When preparing meals at home, cooks know that it helps to have a few simple, easily prepared dishes in their culinary repertoire. These are dishes that don’t require too much planning and utilize certain staples that are present in everyone’s pantry. Such is the case with this recipe for “Crunchy Cucumber Salad with Crushed Peanuts” from Ruta Kahate’s “5 Spices, 50 Dishes” (Chronicle Books). Most of the ingredients for this flavorful salad are likely already in your kitchen, and it won’t be long after you begin preparing the recipe that you’ll be sitting down and enjoying a meal with family and friends.
Crunchy Cucumber Salad with Crushed Peanuts
2 English or other unwaxed cucumbers, chopped into 1⁄4-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 medium green serrano chile, minced (seed first if you prefer)
1⁄2 cup peanuts, preferably raw, but toasted, unsalted ones will do
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or more if needed
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 to 3⁄4 teaspoon sugar
1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon canola oil
1⁄4 teaspoon mustard seeds
1. Place the diced cucumbers in a medium bowl along with the chile. Using a coffee grinder or food processor, pulse the peanuts until they are reduced to a coarse powder. (You don’t want big chunks of peanuts, nor do you want a fine powder; stop grinding somewhere in between!) Add the peanuts to the cucumbers along with the lemon juice, salt and sugar, and mix well. Taste and adjust the salt, sugar and lemon juice as needed. The salad should be slightly tart.
2. Make the tadka: Place the cayenne in a little pile on top of the salad. Do not stir it in yet. Heat the oil in a small skillet or butter warmer over high heat. When it begins to smoke, add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid or spatter screen. As soon as the seeds stop sputtering, pour the oil over the cayenne. Stir the dressing in and serve at room temperature or cold.