July 31, 2009

cucumber salad, a clean kitchen, and homemade vanilla

When I whipped up this salad for a last-minute dinner the other night and brought it to the table, it conjured up memories of our grandmothers and the farm for both Ryan and I. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions reign in Texas's summer gardens, and neither of us had any shortage of this sweet, tangy, refreshing salad growing up. My mom's version of this salad always said, "Summer is here." And this summer, it feels like it's here to stay.

The cucumbers and onions from my mom's garden and the tomatoes from our own made for a spectacularly crunchy and fresh side dish. The salad is laced with white vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and tastes even better after a day in the fridge.

But I've written before about my personal connection to this simple summer salad... So without further ado, here's the quick recipe.

Cucumber and Tomato Farm Salad

1 large cucumber, thinly sliced on a mandoline or chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped if desired
1 small onion, thinly sliced on a mandoline
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tbls sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all together and let sit in the fridge for at least half an hour or overnight. Enjoy!

In other news, I came home after my 4-mile trail run with the triathlon training class to the most beautiful site. Ryan, instead of calling me to complain about the state in which I'd left the kitchen (unforgiveably messy), had cleaned the kitchen from countertop to countertop. I mean, the guy put away every last thing, including the coffeemaker (it's been too hot for coffee), the dish rack (this hand-washing then sit-till-its-dry thing is not helping us), the smelly red bin I had collecting dirty dishes in all their funky glory in the sink, and even the sugar bins (which aren't getting much use on account of us not drinking coffee).

It's amazing. I thought I couldn't let go of things, but let me tell you something: It's freeing to have clean counters. And last night when I made dinner, it was surprisingly easy to snap it back into shape once we had dined. Now I have a goal to meet when I cook--keep it as clean as Ryan was able to get it. Do you know how difficult it is for me to publicly admit that he cleaned the kitchen better than me?

And finally, this morning I bought 25 organic vanilla beans on eBay for just $22! Free shipping! And guess what I'll be using those for? Homemade vanilla extract. Yeah, you read that right.

All it took was one Tweet from Christopher Kimball: 140 characters of inspiration and here I am ordering vanilla beans online. He wrote: Homemade Vanilla: Split 1 fresh bean lengthwise; scrape; place all in 1 cup jar. Add 3/4 cup hot vodka. Seal; shake daily for week; store.

And then, in my print version of Cook's Illustrated last night, I read that testers found the homemade vanilla markedly better in recipes. And it's cheaper, to boot! A 7-ounce bottle of organic vanilla at Whole Foods runs $25. I can make 25 recipes of homemade organic vanilla for about the same amount (we drink cheap vodka).


Anonymous said...

You have to shake it for a WEEK?! just joking...sounds fantastic and easy. I always cringe when I have to buy vanilla- it's soooo expensive.