Towards the end of our first date, Eric and I went to a gay bar in the South End. We ordered gin and tonics (or, as our bartender poured them, a glass of gin with a splash of tonic) and found ourselves a table. As we'd already covered most of the big topics... where we grew up, stories from our childhood... it was time to get creative with our conversation. "What's your favorite food?" I asked him. Seemed like a good question. I expected his answer to be ice cream or pizza. You know, something normal. "Cucumbers," he said. Cucumbers. I was intrigued. "Why cucumbers?" He looked at me, shrugged, and said, "I don't know. I just really like cucumbers." I let it go, but I just couldn't believe that of all the deliciousness out in the world, cucumbers was his favorite food.
After all these years of being together, I can honestly say the man loves his cucumbers. Pickled are preferred, but he'll take them however he can get them. His mom makes a cucumber salad that I'm obsessed with (and my parents have become fans too). And we have our new go-to app from our favorite Chinese restaurant that's cucumbers in garlic sauce. This sweet-garlicky (and just a touch spicy) creation is totally addictive and we can't help but order it every time. I figured, though, that it was time that I learn how to make it myself. So, here we have it... my adapted version. Technically, it's vegetarian (take out the fish sauce) and it could easily be made nut-free. And for those who are adverse to cilantro (like Eric), that can be removed too. But I think all three make for a really fantastic combo.
CUCUMBERS IN GARLIC SAUCE
One could peel the cucumbers or use Persian cucumbers if you prefer less skin. I prefer the crunch that the skin provides.
3-4 as a side
3 cucumbers, ends trimmed
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons, soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, optional
Chopped peanuts, optional
Chopped cilantro, optional
1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise again and then cut into 2-inch long pieces. Place the cucumber into a bowl and sprinkle with salt and garlic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes. Drain any liquid that has come from the cucumbers. Transfer to a serving bowl.
2. In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce (if using) and sugar. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and stir to coat. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top, along with the chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve immediately.