Wednesday, June 18, 2008

French Cucumber Salad with Crème Fraiche and Dill

I first had this dish in Lyons, France, prepared by an excellent home cook, who was also a medical researcher, as the cooling starter course for dinner on a hot summer evening. It is easy to make, particularly if you use a vegetable slicer or peeler for slicing the cucumber. Although originally made with crème fraiche, a French cultured heavy cream, American sour cream works almost as well.

This is a delightful side dish or appetizer for early summer, when cucumbers are plentiful and the weather is warm. Dill seems to cool the dish, as does the mild tang from the cream. The combination of cucumber, soured cream, and dill suggests an upscale version of the numerous cucumber-yogurt dishes that extend from Greece (tsadziki) to Turkey (cacik) to Iran (mastochiar) to India (raita). (I have recipes for some of those in my blog posting of April 25, 2008).

The recipe serves six as an appetizer course or side dish for a dinner.

French Cucumber Salad with Crème Fraiche and Dill Tim

2 large cucumbers
8 ice cubes
Salt
1 small shallot or 1 scallion (green onion)
1 tablespoon white vinegar (wine or distilled)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly minced dill or 2 teaspoons dry dill weed
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
Minced dill for garnish

Peel the cucumbers thinly, leaving some green color. Quarter them lengthwise and cut off and discard the seed section. Slice the cucumbers very thinly (a vegetable slicer or vegetable peeler makes this easier). Mix sliced cucumbers with ice cubes, enough water to reach the surface of the cucumbers, plus the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix together gently and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Drain well.

Slice the shallot or scallion (green part also) very thinly and add to the cucumber. Add the vinegar, sugar, pepper, dill, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir to mix well. Allow to sit at least 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and add a little if necessary.

Stir occasionally while waiting to serve the salad. About 5 minutes before serving, drain away the juices. Add the crème fraiche or sour cream and mix in well. Taste and adjust salt, if necessary. To serve, spoon into a shallow, attractive dish and dust with a little more dill.

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