Monday, 20 July 2015 | 19 comments

Status update + a cucumber salad

Most of the important events going on in my life right now are evident on the evening walk around the house:

Zinnias: Tall and pretty and technicolor.
Chickens/ducks: Hot. Panting. It’s been rough lately with high heat indices. The ducklings are now adolescent and awkward and look like dinosaurs.
Terrace: Overgrown with weeds. Strange small outbuilding: Still falling apart.
Kitchen garden: 8-foot-posts up; deer fence not so much. Weird beds that we hurriedly put in because we moved in too late for proper beds.
Cherry tomatoes: Prolific. Still green.
Big tomatoes: Prolific. Still super green. (It’s been rainy.)
Delicata squash: First year growing them—very happy where they are, getting close to ready.
Pumpkins: First time growing them since I was a kid. So rewarding. Vines getting close to 30 feet long. Turning orange.
Pretty orange-y pink lilies we inherited with the house: On their way out.
Evening light on zinnias: The best.

We are running around from family reunions to the steamy concrete jungle to West Africa (me). I’m mosquito-bitten and chlorine-y on the way to the office in the morning. Part of me gets really into the summer go-go-go, and part of me thinks that mortgages are dumb and I should probably just be slung across a Honda Rebel, riding cross-country and eating road food like Jane and Michael Stern. Did you know I have a motorcycle license? This is the tailspin summer throws me into. I can’t say I mind much.

(Also, I’ve been eating this punchy cucumber salad a lot, with cucumbers grown by people who are much better at getting their veggies to ripen by July than me.)

Deborah Madison’s ribboned cucumber salad with chile & roasted peanuts

Just barely adapted from Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors, which is in the running with just a few others for the distinction of being the cookbook to which I have most often referred on this site

You’ll need

  1. Several medium cucumbers, thin-skinned is best
  2. 1 small red onion
  3. 1 serrano chile, finely diced
  4. Grated zest and juice of two limes
  5. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  6. 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  7. 4 teaspoons peanut oil or other neutral-tasting vegetable oil
  8. 1/3 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  9. 6 mint leaves, slivered
  10. 6 Thai basil leaves


  1. Peel the cucumber if desired. Halve it, and slice (using a knife, a mandolin, or vegetable peeler) into long strips. Thinly slice the red onion. Combine cucumber, onion, and chile in a bowl.
  2. In a jar, shake together lime zest and juice, soy sauce, light brown sugar, and oil. Toss vegetables with the dressing, then top with peanuts and herbs.


§ 19 responses to Status update + a cucumber salad

  • Ha! Yeah… Houses… Lots of work/responsibility. But they sure do provide space for pumpkin growing. Or in my case, passionfruit vine growing (what!?) Love the photos. No (old school) filter? Just gorgeous.

    • Passionfruit! Woah. (Of course no filter :) These are just taken on my antique DSLR, courtesy of summer evening light .) Hope you’re enjoying your new digs. —S

      • I meant old school filter! haha. Those little strips of cellophane-like color that went on the end of a camera. I’m still using an old DSLR (12 years old now I think…) too. Kind of a pain though! New digs are good. Ton of work.

  • The garden looks lovely already Sarah, and so green! I hope you work out how to fend off the deer, possums are our garden’s nemesis here :)

  • Love this report on your homestead. We also have some strange beds that we threw in because it’s our first year in our new home. So much to do, so little time. This cucumber salad sounds like just the ticket. Excited to try it. xo

    • Shari, I forgot you were in a new place, too! I just keep reminding myself that it’s a process. Which isn’t much consolation, but… :) Hope you’re well. —S

  • Yes..We too have ducks and they too looks like small dinosaurs! Your garden looks green, lush and lovely! I enjoy reading your posts very much..thank-you:)

  • Margit Van Schaick

    Oh, Sarah, enjoy, enjoy! These are the best of times, ones you’ll remember when you’re as old as I am. I love the way light plays its part in your photos. My advice would be to take a lot of them. For remembering during deepest Winter, and many years from now. Cucumbers fresh from the garden are one of life’s great pleasures, right up there with vine-ripened tomatoes.

  • Your list reads like a poem. Thanks for the show around your place. Ours looks less like jungle and more like what it is: semi-arid.

  • Beautiful place, beautiful photos, beautifully written (as always), and a tasty salad (that I will make). Thanks, Sarah.

  • Your home is stunning–as green and sprawling as I imagine Virginia to be. How exciting to be growing so many things, too! I look forward to seeing what you do with all that delicata squash.

    I also really like the sound of this salad as a way of beating the heat; Deborah Madison is one of my go-tos as well, although I usually go the Vegetable Literacy route.

  • Cynthia

    The easiest way to de-weed that terrace is with fire. You can buy a propane-fueled wand that will eat those weeds right up. No nasty chemicals to leech into your garden and waterways, no damage to your rockery. I am a gardener with multiple terraces and couldn’t live without my dragon lady, as I fondly call her.

    • Cynthia! This is the most amazing advice. Ben and I were brainstorming the other day about whether we need to get sand or really fine gravel in the winter to shove in between the cracks. Not only is your solution elegant, but it appeals to my pyromaniac heart. Thank you! I will seek out this propane wand :) —S

  • Gorgeous space! The pictures are brilliant too–lush, bright, fresh, serene….And cucumber salads are always my favorite! Thanks for the recipe!

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