Cuckoo for Cukes

A very good cucumber salad, indeed.
A very good cucumber salad, indeed.

As the days warm, I excitedly ready my cucumber seedlings to plant.

Positioning them gently in pots of soil in my yard, I can’t help but already hunger for their snappy crunch and refreshing juiciness to use in salads of all kinds.

Including “Cucumber, Dates, Pistachios,” that’s as simple and straightforward as its name implies.

This light, bright salad is from “Very Good Salads” (Smith Street Books, 2022), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Shuki Rosenboim and Louisa Allan, who own the proudly named Very Good Falafel in Melbourne, Australia, a tiny 20-seat cafe where falafel is a staple but the salads change regularly with the whim of the seasons.

The cookbook showcases 52 of those vibrant salads and vegetable dishes, from “Broad Bean and Macadamia-Stuffed Artichokes” in spring and “Frozen Grapes, Herbs, Zucchini Flowers” in summer to “Roasted Quince, Pearl Barley, Walnut, Pistachio, Saffron” in autumn and “Beetroot Dip, Pistachio Hazelnut Dukkah” in winter.

The cucumber salad falls in the summer chapter. But since cucumbers are available year-round, I took advantage of that to enjoy this dish a few weeks ago.

Just seed cucumbers and slice them thickly. Toss with dried dates, red onion, chives, lemon zest, and toasted pistachios. Drizzle on fresh lemon juice and olive oil, and serve. That’s it.

The Medjool date pieces are what propel this salad from the ordinary to the special. Sticky and sweet with an almost caramel flavor, they provide a marked contrast in flavor and texture to the crunchy, toasty nuts, sharpness of the onions, and the freshness of raw, snappy cucumbers. It’s akin to adding a touch of honey to a salad dressing, only this is a much more profound way to add that spark of sweetness.

I can’t wait to enjoy it again in the coming months — with homegrown cucumbers, of course.

The sweet, sticky dates really make this simple salad extra delicious.
The sweet, sticky dates really make this simple salad extra delicious.

Cucumber, Dates, Pistachios

(Serves 4)

1/2 cup shelled pistachios

3 Lebanese cucumbers

6 Medjool dates, pitted, each date sliced into 6 strips

1/2 red onion, diced

Handful of chives, chopped

Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon, plus a little juice

Sea salt flakes

Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 320 degrees convection or 350 degrees non-convection. Spread the pistachios over a baking tray and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until fragrant. Take care not to overcook. Cool and chop the pistachios.

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Cut into 1/4-iinch thick half moons. Combine the cucumber, date, onion, chives, lemon zest and pistachios in a bowl. Dress with a little squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve.

Adapted from “Very Good Salads” by Shuki Rosenboim & Louisa Allan

More Cucumber Recipes to Enjoy: Gin and Tonic with Burnt Lemon and Cucumber

And: Jean’s Persian Cucumbers

And: Salt and Vinegar Cucumbers

And: Smashed Cucumbers with Sizzled Turmeric and Garlic

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