No side dish may be as refreshing as gurkensalat, the very simple cucumber salad that is a staple of German and Austrian cuisine. It contains thinly sliced rounds of cucumber, fresh from the garden if possible, that are first pressed with salt and then left to sit for about an hour—a process which gently pulls out some of their water (cucumbers are more than 95% water). These are then drained, tossed with slivers of red onion, a touch of mild vinegar, a little sour cream, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of fresh dill or chives. The result is a creamy, pleasantly tart, crunchy, and bright affair that often provides a contrast to roast goose and duck. But a good fresh gurkensalat shouldn’t be limited to the German-Austrian table: Its charms make it welcome at any picnic or backyard barbecue in the world.
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