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Celebrate cucumber season with a tangy and delicious salad

Food columnist Sarah Nasello says this easy recipe for Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad is surprisingly full of flavor.

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Sarah's Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad is a tangy, refreshing and delicious summer side dish.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — Cucumber season is here, and this Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad is a tangy and delicious way to showcase this refreshing summer vegetable. Light and fresh, this is an easy recipe that is surprisingly full of flavor.

English cucumbers are ideal for this recipe, and their thin, delicate skin means you can leave the peel on for added texture and color. A food mandolin is the perfect tool to help ensure that they are thin and uniformly sliced, and they are easy to find both locally and online for about $10.

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A food mandolin is the ideal kitchen tool to create ultra-thin slices of cucumber.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

If you do not have a mandolin, a sharp knife will also work — the cucumbers should be thin enough to fold in half without snapping.

Thinly sliced cucumber can become mushy if you are not careful, so to keep the cucumber slices fresh and crisp I place them in a colander and toss them with kosher salt. The salt works to extract extra water from the cucumber so that they still have a bit of crunch when added to the salad.

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Extra-virgin olive oil, sour cream and fresh lime juice form the base of flavor for this salad, which also features cucumber, red onion, jalapeno and cilantro.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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I place the colander over a plate to catch the liquid and let the cucumbers sit at room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes. I once made this salad without first salting the cucumbers and I will not repeat that mistake again.

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As the cucumbers drain, I prepare the other ingredients, which include jalapeno, garlic, sour cream, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lime juice and cilantro. If I plan to serve this salad with tacos or carnitas, I will use the whole jalapeno and even add some crushed red pepper flakes to spice it up, but otherwise this is a mild cucumber salad.

To assemble the salad, I mix all the ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl, except the cucumbers and cilantro. Once combined, I add the drained cucumber slices and use tongs to gently toss until they are evenly coated. Next, I add a generous amount of finely chopped cilantro, which brings a lovely punch of fresh, green flavor to the salad. You can serve the salad immediately or let it marinate in the refrigerator for up to four hours before serving.

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Sarah places the sliced cucumber in a colander with a sprinkling of kosher salt to extract excess water from the slices and keep them fresh and crisp.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

When ready to serve, I transfer the cucumber salad to a serving dish, leaving as much liquid in the mixing bowl as possible. But do not discard it — there is big flavor in the excess liquid, and I save it to use as a dressing for other salads.

This Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad is a simple recipe that can easily be doubled or tripled as needed, and it is the perfect side dish to pair with roasted chicken, lamb or fish dishes. It is excellent with my Savory Salmon Cakes , and I recently served it as a topping with my Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas , to rave reviews. Enjoy!

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Extra dressing from the Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad can be saved and used in other salads for up to a week.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad

PRINT: Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients:
1 large English cucumber, washed and very thinly sliced
Kosher salt
½ to 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (start with 1/2 and add more as desired)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:
Place a large colander over a plate or baking sheet. Add the cucumber slices and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt; toss to combine. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to help them release some of their water.

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Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine the jalapeno, onion, garlic, black pepper, sour cream, olive oil and lime juice. Once the cucumbers have drained, pat them dry with a paper towel and add them to salad. Use tongs to gently toss until evenly coated.

Add the fresh cilantro and crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and gently toss again. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired. Serve immediately or marinate in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.

Recipe Time Capsule:

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.
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