While relaxing in California last week I discovered some amazing things. One of them was Armenian Cucumbers.... though I didn't discover that right away. Instead I was just minding my own business, cutting up zucchini for the Roasted Mediterranean Vegetables we were having for dinner. I needed another zucchini and my sister-in-law handed me this unusual looking long light green ridged vegetable. A friend had given it to her and she assumed it was some type of squash.
Who am I to doubt? I had never seen one before and, while I wasn't sure what it was, it certainly was interesting and pretty. I took a couple of photos and then cut into it. At that point we discovered it wasn't a zucchini at all but was more like a cucumber. So we sliced it and tasted it. It made such pretty flower like slices. They would be gorgeous in a salad and tasted good too, crisp and mild.
Later I searched the Internet in an effort to identify our mystery vegetable. Searching through cucumber varieties I finally found it. I learned that, while it is often called an Armenian Cucumber, it is also called a Snake Melon and actually is a variety of melon. Interesting! Still, who knew? Even when I'm not really trying there is something amazing to learn every day.
While, technically, this unusual variety of produce is a melon it works best as a cucumber which it most closely resembles in taste and texture. If you have access to Armenian Cucumbers, or Snake Melons, try this great recipe I found for Spicy Ginger Cucumber Salad at The Ethicurean. If not, it is still very good using regular cucumbers. It calls for fresh ginger, minced Thai green chiles and black sesame seeds, which promise to give this cool summer salad some Asian flair. What's more, I added some leftover shelled edamame from my freezer for a bit of contrast in texture and shape which I found appealing.
Spicy Ginger Cucumber Salad
adapted from www.ethicurean.com
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and grated or finely chopped
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 large cucumbers, peeled, cut in half, seeded and sliced (or one 18-in Armenian cucumber washed and sliced)
3 Tablespoons grapeseed or other mild oil
1 red onion, quartered and sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
2 Tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds
2 small green chiles (Thai preferred) stemmed and minced
1 cup frozen shelled edamame (rinsed and thawed)
Combine the rice vinegar, ginger root, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the cucumber and toss to coat. Let stand for at least one hour.
One hour or less before ready to serve, drain the liquid from the cucumbers.
Toast the sesame seeds in a medium skillet, being careful not to burn them. Transfer to a small dish and set aside.
Heat the oil in the skillet. When hot, add the onion, tumeric, chiles and whole peppercorns. Saute for approximately five minutes, or until the onion is softened. Toss with the reserved cucumbers and edamame. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
Note: Leftover pieces of fresh ginger root can be peeled and stored in the freezer for future use.
The original recipe did not call for edamame and it could easily be left out.