Cucumber Salad with Hot Spiced Mustard Dressing
This fresh salad, a cousin of Nepali Green Bean—Sesame Salad (page 76), has a semi-cooked dressing: The cucumber sticks are rubbed with a spice paste of yogurt, sesame, and cumin, then dressed with hot spice-infused mustard oil and fresh lemon juice.
As with many dishes from Nepal, traditionally a flavoring called timbur seed is used to give a tart edge, but it’s not yet available in North America. We have tried substituting ground anardana (dried pomegranate seeds; see Glossary), but we find the easiest solution is to use a little yogurt and lemon in the spice paste, as described below.
- ½ pound cucumbers, preferably a small English cucumber, peeled
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons plain (full- or reduced-fat) yogurt or water (see headnote)
- 1½ teaspoons mustard oil
- ⅛ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ⅛ teaspoon nigella seeds
- 1 green cayenne chile, slit lengthwise and seeded
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 to 3 tablespoons minced coriander leaves
- Cut the cucumber lengthwise in quarters.
- Slice off the seeds (unless the cucumbers are very small and tender) and discard, then cut into 1½-inch lengths.
- Cut lengthwise in half again if the pieces are fat.
- Place in a colander, sprinkle on about 2 tablespoons kosher salt, and set over a bowl or in the sink to drain for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet, dry roast the sesame seeds until golden.
- Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Dry roast the cumin seeds until touched with color and aromatic, then transfer to a spice/coffee grinder, add the sesame seeds, and grind to a powder.
- Place in a small bowl and stir in the yogurt or water to make a paste. Set aside.
- Rinse the cucumbers thoroughly with cold water.
- Squeeze them gently to squeeze out excess water and place them in a bowl. Add the spice paste and rub the cucumbers all over to coat them. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat.
- Add the fenugreek, nigella, and chile and cook for about a minute, stirring occasionally, until the spices are aromatic.
- Add the cayenne and turmeric, stir, and pour the flavored oil over the cucumbers; toss gently.
- Add the lemon juice and toss, then set aside for 10 to 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
- Just before serving, add the coriander leaves and ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste, and toss gently to mix.
The warming flavors in this cucumber salad pair well with mild-tasting dishes such as New Potatoes with Fresh Greens (page 154) or Chickpea Pulao (page 105) or with a simple meal of Chapatis (page 110) or Gita’s Luchis (page 115) and Mountain Dal (page 182) or Easy Karnataka Chana (page 196).
Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent
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