Cucumber–feta salad with red onions and mint

Screen shot 2013-03-22 at 2.36.50 PM

The Greens Cookbook, 396pp.
by Deborah Madison with Edward Espe Brown
Bantam Books, New York, 1987
Cooking on page 32

Ages ago, I bought this cookbook second-hand for $5, but Greens Restaurant in San Francisco remains as popular as ever.

Opening in 1979, Greens set out to introduce vegetarian cuisine to California’s meat-eating public. Even though I’ve never had the good fortune to eat at Greens, I know the restaurant has a spectacular location in a converted warehouse at historic Fort Mason. There are floor-to-ceiling windows and great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marina and the Marin headlands.

Carpenters from the San Francisco Zen Centre did the conversion, and for many years all staff members were Zen students.

Annie Somerville is the current chef, and she makes use of the abundant organic produce grown at Green Gulch Farm, just 14 miles away.

Cucumber-feta salad

Cucumber–feta salad with red onions and mint

2 pounds cucumbers, such as Armenian, English, Japanese
1 small onion: a red onion, or torpedo onion, or one of the very sweet varieties such as a Walla Walla
white pepper
8 ounces feta cheese (preferably Bulgarian which is less salty), thinly slices or crumbled
3 tablespoons mixed herbs: mint, parsley, marjoram and chives, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
whole mint leaves for garnish

Peel the cucumbers if the skins have been waxed or have a bitter taste. Otherwise, leave them on, or peel most of the skins away, leaving a few narrow strips, which will make the slices pretty. Peel Armenian cucumbers only if the skins are tough. Slice the cucumber thinly (if they are very mature with large seeds, halve them lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and thinly slice the halves). Put the slices in a bowl: cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

Peel the onion, keeping it whole, and then slice it into rounds as thinly as possible. Cover with cold water and refrigerate, also for 1/2 hour.

Just before serving, remove the cucumbers and the onion from the refrigerator. Drain the onion and shake off the excess water. Layer the cucumber and onion slices informally on a platter or in a large shallow bowl. Season with a little salt and freshly ground white pepper, and scatter the cheese and herbs on top. Whisk together the vinegar and oil with a fork, and pour it over the salad. Garnish with the mint leaves and serve.

How it played out
I made half a batch, using Lebanese cucumbers (which is what I think the cookbook author would know as Japanese cucumbers). Also used homegrown herbs (parsley, mint and chives), my beloved Greek Dodoni feta and rice wine vinegar. I don’t even know if I can buy Champagne vinegar in Australia.

The call for so many thin slices reminded me that I really should master the art of using a mandolin. I have one buried in the back of a cupboard, and will force myself to haul it out next time. If this blog suddenly languishes, you’ll know I sliced off all my fingers.

Nice summer salad with ingredients I love and almost always have on hand. Personal opinion, I wouldn’t use mature cucumbers for this salad. It’s too delicate a dish for that.

I appreciated the references to Armenian, English and Japanese cucumbers. I tracked down online photos and confirmed that I know these, in order, as snake, telegraph and Lebanese cucumbers.

Has anyone out there been to Greens Restaurant? Is this on the menu?

cucumber salad

Many thanks to Mary Pat Frick for this great photo of the salad and her wonderful suggestion to add capers (see her comments below)


About leggypeggy

Intrepid overland traveller, keen photographer, avid cook—known to jump out of airplanes and do other silly things. Do not act my age.
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6 Responses to Cucumber–feta salad with red onions and mint

  1. Janeene says:

    Yum, I LOVE the sound of this one Peggy, just love cucumbers, and have a fridge full of them at present. Might give this a go with what’s left of the cucumbers after I go crazy with panzanellas for the next few days – also have an abundance of tomatoes and basil and italian bread at present! Don’t you just love summer!

    • leggypeggy says:

      I adore summer and its abundance of produce. I have a yummy-sounding page-32 salad recipe coming up. It calls for basil (which I have in the garden) and mixed heritage tomatoes. If I can get some tomatoes at the market, I will make it tomorrow night and post the recipe ASAP. Normally I would be growing my own tomatoes, but we were travelling into January this year, so too late to plant.

  2. Mary Pat Frick, aka twissis says:

    Made as written for the Greece Region of Culinary Quest #3 – I say “as written” because it’s true, but I couldn’t resist adding a sprinkle of capers as an extra. This salad is fresh, bright, flavorful & such an easy quick-fix. I decided to use your stated mix of herbs. I bought 2 of them, but used chives & mint grown on my condo balcony. You said to “pretty up” the cucumber, so I used my mom’s method of running fork tines along the length of cucumber & then slicing them. It produces a neat effect. Hope you like the pic as much as we liked your salad. Thx for sharing the recipe for the quest.

    • leggypeggy says:

      Thanks so much for making this recipe. Capers are a brilliant addition. Thanks also for the beautification reminder. My mother used to do the fork thing on cucumbers. Clever. I’m going to add you pic to the post. 🙂

  3. Wow, what a great salad Peggy. I loved it, fresh, refreshing, spicy, tangy, salty and delicious. Made as written and would not change a thing. It was quick and easy to make with terrific results. Made for CQ3 – Greece. (BK)

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