I don’t know exactly how or when it started, but I believe any of the food lovers in Paris can attest to the fact that there is an onslaught of Mexican restaurant openings currently taking place in France’s capital, from the Mexican diner/trendy cocktail bar combo to the upcoming opening of Chipotle in the 9th arrondissement. Please don’t interpret this statement as a complaint: spicy food and pulled pork are two things I miss the most in Paris and which I am more than happy to reintroduce to my diet on a regular basis. I have to admit that I get a guilty pleasure every time I step into one of these establishments (the majority of which are run or co-run by Americans) only to find fellow expats reveling in the glory of freshly made soft-shell tacos, endless guacamole and the ultimate food accompaniments utterly lacking in French food: hot sauce, spicy sauce, and hot peppers. One look at each other and no words need to be spoken to establish what we’re thinking - living this far away from good Mexican food has been hard on us all, and we’re only too happy to find it again.
Maybe this recent craze over Mexican food is why I was keen on making this salsa-cum-salad, which I was introduced to thanks to a Mexican -themed dinner at my friend Erin’s apartment last month. After one bite I was shocked by how much flavor such a simple dish could have, considering its short list of ingredients (she made it as a salsa, without the walnuts and feta, using only 5 ingredients). The secret definitely seems to be the importance of letting the flavors marinate for as long as possible, preferably for 24 hours, in order to give the dish more depth and to let the flavors marry. The touch of sugar helps to add a slight hint of sweetness without overpowering the freshness of the vegetables. Since I loved this salsa so much I decided i wanted to transform it into a salad by adding a little fat and protein. It is still extremely healthy, as there is no oil used and the only fat comes from the feta cheese and walnuts. As usual, please feel free to play around with the nuts, maybe substituting chopped peanuts or toasted pine nuts. In fact, now that I’m writing this, I believe peanuts would be a wonderful contrast to the acidity of cucumbers and bell peppers. Feel free as well to add other fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, or mint.
I also want to mention that I just added a rating system, made possible in just 3 mouse clicks thanks to the highly customized and user-friendly WordPress blog system, so now you can rate any of the recipes you have tried on this website. Rating systems are great and they are the reason why Epicurious.com remains my favorite cooking website - I can categorize recipes by their ratings and easily check which ones are most popular. To rate a recipe, simply click on the recipe title, and click on the number of stars you would like to assign to it. I won’t be offended if you give something few or no stars, the whole point of this blog is to help you make food that you think tastes good and that is easy to make!
So please feel free to rate this or any other recipe – happy cooking!
Cuke Salad with Feta and Walnuts – serves 1
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
3-4 tablespoons rice wine, cider, or red wine vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta
1/4-cup chopped, toasted walnuts
optional: a pinch of cayenne pepper
1. Combine the cucumber, bell pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl; toss to combine. Add the sugar and vinegar and toss again to combine all ingredients. Let sit in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably for 1 day.
2. When ready to eat, combine with crumbled feta, toasted walnuts, and a the cayenne pepper if using.