I’m seriously contemplating building an igloo.
Those of you who live in the U.S. know that a large part of the country is roasting this week. We’re being hit hard in the western half of the nation, with temps here in Sacramento set to hit 110° or higher. The poor folks in desert regions such as Las Vegas or Phoenix are dealing with even hotter weather, some of it already causing fatalities among first responders (may the 19 firemen who died in Phoenix rest in peace).
Cooking with anything in the Heat category is the last thing anyone wants to think about, so many folks are becoming one with their salad fixings these days. Except for cooking up some grains and legumes in bulk so I have stuff ready when they cut off my gas service this week, I’m just noshing on a lot of spinach and the last of my cherries. Honestly, nothing sounds very appealing in this heat, except for a nice pool and a lot of ice water.
Except for this salad.
Like I said earlier, things in the finance department are even worse than usual. Through the power of wonderful friends, I was able to get my electricity turned on just in time for this horrendous heatwave; but the gas bill is next and I’m still struggling to pay the 2nd deposit for this apartment before they kick me out and I really have no place to go. Right now, every single penny I make goes directly to the landlords or to some utility company. I haven’t really been able to afford food or anything else in weeks, and it’s been a bit unsettling to watch my already small food supply dwindle even more.
Thank goodness for those Bare Bones staples.
But as I also mentioned, no one really wants to cook in this weather. Not with heat, at least. Bare Bones staples, as awesome and life-saving as they are, still require heat to be cooked into something that can be consumed. Unless it’s 4am, I’m not really in the mood to be turning up the flame on my adorable little stove.
So it worked out beautifully this weekend when I found I had a couple cucumbers and peaches left over from one of my last trips to the farmers’ market. I’d never really combined the two, but it seemed like a deliciously refreshing idea – especially once I caught another whiff of the basil & mint I also had hanging around. All of a sudden, everything made sense and dinner was born.
Somewhat similar to the dressing I use for the Thai cucumber relish served alongside my curry chicken tacos, this vinaigrette is slightly sweet but far more refreshing because of the herbs. If you’re not a fan of one or the other feel free to use just one herb, but it really is lovely when you use both.
Naturally, the longer you let the salad marinate in the dressing the stronger the flavor, but I prefer to keep it on the lighter side, so that it’s more of an accent than the star of the show. The real stars are the cucumbers & peaches, so you don’t want them overpowered by the basil or mint flavors.You can also try this with nectarines, as they’re also in season and would complement the cucumber beautifully.
If you’re able to splurge on some feta or goat cheese, I think either one would add the perfect finishing touch to this salad. Serve this at your next picnic or BBQ, or just enjoy it on a bed of cool, crisp greens. Either way, it’s the perfect summer salad to beat this crazy, crazy heat.
And remember, just because you’re at the very end of your ingredients doesn’t mean you can’t come up with something tasty and filling. Just think outside the box, experiment, and you’ll be surprised with what your results are!
Cucumber & Peach Salad with Basil-Mint Vinaigrette (makes 3 servings; average cost per serving: ~$1)
As you can see, I kept the skin on both the cucumbers and the peaches for my salad. I like it for both aesthetics and texture, but that’s just a personal preference. If you can’t stand the peel or if you’re sensitive to it, feel free to remove it before chopping. The salad will be just as lovely and delicious!
2 medium cucumbers
2 medium peaches
1/2 small red onion
2 T olive oil
1/4 c white vinegar
1 T water
2 t sugar
1 T finely chopped sweet basil
1 T finely chopped fresh mint
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper (for garnish)
1. Chop the peaches and cucumbers into bite sized chunks (about 3/4″ to 1″). Cut the onion into thin 1″ slices, then combine with the cucumbers & peaches in a large bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, water and sugar. Add the chopped basil and mint and mix well. Check for flavor and add a small pinch of salt if desired.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper right before serving. Serve alongside grilled meats or fish, or by itself with some fresh spinach or spring mix, and enjoy!