Cucumber and White Bean Salads

This weekend I spent another lovely afternoon in New Haven, with my brother, not eating eggs.

a lovely summer table of meatless (and sadly egg-less) proteins

If you’re wondering why I announced what we were not eating (ie, eggs) instead of what we did (those nifty cucumber and white bean salads up there), it’s because we were supposed to be having eggs: backyard-fresh, straight-from-the-hen eggs. Because my brother has been chickensitting for his neighbors, and was sure he would have accumulated such a massive collection of eggs that last week he commissioned me to start thinking about new and interesting ways to use them all.

Truth be told, the real reason I went to New Haven was not to visit my brother, but to visit the chickens.

Having been tasked with trying to come up with new egg recipes to help E get over his poorly-conceived notion that eggs are strictly a breakfast food, I spent last week thinking about wonderfully creative things to do with eggs: egg salads and Spanish tortillas that could be eaten at lunch, quiches and crepes for dinner….

Eventually I amassed such a long list of egg recipes that I had mentally moved on to fantasizing about collecting the eggs myself: I imagined the joy of peeking into the coop, discovering a warm egg nestled in hay, reaching in and plucking it up… and then carting it off to the kitchen.

By the time Friday rolled around, I had been figuratively (okay, so maybe sometimes literally) rubbing my hands together in gleeful anticipation of this moment for days.

But I never got my moment. There were no eggs. Not in the three days prior to my arrival, and not in the day and a half of my visit.

I suspect the chickens were somehow able to sense my over-eagerness, and had been stricken with a bout of performance anxiety.

(More likely the problem was simply that the two older hens, whom I dubbed Mabel and Blanche, had stopped laying eggs as regularly, and that the three younger ones — who were probably brought into the fold to pick up the slack — had been chicks not too long ago, and probably hadn’t matured quite enough to start laying eggs yet.)

It wasn’t really their fault, I told myself. And anyway, they were so goofy and obliviously unrepentant that it was hard to stay mad for long.

The two black ones were a little camera-shy, but Henrietta seemed to like to pose, so I gave Henrietta her own photo shoot.

Would you look at that sass?

Anyway, when it looked like there would be no eggs, we had to come up with a few alternative proteins for E’s lunch guests, who were vegetarians (and also travel-weary and likely ravenous).

An empty nest is the mother of invention. We decided to divide and conquer. E came up with this:

white bean salad with basil and garlic

… and I came up with this:

creamy cucumber salad with lemon and dill

I’m giving you the recipe for both together, because I think they complimented each other nicely.

The white bean salad packs a little bite from the garlic and fresh-cracked black pepper and a little heat from red pepper flakes, while the cucumber salad is a cool contrast: creamy and bright with lemon zest and yogurt.

White Bean Salad with Basil and Garlic

Note: As you may notice from the photo above, E likes to leave the garlic in big slices so that it imparts flavor but is easier to remove upon eating — (see that big slice of garlic front and center there?) But not being used to picking things out of my salads while I’m eating, I’ve gotten a mouthful of raw garlic before, and would prefer to simply chop the garlic finely and leave it in there. You can go either way.

  • 2 cups of  white beans (soaked overnight and cooked) or 1 can (drained)
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
  • 2-3 pinches each of crushed red pepper flakes and coarse salt
  • a few turns of fresh cracked black pepper
  • olive oil (I’d use a couple of good glugs, but E used almost 1/4 cup so there’d be more left for dipping)
  • 8-10 basil leaves, washed and ripped

Combine everything in a medium-size bowl. Allow to sit for 30-60 minutes, gently stirring once or twice to make sure everything is well mixed and all of the flavors have a chance to integrate. Serve topped with a squeeze of lemon and accompanied by toasty slices of bread for topping and dipping.

Creamy Cucumber Salad with Dill and Lemon

  • 5 Kirby or Persian cucumbers (I used larger ones here because that’s all I had on hand, but would have preferred more tender skin and smaller seeds)
  • 1 cup strained plain or Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • roughly 1/3 cup dill, chopped
  • juice and zest from 1/2 lemon
  • salt

Wash and finely slice the cucumbers, discarding the very tips at either end. In a medium bowl, gently toss with a few pinches of coarse salt. In a separate bowl (or in the yogurt container), stir garlic and dill into yogurt. Set both bowls aside in the refrigerator for half an hour, to allow the cucumbers to release some liquid and the garlic a chance to mellow out and infuse the yogurt.

When the cucumber slices have released a good amount of liquid, drain them and then add the yogurt-garlic-dill mixture, lemon juice and zest. Stir everything together and salt to taste. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to an hour before serving.

(Note: the longer this sits, the more liquid the cucumbers will release and the looser the salad will be.)

The moral of the story? Don’t count your chicks before they’re hatched.

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