Photo: Courtesy of PBS Food
This luscious little salad delivers serious crunch. The crisp juicy cucumber marries the toasty rye croutons and the whole crackling affair is coated in velvety dilly sour cream dressing. Pickled shallots, capers, and feta deliver tart and salty punches with each bite, leaving you wanting more.
This recipe came about from my combined love of summery cucumber salads and rye cucumber sandwiches. I wondered if there was a way to combine the two and beef up my usual light cucumber salad to turn into something more substantial, hearty, and packed with bolder flavors. This salad is the result and I’m so pleased with it. It pairs well alongside grilled trout or wild salmon, but also holds up perfectly well on its own.
Now. A few words on cucumbers… and sour cream… and pickled shallots. First, the sour cream. Please use full-fat, real sour cream if you make this recipe. I can think of few things that are as guaranteed to ruin a dish as the low-fat, artificially-soured gunk that tries to pass for “sour cream” on so many grocery store shelves. I will spare you a longer rant on the topic, but just trust me on this one. Life is too short for low-fat, artificially-soured cream. As for the pickled shallots… if you’re tempted to skip these, allow me a few words in their defense: yes, they do need to be made ahead but they take literally minutes to prepare and then all they have to do is marinate for a bit.
This salad is just not the best possible version of itself without them. They give it pizzazz. The pickling mellows the onion flavour and leaves you with sweet tart goodness. (In a pinch, use red onions instead of shallots).
And finally, our dear friends the cukes. I encourage you to explore what’s available at your local farmer’s market and to use local and organic cucumbers if you can. Conventional cucumbers are repeatedly shown to be high in pesticide residues and it’s one of the vegetables that I highly recommend buying organic whenever possible. Plus there’s nothing like a fresh-off-the-vine juicy crunchy cucumber!
Finally, be sure to slice up the rye croutons and the cucumber cubes quite finely. Small, delicate bite-sized cubes make for a nicer presentation and offer up better bites (with better crunch!) that aren’t unwieldy.
- 3 medium cucumbers (about 4 cups cubed)
- 5 slices rye bread (about 2 cups cubed rye bread)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon small capers
- 2 ounces feta, finely cubed (about 1/3 cup)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Pickled Shallots
- 5 to 6 small shallots (or 1 medium red onion)
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup full-fat organic sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vinegar from the pickled shallots
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Half a small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup chopped)
- A few hours in advance or the day before, prepare the pickled shallots. Peel the shallots and slice them as thinly as you can. You should get about 1/2 cup of finely sliced shallots. Place them in a small jar and cover them with the apple cider vinegar. Stir in the sugar and water, and place in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of one hour, preferably overnight.
- If you wish, peel the cucumbers (I like to leave the skins on if they’re organic). If using field cucumbers, de-seed them by slicing in half lengthwise and running a spoon down the center. (English cucumbers or baby cucumbers don’t need to be de-seeded). Finely chop the cucumbers into small cubes. You should get about 4 cups cubed cucumber.
- Cut the rye bread into small cubes. Toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt. Oil a baking sheet with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread the cubed bread across it. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 10 minutes, or until the croutons are golden and crisp. Remove and allow to cool.
- In a medium-large bowl, combine the cubed cucumber and cooled croutons. In a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, salt, and vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped dill (save the rest for garnish. Toss the cucumber and croutons with the sour cream dressing. Top with about 1 to 2 tablespoons of pickled shallots (shake off any excess vinegar and keep the rest for another dish), 1 capers, and finely cubed feta. Top with more chopped dill. Taste and season as desired with a bit of salt and pepper. (Be careful not to over salt this salad as the capers and feta are already quite salty). Serve within the hour so that the croutons maintain their crisp. (If you wish to make this a few hours in advance, add the croutons at the last minute so they stay crispy).
This recipe was originally posted on PBS Food.