Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ChezCindy: At the Market Today

At the Market today, I am featuring cucumbers; aways available, but somewhat thought of as boring.  I enjoy raw cucumbers in my everyday salad or sliced onto a sandwich for extra crunch.  But what else?  If you are into canning, cucumbers are "pickled" and stored for later use.  I have a very quick pickling-style recipe that is meant to be eaten fresh and packs a lot of flavor for sandwiches, burgers and brats. 

I also am making a pasta salad of orzo with cucumber, tomato and feta cheese.  What I like about this salad is that it can be made ahead of time and served at room temperature.  It can also be made into a more robust salad by adding grilled shrimp or chicken, or simply serve the chicken & shrimp on the side.  What gives this salad great flavor is not only the feta cheese, but the homemade vinaigrette and fresh dill. 

Cucumber Relish

1 scant teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 pinch of red chile pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound of cucumber
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Prepare the cucumber by slicing it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds by scraping a 1/2 teaspoon down the center of the cucumber. Slice into 1/4 slices. Set aside.  If the cucumbers are small pickling style, skip the halving and scraping of the seeds.  The smaller cucumbers of course have smaller seeds that are less offensive. 
In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, toast the coriander seeds for 1-2 minutes. Drizzle in the canola oil, add the diced red onion, cooking until onions are softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pinch of chile pepper flakes and the vinegar. Then sprinkle on the sugar, stirring until it dissolves.
Add the sliced cucumber to the pan, cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasional to evenly distribute the mixture. Remove from heat, sprinkle with kosher salt, allow to cool.
Once fully cool, transfer to a jar. Refrigerate until ready to use.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for 7-10 days.

Orzo Salad with Cucumber Tomato & Feta

3/4 pound orzo
1 large cucumber
3 green onions
3-4 small tomatoes
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
3/4 pound feta cheese

Cook the orzo pasta according to package directions, cool.  Cut the cucumber in half length-wise, remove the seeds; dice into 1/2 inch pieces.  Thinly slice the green onions, white and green parts.  Cut the tomatoes into quarters, remove the seeds; dice into 1/2 inch pieces.  Combine the orzo,cucumber, tomatoes, and green onions into a large bowl.  Place the vinegar, dill, and mustard into a blender; blend until smooth.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil, blending until the mixture is emulsified.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo mixture; stir to combine.  Gently crumble in the feta cheese.  Serve room temperature or chilled. 
Can be served with grilled shrimp or chicken, diced and added to the salad. 

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