Tuesday, July 10, 2012

want a recipe for cucumber & avocado open face sandwiches? and a cucumber, tomato and bean salad?

summer fest is here! summer fest is here!  i sound excited...yes?  that is because summerfest is one of my favorite parts of summer.  for new readers, check out my post summer fest is almost here for some background.  we start this year's series with cucumbers and, as a bonus, i am including two recipes in this post.

i love cucumbers.  there is something so refreshing and crunchy about this vegetable.  i was surprised to learn that they are part of the gourd family...part of the group that includes squash.  they are delicious, nutritious and really hydrating.  last year, during cucumber week, i posted my recipe for cucumber coolers and listed some nutrition facts.  this year...i am keeping it short and sweet and just talking recipes!

i have been making these open face cucumber & avocado sandwiches all summer.  they are perfect for a luncheon, light supper paired with soup (i like gazpacho with them) or even cut into quarters and served as appetizers.  best of all, they taste terrific, are a snap to make, are really good for you and require no cooking.  how perfect is that during this very hot summer?

the sandwiches start with grilled whole wheat bread spread with mashed avocados.  they are topped with a refreshing cucumber salad mixed with seasoned rice vinegar, lemon balm and sea salt.  remember i told you they are good for you?  consider the fiber from the whole wheat bread, the healthy mono and polyunsaturated fat from the avocados (not to mention the 20 vitamins, minerals and beneficial plant compounds included in 1 oz of avocado) and the aforementioned nutrition components from the cucumber.  i love it when something that tastes amazing is really healthy too!

the cucumber salad can also be used in fish tacos, as a side dish with chicken or fish, as a burger topping, or as part of a salad luncheon. i combine different types of cucumber...all thin skinned because i want the nutrients and fiber from the peel.  if you buy the type with thick, waxy skin you will probably have to remove the peel.

for the sandwiches, there really isn't a recipe...it is more of a technique.  this is how i prepare them:

open face cucumber & avocado sandwiches
makes 4
cucumber salad
1 lemon cucumber
1 garden cucumber
1 kirby cucumber
2 tbsp lemon balm (cut into chiffonade), plus additional for garnish
3 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
sea salt
chop cucumbers into bite sized pieces and place in a medium sized bowl.  add the lemon balm, vinegar and a pinch of sea salt.  gently stir to combine.  taste and adjust salt if necessary.  place bowl in fridge until needed.
mashed avocados
3 hass avocados
juice of 1/2 lime or meyer lemon
pinch red pepper flakes
sea salt

pit and dice avocados by following the technique outlined in this post.  add prepared avocados to a small bowl.  add lime/lemon juice, red pepper flakes and pinch of sea salt.  mash together using a fork.  taste and adjust salt and/or pepper flakes if desired.  set aside.

grill bread on bbq, grill pan or broiler.  (i use a griddler when weather does not permit using the bbq).  remove bread from grill and place on serving plate.  spread a generous layer of the mashed avocado over the toast.  top with spoonfuls of the cold cucumber salad. (as much as you like).  use a slotted spoon to drain the liquid, otherwise the sandwiches may get soggy.  garnish with additional lemon balm and serve.
last sunday was one of those perfect days spent with friends.  at the last minute, i emailed/texted my book club girlfriends and said "it will be hot...wanna come swim?"  about half the group was available, so i chilled some beer, made a few pitchers of margaritas and set out an assortment of "easy to make, easy to serve" appetizers.  i also made a plum cobbler...we always have vanilla ice cream made from coconut milk in the freezer....and we were ready for guests.  (more on the cobbler next week). laura brought guacamole and chips, a few people brought wine (we live in napa after all) and rachelle brought a wonderful salad made with lemon cucumbers, yellow and red tomatoes and white cannellini beans.  it was amazingly good and a perfect addition to cucumber week.  i asked for the recipe...she laughed and said "i just threw together the ingredients i thought would taste good.  i did not measure and did not write anything down".   i experimented to try and recreate her dish...viola!....a perfect addition to any picnic, barbecue or summer party. 

the key to this dish is using in season, local, perfectly ripe produce.  i have become addicted to lemon cucumbers and they are the key ingredient in this dish. they are sweet, delicate, and do not need to be peeled.  combined with heirloom tomatoes, they are out of this world. for all of the ingredients,  use the recipe that follows as a guideline.  adjust quantities to suit your preference and based on what looks good as the farmers' market that day.  there are endless variations that sound amazing...try different herbs, cheese, vegetables.  i love the flexibility this provides.  enjoy!

rachelle's cucumber, tomato and white bean salad
5 lemon cucumbers, cut into bite sized pieces 
1 large red heirloom tomato
1 large yellow heirloom tomato
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup canned white cannellini beans, drained
2 tbsp fresh basil, cut chiffonade
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (a good one)
1 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

chop tomatoes into large, bite sized pieces.  place first 6 ingredients in large bowl and gently toss.  drizzle e.v.o.o. and vinegar over top of salad.  add a pinch of both the salt and pepper and gently mix together all ingredients.  taste and adjust seasonings.  chill in refrigerator for 1/2 hour and then serve.

now it is your turn to participate in summer fest. simply leave your cucumber tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below, and then go visit food network and do the same same. join the conversation on twitter at #cookingwith and be sure to check out these delicious sounding recipes from the other participating bloggers:

The Sensitive Epicure: Chinese Style Cucumbers
What's Gaby Cooking: Cucumber, Herb and Pita Salad
Ingredients, Inc.: Easiest Cucumber Salad
Virtually Homemade: Cucumber Strawberry Cooler
From My Corner of Saratoga: Marinated Cucumber Salad
The Cultural Dish: Pasta With Roasted Shrimp and Cucumbers
Daily*Dishin: Southern Benedictine - Creamy Cucumber Spread
Delicious Lean: Cucumber Jicama Salad
And Love It, Too: Fermented Spicy Garlic-Dill Cukes and Zukes
FN Dish: No-Cook Cucumber Recipes
Cooking With Elise: Wedge Salad With Cucumber-Ranch Dressing

napa farmhouse 1885

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Rachelle said...

Ooh, I cannot wait to make your open-face avo/cuc sandwiches! (And to re-make my salad, which was pretty darned good, if I do say so myself. ;))

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

your salad was delicious rachelle...you always make wonderful salads! thanks for the inspiration....come swimming anytime :)

Elise Johnson said...

Wish I was in your book club! :-)

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

it is a terrific group of women. we modestly call ourselves the "bbce"...best book club ever...

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

it is a terrific group of women. we modestly call ourselves the "bbce"...best book club ever...

Nutritionist Manchester said...

Yum! Can not wait to give these recipes a whirl! Thanks!

napa farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks nutritionist!