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posted: 7/1/2014 5:45 AM

From the Food Editor: Cool cucumbers, celebratory shots for a fabulous Fourth

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  • Basil and white wine transform cucumbers into a deliciously refreshing accompaniment to sausages and antipasto.

      Basil and white wine transform cucumbers into a deliciously refreshing accompaniment to sausages and antipasto.
    Courtesy of Quartino Ristorante

  • Chef John Colleta of Quartino Ristorante in Chicago does amazing things with cucumbers, and anything he touches.

      Chef John Colleta of Quartino Ristorante in Chicago does amazing things with cucumbers, and anything he touches.
    Courtesy of Quartino Ristorante

  • American Flag shot

      American Flag shot
    Courtesy of Malibu Coconut Rum

 
 

I love cucumbers. So when I spotted Linda Lendardt's recipe for Cucumber Vegetable Salad with Cilantro, I knew it would be among those I shared with readers for our Spectacular Summer Side Dishes package.

It also got me thinking about a cucumber salad of sorts I enjoyed this past winter at Quartino in Chicago. Quartino is a wine-centric Italian spot in the River North neighborhood that encourages plate sharing. To say I enjoyed chef John Coletta's Sweet and Sour Cucumbers is really an understatement.

I dined there on a chilly February night with a group of friends and it seems we sampled our way through most of the menu (ooh, the imported risotto and house-cured sausages!). As we compared notes over the last swish of wine, the cucumbers, which come with a vegetable platter and often accompany sausages, left us wanting another taste. Maybe it's because we were in the grips of the polar vortex and those cucumbers provided a taste of summer that they left such an impression.

Anyway, I've been dreaming about them since. The basil makes this recipe stand out and I was eager to try this with my fresh harvest of herbs and cukes.

Luckily chef Coletta shared the recipe with me and happily said I could share it with you. Here it is: Cut the ends off 1 pound of cucumbers (skin on). Place a chef's knife at one end of the cucumber and cut into two equal halves lengthwise. Using the chef's knife once again, cut each cucumber half in half. Slice each quarter cucumber into 1/8-inch slices.

Put cucumbers into a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and add 2 ounces each white wine vinegar and white wine (such as Pinot Grigio or Pinot Bianco), 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon thinly sliced red finger pepper and 1 tablespoon finely shredded basil leaves. Season to taste with kosher or sea salt and fresh-ground pepper and toss to evenly mix.

This recipe is easily doubled. I plan to triple it for our Fourth of July cookout. I doubt there will be any leftovers, but if there are, I will gladly finish them off.

Stars and stripes: Red, white and blue cupcakes and potato salad aren't the only ways to show off your patriotic side this weekend. Try your hand at pouring American Flag shots, a recipe that comes to us from the folks at Malibu.

In a shot glass, layer equal parts blue curacao, white coconut rum and red Campari. Pour each slowly over the back of a spoon to minimize disrupting the layers. You might have to practice the layering technique a few times, but even the ones that aren't pretty are pretty tasty.

Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at dpankey@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/DebPankey or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.

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