Figuring out an ideal accompaniment yesterday's Soft-Shell Crabs with Garlic and Pepper was pretty much a no-brainer. In the photo that accompanied the recipe from Andrea Reusing's Cooking in the Moment the crabs are served with a dollop of chile sauce and a lovely little pile of crisp cucumbers. As luck would have it, the recipe for this Cucumber Salad with Lemon Basil was on the following page.
It's basically a quick pickle in the quickest of senses: slices of cucumbers briefly marinated in sugar, salt, lime juice, fish sauce, and chiles, finished off with sliced scallions and torn leaves of lemon basil. Marrying the flavors of Southeast Asia with that classic American summertime staple, cucumber salad, this is the kind of salad-meets-pickle that you can easily make and tweak all spring and summer and never tire of.
Predictably perfect with the soft-shell crabs, I could see this salad working just as well with a grilled steak or even as a sandwich topping. And don't worry too much about finding lemon basil—you could just as easily sub in plain or Thai basil, or even shiso leaves, which possess a similar citrus quality.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Cooking in the Moment to give away this week.
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon expeller-pressed vegetable oil
- 3 medium cucumbers (about 1 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh red Thai chiles
- 1 cup thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts
- 1/4 cup lemon basil, other basil, or mint leaves, torn
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, salt, fish sauce, sugar, and oil. Add the cucumbers and chiles, toss to combine, and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 10 and up to 30 minutes. Just before serving, add the scallions and basil. Toss again, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.