Published: 09/15/2023 at 5:16:55 PM
Modified: 9/15/2023 at 5:16:24 p.m

This week’s column is a team effort, with ingredients from a neighbor and a recipe from my sister. Because of the extra help, I now had not one but two dishes to share. Together they make a quick and easy weeknight meal.

First, the ingredient, a huge cucumber, came from my neighbor’s garden. I remembered writing about the loss of our CSA to the July floods, and I brought with me a basket of tomatoes, zucchini, and two cucumbers, including a monster that must have weighed about three pounds.

I thought the best use for mammoth cucumber would be a cucumber salad my sister made during our family’s annual Fourth of July vacation in Maine. So I texted her and convinced her to drop everything and double check the measurements for me. (As it turns out, the “everything” was a bowl of beet and watermelon gazpacho with tofu croutons, a recipe for another day.)

This salad is good for involving little helpers in the kitchen. They can peel the cucumber and remove the seeds from each half using a teaspoon by simply slicing it vertically. And they can smash up the pieces of cucumber you’ve cut (hopefully biased) using a rolling pin and an airtight ziplock bag.

The rest of the ingredients are the usual suspects, like sesame oil, white sugar, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. But there is also a little heat. Use whatever you like, such as some (or all) fresh red chili peppers, red pepper flakes, or crunchy chili peppers. I also use a pinch of white pepper, something so common in Asian cooking that I first bought it for hot and sour soup years ago. Use black pepper if you have that.

A friend of mine made this salad last night using her cucumbers in late summer and early fall, and she reported that she used five small cucumbers, unlike the huge cake my neighbor gave me. She also said the noise of the cups in the Ziploc was so loud that it woke one of her son’s things, so he made sure to remove all the stuffed items from the counter.

I paired the salad with a very simple noodle dish, almost an Asian spaghetti carbonara with egg yolks, soy sauce, and nori (dried seaweed). MeeraSodha, the recipe’s author, credits a popular Malaysian place in London that serves this recipe for breakfast, although I enjoy it at lunch and dinner time too when I’m pressed for time.

Overall, here are two flavor-packed and satisfying recipes that you can make on a weeknight in less than half an hour.

Mashed cucumber salad


One large cucumber, or three to five small cucumbers (Persian cucumber)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon white sugar

One clove of garlic, grated into small cubes

A pinch of salt and white pepper

As much heat as you want – This includes red hot peppers, red pepper flakes, or crunchy chili flakes


If you like plain cucumbers: Peel the cucumbers, cut them vertically, and remove the seeds using a teaspoon. Cut the cucumber into 1-inch pieces, hopefully biased.

If using small cucumbers: Cut the cucumber into 2cm rings.

Add cucumbers to a Ziploc bag. Seal the bag. Crush with a rolling pin for 5 seconds.

Combine all other ingredients and add to a large bowl. Whisk everything together. Add mashed cucumber. Stir to mix. serves.

Breakfast at Shuko’s from East by MeeraSodha

“The best types of pasta to use here are plump, partially cooked pasta straight in the pan,” Sudha points out. If you are using dried pasta, you will only need 7 oz. And an additional tablespoon of water to loosen it when mixed with the egg yolk and soy. However, I’ve made this dish with whatever type of Japanese noodles I have at home — such as buckwheat soba noodles — and have had nothing but excellent results. This serves two.


1.5 x 7 oz packages direct to wok udon noodles

2 large egg yolks

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Optional: 1 nori sheet, torn


Place a large amount of water in a pot on the fire until it boils, then add the noodles and cook until done. This should take about 3 minutes for “straight-to-pan” udon, or 4 to 7 minutes if you’re using the dried kind. (Or follow the instructions on the package of pasta in your hand.)

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and soy sauce. When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and immediately add it to the egg mixture, mixing well to coat with the sauce. Divide the pasta between the two bowls and sprinkle with the shredded nori if you like. Serve immediately.

Molly Barr lives in Florence with her husband and two young daughters. She has been writing her food blog, Cheap Beets, since 2010. Send questions or comments to

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