À la recherche du temps perdu

the first seductive bite

On summer days when I don’t feel like cooking and don’t quite feel like ordering out, there’s always the raid-the-pantry-and-crisper for ready to snack on foods. My boyfriend and I can masterfully feed ourselves for a few days without doing much culinary activity in the kitchen. And sometimes between work and gym, between errands and meetings, cooking becomes less of a priority and more of a chore, and that is where I draw the line – I never want to feel that way about cooking; it shouldn’t be a burden.

Summers lend themselves particularly well for such things. Forage a bit in the fridge and you can find a few pieces of saussison sec and a hunk of artisanal cheese. Slices a few tomatoes on top with a few slices of onion and you got yourself the makings of a really good European open face sandwich. Pour yourself a glass of red or white wine, and you might as well sigh with nostalgia, recollecting your evenings on the shore of La Rochelle watching the sun set at 11 pm in June.

hot meets cool

These cucumber sandwiches are of that no-cooking-required world. I learned to eat them as a child, with my grandfather – a prankster and lover of great food. It is he who got me hooked on lardo, now a delicacy in fine charcuteries. It is he, who snuck little sucking candies to me mid-days despite my grandmother’s stern mandate that no candy was to be consumed between meals. And it was he, who would awaken my non-existent appetite, by making me these cucumber sandwiches. They were so simple, but on a hot summer day they were all I wanted to eat. Thick slices of black, Russian bread, lightly buttered, pressed into finely chopped dill and green onions and topped with slices of cucumber. And then, the generous sprinkling of salt!

How I loved these sandwiches and how I am instantly transported back to my childhood when I think of them or eat them. These days, I sometimes like to dip them in a home-concocted chili sauce – what I call the “fire and iceˮ experience. The cool of the cucumber against my tongue, unleashing the fiery chili spice into which the slice was dipped. And often, I will drop a few slices in a pitcher of water – which results in guests asking me why my water tastes so sweet and refreshing. But nothing – nothing – compares to the sandwiches, which satisfy my hunger and allow me to relive summers at my grandparents, which were so blissful and carefree, I could only now fully appreciate them.

not for tired eyes only

Radish’s Summer Cucumber Sandwiches
1 medium sized cucumber, thinly sliced
5 tbsp chopped dill and green onions
a dollop of butter
2 thick slices of black, Russian bread (found in Russian grocery stores – they are like very thick bricks – not round or oval!)
sea salt

Butter your bread with a thin layer of butter and dip the buttered side into your dill/green onion mixture. Layer the cucumbers on top and sprinkle with salt.

Take a deep bite and enjoy your summer sandwich.

Home-made chili sauce
2 tsp of chili sauce from the makers of Sriracha (it comes in a little jar – you can stick a teaspoon in it)
juice of 2 squeezed limes
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp maple syrup

Mix the ingredients and taste for spice level – if you like more spice, add more chili sauce, if you like less, add more of the other stuff. There’s no right way to do this or right consistency. The sauce is good for just about everything, but in this case, you can dip your cucumbers into it.

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