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Friday, October 01, 2010

Chinese-marinated cucumbers


older-sisterly love

A couple of weeks ago I was in a bike shop, and the bike mechanic/salesperson was ringing up my purchases, noticed my name, and said “Hey, are you Ben’s sister?” Since I didn’t change my last name when I married Dan, this does tend to happen fairly often—especially since Ben and I look a bit alike, and he is a minor celebrity among skiers in Anchorage. For many years, he’s been a coach for Winter Stars, a year-round training program for cross-country skiers, from junior high school students to masters. So not only do all his skiers know him, but all the parents of the younger skiers know him, too. And from what I hear, they all love him! I’m so proud of him for making such a name for himself, and it’s so nice to hear people’s compliments when they realize that I am, indeed, Ben’s sister.

Except for one thing. I’m older! He’s my little brother! So I always correct them. “No no no, you are mistaken, I’m not HIS sister, he’s actually MY brother.” Sometimes they get it—they apologize to my injured ego, and laugh. But other times, they just look confused, apparently wondering why I don’t embrace being Ben’s sister as my claim to fame. Ben loves it when I am recognized by my relationship to him, and will thank anyone who mentions it. It’s well-deserved come-uppance for me! From elementary school through high school, he was plagued by expectations of his teachers and coaches: “You’re Alison’s brother?” I admit, I deserve all I get, and probably a lot more!

But here’s the funny thing. When we’re out skiing on the trails, or biking together, or running, he IS the older brother now! He’s such a fantastic coach—encouraging and fun, yet offering constructive criticism when needed—that I find myself working hard to follow his instructions, and am pleased and gratified by his praise when I earn it.

I’m proud of you, Ben!

Love, YOUR sister, Alison

Chinese-marinated cucumbers

A couple of weeks ago I discovered two cucumbers in my crisper drawer from last week’s CSA box the day before I was due to get the next vegetable installment, so I had to eat them pronto. This recipe is a variation on a celery recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It looked easy and fast, but I had absolutely no idea how amazingly delicious it would be. I am embarrassed to say that I sat down and ate practically the entire batch by myself for lunch.

I added tomatoes to the original recipe, and I have to say, they are absolutely divine with the cucumbers and the soy flavors. However, if you don’t have ripe, delicious tomatoes, don’t buy the bland mealy kind at the store. Just omit the the tomatoes—it will still be really yummy.

2 large English cucumbers
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon chili oil (optional)
2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into wedges and then in half, to make bite-sized pieces

1. Cut the cucumber lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them. Cut the cucumber into ½-inch pieces. Mix with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar and set them aside for 10 to 30 minutes.
2. Whisk together the remaining sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and chili oil.
3. Rinse, drain and pat the cucumber dry, then toss with the dressing. Add the tomato chunks and toss again. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to a day. Serve chilled.


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