Cucumber Salad with Radishes, Chilies, and a Sweet Soy Dressing

Rectangular plate with cucumber, radish, and chilies garnished with cilantro. On a white, slate, and red tablecloth.

Last week I had the biggest craving for a cucumber salad made with sour cream, yogurt, and fresh dill. I followed a recipe I found online and as excited as I was to eat it, the taste was far too rich and almost cloying – I wanted a crunchy salad with vibrant flavours, not wisps of cucumber floating limply in a creamy pool of dressing. I’ve had really good cucumber salads in the past, so I know they’re a real that actually exists, but the experience led to my thinking about other cucumber salads that would still have that crunchy texture and sweet, tangy, and salty taste. I lost interest in the dairy and instead looked to the classic combination of dark sesame oil, soy sauce, and honey for an equally effective but simple dressing – much lighter overall but definitely bigger in flavour. The fresh dill became cilantro and I added thin slices of radish, scallion, and tiny red chilies to add a peppery heat and a beautiful contrast to the cool green cucumber slices.

cucumber salad with radishes, chilies, and a sweet soy dressing:

4 Lebanese cucumbers, skin left intact and sliced into thick half-moons (or, use 1 peeled and de-seeded English cucumber)

4 radishes, cut into paper-thin slices

4 scallions, whites and greens cut into thin slices

2-3 small red chilies, sliced thinly (include seeds for maximum heat)

1 large handful of cilantro, roughly torn into small pieces

2 Tbsp. dark sesame oil

3 Tbsp. soy sauce (or tamari)

1 tsp. honey or sugar

  1. Combine the cucumber, radishes, scallions, chilies, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, and honey and pour over the salad ingredients. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving, although the salad can sit for a few hours (dressed) before eating.

Oh, my heart.

If you’re a Canadian reading this blog you’ll know what I mean when I express that small, sad utterance. Gordon Downie, poet and singer for The Tragically Hip, played his (possible) final concert on Saturday night in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma earlier this year and made the decision to tour Canada with The Hip one last time – marking an overwhelming and emotional month of live music that has managed to pull Canada together as a community despite its vast geography and problems, in a way that transcends patriotism into something much deeper. It’s difficult to explain their music to non-Canadians, rightly or wrongly we’ve claimed them as our own and our relationship to The Tragically Hip is deeply personal and one we feel needs protecting. If you want to watch their final show, bursting with presence and a shaking hand in the face of impending death, CBC broadcast it live and the whole country gathered around TV screens, in parks, and in local theatres to take this deep breath together. Screaming in the face of all our certain fates and raging against the dying light, the show was spectacular.

And so, if I had to pick, and it’s very difficult, I would say that the song Lofty Pines off of Downie’s solo album Coke Machine Glow will be my pick for this entry. I listened to a lot of Tragically Hip over the weekend, but on Sunday I wanted the softness of this particular record. The real Lofty Pines Motel is now permanently closed, but I’ve driven past it several times when it was open on the way to my aunt and uncle’s cottage in the Muskokas. This song is lazy and drawling in the sense that it immediately floods in the smell of pine, the orange needles littering the ground which opens your ears to the cracking sounds of a dry forest floor, while at the same time muting the forest as though it was covered in a soft blanket. Barring a deeper reading of the lyrics, this song makes me feel like I’m lying on a bed in a wooden cottage, reading a bad cottage book, smelling the outside through the screen window.

“Well, I dreamed of the Lofty Pines-
at least what I thought they were-
standing in the forest after nighttime,
swaying so cool and sure.
Sure had never been so wrong;
sure like the title of the perfect song.”

Gordon Downie – Lofty Pines

2 thoughts on “Cucumber Salad with Radishes, Chilies, and a Sweet Soy Dressing

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