One of the nice things about the really warm weather, is that we've been having dinner on our cool, north-west facing balcony every night.
No I'm not freakishly tall. Well, I am tall, actually, but not that freakishly. I took this picture from our upstairs balcony.
On the table is doctored up Thai red curry with shrimp, based on a little packet from Asian Home Gourmet. I love their stuff (and wrote about them before, see here).
But the thing I enjoyed most about this dinner was the old fashioned cucumber salad we had as a side. In the summer, there is almost always a cucumber in my fridge - it gets chopped up and added to salads, or is shredded for tzaziki-style dips. But for some reason, I almost never prepare it the way my mother used to, and the way I ate it dozens, hundreds of times as a kid: grated and mixed with salt, vinegar, sugar and pepper. Making the dressing for this was one of the first jobs I was allowed to do in the kitchen, and I loved it, because there was no recipe and it was all about tasting - adding the various ingredients until it tasted right.
Because the cucumber is coarsely grated, the vinegary dressing really permeates it, and you get something like an instant pickle. After you've eaten the salad you're left with a lot of liquid, which you can discard, or you can drink it like I love to do - it tastes like an all-cucumber gazpacho, and is extremely refreshing.
So, here's the non-recipe for this old fashioned cucumber salad:
Coarsely grate cucumber. You can peel it or not peel it, whatever you like. Add vinegar (the cheap white stuff, nothing fancy!), salt, a bit of sugar, and pepper. Ideally, freshly ground white pepper, but I used black this time because it was all I had. Taste, adjust seasonings, and add more vinegar if you think it needs it. Keep tasting until you think it's right!
On a hot day, chill until ready to serve.
The other non-recipe is for this delicious nectarine ice cream. I can't give the recipe because it was very much an "oh let's add a little bit of this and maybe a little bit of that" kind of affair. There was 250 ml of cream, an equal amount of buttermilk, 4 ripe juicy nectarines, a tablespoon of strong chestnut honey, 5 tablespoons of sugar (maybe more, maybe less), some lemon juice, a glug of bourbon, 3 or 4 or 5 tablespoons of Pineau de Charentes. See? I would never tell you to go make something as weird as that. But if you love making ice cream and like to play around with flavors, the nectarine/honey/Pineau combo is definitely something worth experimenting with.
Paris Booksigning, Sunday – November 30th
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