrano chile in a bowl. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with togarashi and a few more almonds.

Cheese

Fondue Party

Cheese Fondue | www.hungryinlove.com
The dipping spread.

The dipping spread.

Cheese Fondue Party | www.hungryinlove.com

Believe it or not last weekend was my first, true fondue experience. My friends were aghast. How could I possibly have  eschewed this dish for three full decades? I used the opportunity to reflect on the many excuses I've encountered for not bothering with it.

1) "Fondue was all the rage in the 70's." This one is hurled as an insult far too often. We celebrate all that is retro in other departments. See Fleetwood Mac, record players, and Connect Four. I know bars that have all three.

2) "You need all that fancy equipment." I'm not a fan of single-use kitchen equipment especially that which is cumbersome to store and comes with a heap of accoutrements. Therefore I have no fondue pot nor those slender, elegant, European fork-spears. No gear, no fondue. Or so I thought. This weekend we managed with a good old dutch oven and regular forks. Most importantly we avoided purchasing this. Win-win.

3) "If you throw a fondue party, too many friends will show up." This is a valid problem that I can't help you with. But ultimately it's one we can file in the 'good to have' category.

It's a good day for hot cheese.

It's a good day for hot cheese.

Despite the world conspiring to keep me and fondue apart, I married a cheesemonger so it was only a matter of time. As it would happen just a few weeks after we tied the knot last year Tripp set off to Switzerland on a cheese-sourcing mission. His goal? Return with new offerings for Formaggio Kitchen from producers not yet featured in the US. Among the cheeses he returned with were a Gruyere and a Vacherin Fribourgeois, two classic fondue cheeses.  So you see, this post was in the making before I even started this blog. 

Now that I've been initiated I have a few words of wisdom to impart. Splurge on the cheese, not the copper fondue set. The more friends  you can squeeze into a circle around your pot, the better the ceremonial quality. Wait for a snowy day and eating all that melted cheese will feel not only justified but necessary.

Wheels of Gruyere aging in Villeneuve, Switzerland.

Wheels of Gruyere aging in Villeneuve, Switzerland.

A Lake Geneva vista on the cheese trail.

A Lake Geneva vista on the cheese trail.

Tripp, hard at work.

Tripp, hard at work.

For Fondue

As a main course a good rule of thumb is a half pound of cheese per person. For each pound of cheese use one cup of wine. Note that this is a generous estimation. This recipe can easily serve more than four depending on appetites.

  • 1 lb Gruyere, grated
  • 1 lb Vacherin Fribourgeois, grated
  • Pinch of flour
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups dry white wine (plus chilled bottles for drinking; Fondant or Gruner Vetliner are traditional choices)
  • White or black pepper

Comte, Emmentaler, and Raclette are all good substitutes for Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois. There's no magic to a two-cheese blend either. Use one alone or a mix of several.

For Dipping

  • Cubed bread
  • Cubed salami
  • Cornichons (tiny, cute pickles)
  • Boiled new potatoes

Other great options: Cured beef, Pickled Onions, Proscuitto, or whatever else you fancy.

Prep

  • Ready your platter of dippers; the fondue takes only a few minutes to come together and should be served immediately
  • Grate cheese (avoid buying pre-grated cheese as a general rule; the air exposure compromises flavor)
  • Toss grated cheese with a pinch of flour to avoid clumping
  • Rub a heavy bottomed dutch oven or fondue pot with a split clove of raw garlic
  • Toss garlic clove into pot and add wine
  • Bring wine just to a boil, remove garlic clove
  • Add cheese to the simmering wine and use a whisk to incorporate gradually, about 1 minute; you want to allow the cheese to melt on its own terms and avoid vigorous stirring; the fondue will be smooth and fall in ribbons when lifted with a spoon
  • Stir in pepper to taste
  • Move dutch oven to the table and serve immediately