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Conscious Crumbs and Sesame Peanut Cucumber Salad

August 24, 2012

Thai inspired sesame peanut cucumber salad

When I quit my big girl job in 2008, my resignation didn’t feel like the climactic point that it turned out to be. I told everyone it was just a break. And I meant it. I had every intention of returning to the corporate world with a job that filled me with a stronger sense of purpose, but I wasn’t in a rush. Corporate America would always be there. So I put my shiny MBA on a shelf and with my husband Greg’s support and wild enthusiasm, I started working on the book that had been rattling around in my head for twenty years.

I immediately discovered the perks of working from home. Topping my list was cooking—anytime, anything my heart desired. The kitchen had always been my place to unwind from the tangles of the day. As a business traveler, I’d often return home from a trip, leave my unpacked bags at the bottom of the stairs and head straight to the kitchen, anxious to try the latest Saveur Magazine recipes that I’d devoured on the plane. Unfortunately, the perks became distractions and finding the discipline needed for the sedentary lifestyle of a writer was challenging.

I kept writing. (The first draft of my book is complete, and I’m slowly muscling my way through a second draft.) And I kept experimenting in the kitchen, sharing many of my recipes and stories here with you. Family, then friends, then mere acquaintances began asking me for advice and hands-on lessons—bread making, canning, pizza, pies. It was humbling, because I didn’t consider myself to be an expert in the kitchen.

One day I was teaching a friend how to make bread. She was wrist deep in sticky dough and beaming with satisfaction and pride. It was as though I could watch her love for cooking and her kitchen confidence growing together in lock step with every turn of the dough. In that moment, I understood what I love most about cooking—sharing. Whether it’s cooking for someone, showing them how they can do it themselves, or blogging here, helping people find joy in food and their own kitchens fills me up in a way that fancy job titles and fat paychecks never could.

So four years after I jumped ship, it was time for another big change and a paycheck. And this time I knew exactly what I wanted to do. In July Conscious Crumbs became more than just my Twitter handle–it’s now the name of my business, offering in-home cooking lessons, kitchen organization workshops, and personal chef services. Getting paid for doing what I love feels foreign, but the fulfillment counterbalances the awkwardness.

I still don’t think of myself as an expert–there’s so much more that I’m eager to learn and continue sharing here with you.

As for the cucumber salad, it’s the first dish I prepared after I officially launched my business. It’s laced with the tiniest bit of honey, but the memory of this salad will always be a sweet one for me.

Thai Inspired Sesame Peanut Cucumber Salad with Radishes

Sesame Peanut Cucumber Salad

It’s hard to beat an ice cold cucumber salad on a hot day. Unfortunately, they can be find very one dimensional at times. This light but flavor-rich salad was inspired by Deborah Madison’s recipe for Cucumber Salad with Chile and Peanuts from her book Local Flavors. It’s a bit fussier than your standard cucumber salad, but well worth the extra five minutes it will take you to mince some ginger and zest your lime.

Ingredients

    1 large cucumber, thinly sliced
    1 large or a few small radishes, cut into matchsticks
    1 fresh hot red chile pepper, diced (Remove the seeds for a milder salad.)
    1 clove garlic, finely minced
    1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
    zest and juice of 1 lime
    1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
    2 teaspoons sesame oil
    1 teaspoon honey
    1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
    2 tablespoons salted and roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
    Fresh Thai basil, mint, or cilantro or a combination of them, chopped

Preparation

  1. Place the cucumber slices, radishes, and chile pepper in a large bowl, toss to mix.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, ginger, lime zest and juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, sesame oil, and honey. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the cucumbers and toss until thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to deepen.
  3. Before serving add the sesame seeds, peanuts, and herbs and toss again.

Serves 2-3.

Arugula Salad with Pistachios and Orange inspired by Skye GyngellHere’s another nutty summery salad that I love: Arugula, Pistachio and Orange Blossom Salad

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2012 11:27 am

    Beautiful article (and salad)! I just made the leap and put in notice at my corporate job earlier this week. Teaching others how to cook, managing a cooking studio and food blogging will be my full time job come mid-October! It’s a great feeling, right?!?!

    • August 27, 2012 9:17 am

      Woohoo! Congratulations Christina! Yes, it’s a fantastic feeling to love what you do. Good luck with YOUR(!) business.

  2. August 25, 2012 5:30 pm

    Congratulations on launching your business! Can’t wait to celebrate with a glass of wine (or even champagne)! This salad looks lovely–can’t wait to try it!

    • August 27, 2012 9:18 am

      The salad is right up your alley Melanie! Yes, this definitely calls for a champagne toast.

  3. August 27, 2012 10:55 am

    What an exciting business venture. With your love, knowledge and enthusiasm for cooking, I have no doubt it will succeed beyond your wildest expectations!
    Now I know we must be sisters separated at birth. I too have put my shiny MBA on a shelf (many, many years ago) and have embraced the food world wholeheartedly!

    • August 29, 2012 10:28 am

      Thank you! I’m loving it. Hurry and find a reason to visit Chicago so we can cook together! Wouldn’t that be fun?

  4. Phyllis Palmer permalink
    August 28, 2012 10:53 am

    This was a GREAT little salad to pair with Salmon. It was spicy, but the Salmon really tamed it. I just LOVE playing with my taste buds.

  5. August 28, 2012 4:53 pm

    Hooray for Conscious Crumbs! It sounds like the perfect venture for your talents. Hopefully you’ll include some “behind the scenes” posts on your blog about growing your business, and your stories about the marvels that the classes or experiences hold. As always, I look forward to reading more. Congratulations! Love the photographs too.
    P.S. I winced when I read about your finger’s run-in with the mandolin a few weeks ago, hope all is well.

    • August 29, 2012 10:32 am

      Thanks Melissa! Indeed, I’ve already got some hilarious stories…things don’t always go as planned. As for my thumb, it’s healing nicely.

  6. October 8, 2012 12:13 pm

    You are amazing and this photo could not be any more perfect- bright, so crisp and clean. I want to dive into the screen. I am proud of you for following your dream! I need to give myself a kick in the pants to do things I want to do in life instead of just dreaming! Hope you are well.

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