We adore them dripping with vinegar and coarse salt, or between two soft slices of bread spread with mayo. It just wouldn’t be summer without crisp, juicy cucumbers. In shimmering shades of the palest green, they quench our thirst, adorn our salads and, as a natural diuretic, slim our shapely thighs.
But the sweltering Florida sun is not the only heat warming these long and lovely melons. Fiery cayenne pepper, minced Serrano chili and a sizzling Indian tadka provide a flavorful push from the cucumber’s southern comfort zone. Along for the ride, a generous squeeze of tangy lemon and crunchy salted peanuts create a bit of mischief of their own.
Make this salad in 10 teensy minutes as you grill some fish, or toss with plain Greek yogurt for a cooling raita to mound on wholegrain pitas. Cool, delicious, hot.
Icy, Spicy Cuke and Peanut Salad
2 seedless cucumbers, 1/4 -inch dice
1 green Serrano chili, minced (remove seeds for less heat)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon agave syrup
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 tablespoon peanut, canola or walnut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Coarse salt, to taste
Combine cucumbers, chili, lemon juice, agave and cayenne in a medium bowl. Pulse pseanuts in a food grinder until they are very finely chopped; add to cucumber mixture.
Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over high heat. When oil begins to shimmer and smoke, carefully add mustard seeds, covering with a spatter screen or lid. When seeds stop popping, pour hot oil and seeds over salad, stirring gently to combine. Taste for salt, sweetness and lemon, adjusting as necessary. Serve cold or at room temperature.