My nana always made the best food. She was the head of our family’s tradition of “dump cooking”, as in you dump stuff in without really measuring. Almost all of us have followed in her footsteps, and a typical sharing of a recipe involves words like “10 shakes of…a palm full of…oh hell, just eyeball it”.
So, when nana died, we slowly started trying to recreate her recipes. Hunting through antique recipe cards has proven interesting, if not always fruitful. The highlight of the recipe recreation would be my aunt’s take on nana’s homemade Almond Roca. When nana would send your Christmas Almond Roca through the mail, your entire family would become a pack of squirrels, hiding it away in various places in the house. Last year, our extended family decided to not exchange Christmas gifts, but the caveat was added that we could give homemade gifts, because everyone wanted the ‘Roca.
One of nana’s best side dishes was a sliced cucumber and onion salad. It was refreshing and always served during family BBQs in summer. I have so many fond memories of that salad.
So, when I set out to recreate it, without having tasted it since 1994, I gave myself permission to fail. After scouring various recipes around the interwebs, I determined that all of them included almost an entire cup of sugar, which was a complete non started in my book.
I’ve worked the recipe over time, and I think I finally got it pretty close. Every time I’ve brought this dish to an event, I’m asked for the recipe. My sister has taken it to a BBQ, and was cornered for the recipe. The dish tastes great, but more importantly I think it is so popular because it reminds people of childhood. It reminds them of grandmas, nanas, and noni’s.
A quick note, if you have something that slices food evenly, this is a great recipe to use that machine! I have this little slicer and it’s fabulous, but sharp and makes me feel brave whenever I use it.
Cucumber and Onion Salad
4 cucumbers, sliced as evenly as you can possibly get them. I prefer very thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (I use organic evaporated cane juice from Costco)
1/4 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp dried celery seed (NOT celery salt)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced. I prefer Walla Walla Sweets (go Washington!)
1) In a microwave-proof container, nuke the vinegar and sugar on high for 1 minute. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool.
2) Slice the cukes and onion thinly, and add to a large container that has a lid. I have found that if you leave the cukes unpeeled, they get too tough. If you peel the cucumbers all the way, they get mushy. So I peel strips off, and leave some skin on there.
3) Add the spices.
4) Pour the cooled vinegar/sugar solution over the top. Stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
To enjoy, eat it. Duh.
This recipe keeps for a long time in the fridge, but it won’t truly last. Something this delicious that doesn’t require cooking, and only 10 minutes of prep time is sure to be gobbled up quickly!