Heidi Swanson’s Cucumber Salad

Heidi Swanson's Cucumber Salad | A Sweet Spoonful
You often hear how women begin to nest towards the end of pregnancy. This looks different for different people — some staying up late at night finishing painting projects, others buying new furniture, stocking the freezer or spending time on the nursery. Next week I’ll be entering the third trimester and I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of nesting and of spending time at home. In truth, nesting isn’t something that’s new to me: I come from a family of nesters. My dad opened a furniture store the year I was born in Northern California and during my childhood it slowly grew to be a larger chain. He cared about the fixtures in our house, and would sit with me on our front stoop pointing out examples of good and bad taste — mostly in cars that would drive by but I seem to recall this with passerbyers and their attire, too. I realize this probably sounds a bit pretentious or maybe even downright snooty, but we grew up pretty humbly in those days; it was more a matter of strong opinion than a reflection of, say, having more than anyone else on the block. Those opinions, of course, were contagious and today I care very much about the way our house is situated and how we spend our time at home (although I don’t sit out on our stoop and talk to Sam about who I feel has good and bad taste on the block).

My mom also cared a great deal about our home life: she always had fresh flowers in the kitchen or on the dining room table and insisted we all sit and eat dinner together each night. Even today, if you have a hard day or things feel a little off, she’ll suggest fresh flowers and I’ve come to realize she’s right: they really can fix many of life’s very minor problems. In addition to bouquets, my mom was always an enthusiastic consumer of seasonal wreathes and colorful holiday decorations (and still is). She loves a good throw pillow and clean-burning taper candles. My people care about their surroundings.

Heidi Swanson's Cucumber Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulSo as I start looking toward the things I want to complete before Sprout (our temporary name) is born, I wonder if the nesting urge will grow stronger. I imagine it may not, really, and will consist largely of freezing meals and getting the baby’s room ready. Or maybe it will kick into high gear as I’ll be naturally spending more time getting ready for Sprout and less time doing granola deliveries and shipments. Who knows? Much like the weeks of pregnancy that are now behind me, I can say that the one constant is you just don’t know what any of it will look like. In a way it’s reassuring as you can’t worry too much about things you don’t yet understand. It’s a one step at a time endeavor and if you’re lucky it’s filled with ice cream cones, long neighborhood walks in the evening when it’s still light at 9:30 p.m., and lots of fresh salads that make you look forward to lunch the next day.

Heidi Swanson's Cucumber Salad | A Sweet SpoonfulHeidi Swanson’s Cucumber Salad from her new book Near and Far is one such salad. I just made this recipe last weekend as Sam and I were lingering at home on a Saturday listening to records and going through old newspapers. It’s the first recipe in Heidi’s beautiful book and the one that most called to me: it looked fresh and snappy yet substantial and interesting (lemongrass! lime! red pepper flakes!)

Heidi Swanson's Cucumber Salad | A Sweet Spoonful
Heidi’s newest book comes out on September 15, and I think you’re going to get lost in it as much as I did. It’s organized around the theme of place — of recipes that are inspired by her hometown of San Francisco and others that were kickstarted thanks to her travels to Morocco, Japan, Italy, France and India. This particular salad is from one of the San Francisco sections; I made a few tweaks to the recipe, opting to use pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts and I added in some thin-sliced radishes. I also served mine on a little nest of soba noodles but you could instead fold in additional greens or leftover grains as Heidi suggests. Not that you need to serve it with anything at all: it’s perfect just the way it is. And while I would’ve loved to have this recipe in my back pocket for the July heatwave we had in Seattle, I’m thankful to have it now to help fuel me through the third trimester. Fresh flowers, home projects, business to-do lists (maybe even a seasonal wreath?!) and all.

Heidi Swanson's Cucumber Salad

Heidi Swanson's Cucumber Salad

  • Yield: 4-6
  • Prep time: 25 mins
  • Cook time: 10 mins
  • Inactive time: 20 mins
  • Total time: 55 mins

Ever-so-slightly adapted from Near and Far

Ingredients

1 large cucumber (12 oz / 340g), seeded and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup (1.5 oz / 45g) chopped kale
12 oz extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 stalks lemongrass, tender center only, minced
1/4 cup (60ml) brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey (or brown sugar)
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to serve
1/2 cup (70g) toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 package soba noodles, to serve (optional)

Instructions

Place the cucumbers, onion, radishes, kale and tofu in a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemongrass, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, and salt and simmer for a couple of minutes — long enough for the honey to dissolve fully. Remove from the heat and whisk in the red pepper flakes. Let cool for 5 minutes and pour over the cucumber mixture. Toss gently but thoroughly and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Toss again and adjust the salt and red pepper to taste.

If you’re serving this salad with soba noodles, cook them according to the instructions on the package. Drain off any residual liquid from the cucumber mixture into a small bowl. If serving with the noodles or with grains,  toss them with this liquid. Top with pumpkin seeds and a good squeeze of lime. Serve the remaining lime wedges at the table.

Comments

  1. Mary

    I can't wait to get my hands on Heidi's new book. This salad looks great.

    Good luck as you enter the third trimester nesting, however it looks for you!

  2. Carole

    Your childhood sounds a lot like mine. We had little in a material sense but my parents were proud, committed to solid family values and never made excuses. We ate wonderful homemade food, fashionable homemade clothes and our yard was immaculate. I often think of how those things informed what is important to me now, For good or for ill, parents are teaching their children at all times. Frightening responsibility! You'll be great at it as you are deliberate about even small details. Looking forward to your happy news.

  3. cheri

    Hi Megan, love everything Heidi does, on the amazon waiting list for her new book. I have followed your blog for a few years now and have never commented......just wanted to say that I love the name Sprout, just saying.....

  4. Nicole @ thejameskitchen

    The book came a few days ago and it is so hard to decide what to make, might follow your lead and make this delicious cucumber salad, too. Have a wonderful third and I can't imagine a table without a tablecloth and fresh flowers either. It is so inviting and makes every meal & every day special + people automatically behave better when there is a tablecloth - or at least try to. Normally , though, it is me who adorns it with sauce... but that's what washing machines were invented for.
    Nicole

  5. Lindsay

    After reading about this cookbook in Food52's The Piglet, I was happy to find this recipe reprinted/ adapted here. I made it for lunch today and will definitely be working with lemongrass again. The whole thing was refreshing and filling. Thanks!

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