First and foremost, I want to apologize for my leave of absence for the last few weeks. I have not disappeared or taken an unannounced break from blogging. Instead, my explanation is rather simple, albeit mundane—computer problems. The moment I returned from vacation, my hard drive crashed spectacularly, rendering my computer completely unusable. Thanks to my wonderful father and his hard work installing a new hard drive, I have a fully functioning computer sitting in my lap this evening.
I can say with great sincerity that I have missed these small moments we share together.
August is one of my favorite months when it comes to food; it's the beginning of harvest. After a trip to the local farmer's market, my kitchen is suddenly host to my obsession with fresh vegetables. As they line the counter tops and spill out of the refrigerator, I often sit back and seriously question myself on what I've just done, convinced I'll never manage to eat my way through them on time. After a few pasta dishes and makeshift hashes topped with an egg, the vegetables quickly disappear and I find myself back at the market in a week's time.
This is a cycle I wish I could enjoy more than a few months out of the year.
On my most recent trip to the farmer's market, I picked up a bundle of cucumbers, zucchinis, and leeks, among many other vegetables. More often than not I don't have a plan for using them, choosing instead to find inspiration in front of the stove when dinner time comes around. This time the inspiration came from my mother.
During the summer months, she occasionally whips up traditional German summer fare (I come from a long line of German heritage). One of my family's favorite dishes is made with small dumplings which are covered in a cold cream sauce with thinly sliced cucumbers or lettuce. Without her recipe to guide me, I created an inspired version of the dish for myself, turning it into an open faced sandwich so I could easily pack it in my lunchbox during the work week. The ingredients may be simple, but the flavors in this dish are wonderfully complex (and it'll use up some of those ripe vegetables still sitting in the garden).
Cucumber & Zucchini Cream Cheese Slices is a deconstructed version of one of my mother's traditional summer dishes. Thinly sliced cucumbers, zucchini, and leeks are sprinkled with salt and pepper and splashed with vinegar. This salad is then placed on top of French bread spread thickly with cream cheese to create an open-faced sandwich. The acidity of the vinegar and the tang of the cream cheese complement the mild tones of the cucumber and zucchini (with a zing from the leeks) in an unexpected, but welcome manner.
A tip of advice: the thinner the vegetables are sliced, the better the salad comes together (if you have a mandolin, now is the time to pull it out of the cupboard).
Cucumber & Zucchini Cream Cheese Slices
Yields about 8 open-faced sandwiches
1/2 medium cucumber, finely sliced
1/2 medium zucchini, finely sliced
1/2 medium leek, finely sliced
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vinegar
3-4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 French baguette, cut into 1-inch thick slices
In a medium bowl, combine finely sliced cucumber, zucchini, and leeks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add in the vinegar and stir until everything is evenly coated. Set aside.
Thickly spread cream cheese on bread slices and top with cucumber and leek mixture. Serve immediately. If any of the salad mixture remains, feel free to dig in with a fork.