Les Trois Mousquetaires or Three Summer Salads…Part 2

Cucumber Salad (pictures coming)

Salade number two: Aramis perhaps?

This is a French classic, and it too takes some time but it is well worth the wait.  Peel and seed the cucumbers.  A teaspoon, or vegetable peeler that is curved with a sharp point is best.  I sometimes leave thin strips of the skin for added color.  Place them flesh side down and cut them into little half-moons.  I make them thinner than most but a little less than a quarter-inch is good.  Place the sliced cucumbers in a colander and add a liberal amount of salt.  Maybe a half cup.  The idea here is to create a coating of salt on all the cucumbers.  Mix it in with your hands and let it sit for 25 minutes.  Be sure to put a bowl under it, or you will be cleaning up juice from your counter.  The salt does a couple of things: it leeches out the excess moisture, cucumbers are after all mostly water, and it makes them crunchy.  After the salt maceration, rinse the cucumbers under cold water and squeeze the excess water with your hands or a clean tea towel.  This may seem counterintuitive, but it, like the salt maceration, is key.  Pat them dry.  Now the easy part.  Make a good white wine vinaigrette.  It is funny, but a good vinaigrette is the first emulsified sauce one learns to make when one is learning to cook professionally.  At least it was for me.  It is dead easy, but so many people like to MUCK IT UP…I use it for green salad too.  You will note I do not put olive oil in my dressing.  I feel it has too strong a flavor and masks the delicate flavor of lettuce or cucumber.

  • Vinaigrette:
    Three parts Neutral Oil (not olive)
    One part good white wine vinegar
    One part good Dijon style strong mustard fine et forte (NOT GREY POUPON or POOP-ON don’t get me started!)
    Salt to taste
    WHITE Pepper fresh ground (I keep two mills handy one with white and one with black)

In a stainless steel, or ceramic bowl put the vinegar salt and mustard.  With a whisk, or fork, mix together until the salt is dissolved.  This is important because once you add the oil, the crystals will be trapped in the oil and not dissolve easily, if at all.  You should have a thick-ish mixture.  Grind the pepper onto the mixture, and add the oil in a steady stream as you mix with the whisk in a figure eight motion.  Don’t worry about little droplets at a time — you are not making a mayonnaise.  If you find the bowl dancing around, place it on top of a damp kitchen cloth.  Mix until all is incorporated and you have created an emulsified sauce.  This is the beginning of how many sauces are built.   

To dress the salad place the vinaigrette at the bottom of a bowl, and put your cucumbers on top.  Toss gently to coat the cucumbers with the sauce.  You don’t want it soup-like, just a good covering.  You can also add fresh dill if you choose.

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