Summer means cucumber salad. My mom’s cucumber salad. It can show up on the picnic table alongside anything from burgers to brats to barbecued chicken and perform as the perfect side dish. I’ve also been known to eat it as a one-dish meal.
It’s also, oddly enough, the dish that got me to like raw onions.
It’s crunchy and cold, tangy and smooth, the flavor reminiscent of Greek tzatziki sauce. It’s also not very graceful – the slices of onion separate into long pieces that tend not to fit all the way into your mouth. I always end up with a little bit of dressing on my chin. This doesn’t phase me. I suppose you could chop the onions, but personally, I feel like that would be sacrilege. The chance of an onion not making it all the way into your mouth is part of the experience, as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve had several versions of this recipe at restaurants and at other people’s tables, but none have quite the same flavor as my mom’s. I think it’s the fact that she seasons it with a little dried dill. My version is a little different from hers – she salts the cucumbers and lets them sit for a few hours, then rinses them, and she puts more vinegar in hers. I omit the salting just because I usually make this at the last minute, and it doesn’t seem to hurt the flavor. I just add salt to taste. You can adjust the ratio of vinegar to sour cream to your own liking as well.
I think I’ve made cucumber salad for four weeks running this summer. In fact, I think it’s what I’m having for dinner tonight, because I’m going camping tomorrow and there is a sizeable bowl of it in my fridge, left over from last night.
4 medium or 3 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 large sweet or Vidalia onion, halved and then sliced thin
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dried dill
salt and black pepper to taste
Peel and slice the cucumbers and onions, and toss together in a large bowl, separating the onion layers as you do. In a separate bowl, stir together the sour cream, vinegar, dill, salt, and pepper, adjusting the ingredients to your own taste. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and mix well so that everything is evenly coated. Chill. Note: the longer this marinates, the better the flavor. It will lose much of its crunch overnight, so it is best prepared and eaten on the same day.