Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cucumber Salad with Blueberries and Feta

I know you're giving me the side-eye right now. I know this sounds weird and possibly gross. But just hear me out for a second, okay?

Sometimes I feel like the US is turning into one, giant Bed Bath & Beyond. Wherever you go, everything is exactly the same. From Tampa to Toledo, it's a never-ending parade of fatty meat with a side of California spring mix. Aisle after aisle of stainless steel, raspberry salad dressing, Sysco Systems and Tyson foods. Bo-o-o-ring.

So, when I see something different, I eat it. Deep Fried Snickers bars at the State Fair, yes ma'am. Liver quenelles at a French restaurant, mais oui. Cucumbers with blueberries and feta on the salad bar, damn skippy.

If you're not likely to run across it again soon, eat it today. What's the worst that happens? You don't like it? So what.

And, no, I didn't love the salad bar version of this dish. It was wet and bland and spiky with spears of dried oregano. But conceptually, it was a major improvement on the watermelon feta salad that's now a summer staple. Bright pink watermelon and fluffy feta look beautiful arranged in a bowl, but they morph into cloudy soup in half an hour. Blueberries don't leak, and their acid enhances the briny feta, rather than punching it in the face with sweetness.

Cucumbers are everywhere this time of year. They just need a little extra attention to stop them turning salads to a bowl of soup. These were very local.

And who doesn't have a pint of blueberries slowly shriveling in the back of the fridge right now?

Cucumber Salad with Blueberries and Feta
2-3 cucumbers
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 cup blueberries, washed and dried
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
1 teaspoon fresh mint, minced
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1-2 spring onions, or 1/2 shallot, sliced fine
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grainy dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Line a rimmed baking sheet with two layers of paper towels. Peel half the cucumber skin off in alternating strips, then slice into thin rounds. Spread the slices evenly on the towel and sprinkle them with 1 3/4 teaspoons of kosher salt, reserving the last 1/4 teaspoon for the dressing. Leave for 45 minutes to sweat out the excess water. When the cucumbers have saturated the paper towel, put them in a colander and rinse off the excess salt. Blot them dry on a clean paper towel.

This salad will taste exactly the same if you throw everything together in a bowl. But you've just waited patiently for 45 minutes to sweat the cucumbers, so take an extra 90 seconds to plate it attractively, ya whiner! Arrange the cucumbers in two circles around the outside of your platter. Fill the middle with the blueberries, top with the feta, then the herbs. You can refrigerate the salad for a few hours like this, but don't put the dressing on until you're about half an hour from serving it.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients, including the 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and pour over the salad. Serve cold or room temperature, 8 portions.

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