There are times—usually after beach vacations, holidays, or dessert cookbook photoshoots—when my body feels like a slow-moving mass. I recoil at the sight of chewy cookies, frosty milkshakes, or crispy fries. A sort of primal urge drives me to the produce section of my grocery store in search of any and all fresh fruits and vegetables.
And what is more refreshing than a cucumber? It’s 96 percent water and chances are that it's currently flooding a farmers market near you.
Inspired by the same nutritional thirst, longtime contributor Beverly Scofield (Bevi) created a spicy, crunchy, and invigorating cucumber and fennel salad.
“My business colleague came home from a trip to China and told me the only fresh vegetables she had were cucumbers prepared in a vinaigrette that she guessed had rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and some spicy heat,” she writes.
Scofield thought raw fennel would add even more crunch to fresh cucumbers, and experimented with the vinaigrette until she found suitable spiciness.
“Sautéing the crushed red pepper in the sesame oil makes a major difference,” she says.
While Scofield used Persian cucumbers, you can use any other type of garden cuke, if necessary. Also, if you aren’t a fan of fennel, Scofield recommends replacing with another crunchy vegetable, like celery.
One of the best things about this salad is how quickly it comes together, making it a perfect last-minute side for a dinner party or not-sad desk lunch. Plus, its hardy cucumber and fennel-base is both portable and refreshing (a potluck superstar if we ever saw one).
For the Salad
- 4 small Persian cucumbers, very thinly sliced by hand or with a mandolin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 fennel bulb, quartered, and then sliced very thinly with a mandolin
- 1 tablespoon fennel fronds, chopped
For the Vinaigrette
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar