A True Bright Spot: My “East Bay Cooks” Honored with “Golden Poppy Book Award”
In this stressful, challenging time, I scroll social media for glimpses of good news: chefs donating food to hospital workers, folks grocery-shopping for elderly neighbors, and everyday people trying to help lighten the mood with cheery videos and haikus.
And then I spied this gem: the news last week that my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1) was honored this year with a “Golden Poppy” award by the California Independent Booksellers Alliance. It recognizes “the most distinguished books written by writers and artists who make Northern California their home.”
I couldn’t be more thankful for the incredible recognition. I share it with the talented team whom I had the privilege to work with to make this book a reality: photographer Eva Kolenko, Clair Mack at Rule & Level Studio, Figure 1, and of course, all the chefs and restaurateurs who participated.
I salute you all with a virtual toast — as well as this easy, addictive recipe from the book to enjoy. After all, times like these when we limit trips to the grocery store, call for dishes that come together with few ingredients.
“Jean’s Persian Cucumbers” fits the bill beautifully. It’s from Oakland’s Grand Lake Kitchen. Specifically, it’s a recipe inspired by Co-Owner Ma Seto Wassem’s mother.
Everyday mild cucumbers get an astounding punch from just sesame oil, salt, grated garlic and Bragg Liquid Aminos, which is like soy sauce in taste but unfermented and gluten-free. You can easily use soy sauce instead. I’ve even made it with ponzu sauce.
The recipe calls for Persian cucumbers. But English or Japanese cucumbers work in a pinch. The smashed cucumbers get garnished with black sesame seeds. But if you don’t have any on hand, you can easily omit them.
This recipe also is a great way to use up any cucumbers sitting in the fridge that are starting to get a little too soft or watery for the usual crisp salads. It can feed four to six. But honestly, it’s so refreshing and umami-laden that two people can easily devour the entire bowlful.
The best part comes when you use the blade of a chef’s knife (or I gently use a meat mallet) to whack the cucumbers to create crevices that drink up the flavorful marinade.
After all, when life is full of anxiety, this makes for a perfectly innocent and justified way to let off a little steam and aggression. Just saying.
Jean’s Persian Cucumbers
(Serves 4 to 6)
6 Persian cucumbers (1 pound)
2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely grated
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, toasted
Place cucumbers on a cutting board. Trim ends. Lay the blade of a chef’s knife flat on top of each cucumber and smash down lightly with other hand. Slice cucumbers into 1-inch segments.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cucumbers and remaining ingredients. Stir well to mix. Set aside for 20 minutes for flavors to meld, then serve.
From Grand Lake Kitchen as published in “East Bay Cooks” by Carolyn Jung
Another “East Bay Cooks” Recipe to Enjoy: Shakewell’s Short Ribs with Citrus-Olive Herb Salad