The seasons affect how I cook and what I eat in strong and noticeable ways; this is only exacerbated in Japan, where there are fewer ways to shield myself from the realities of weather, temperature, and climate. In the winter I wanted to make stir fry and soup and then form a human wreath around my space heater, but no longer! Summer is again at our doorstep (or perhaps already standing in the genkan, slipping off its shoes and yelling out “Ojama shimasu! And I’ve brought all these insects with me!”), which means heavy-duty cooking over a hot stove is officially finished. In summers past, I went out of my way not to use the stove, so much so in fact that laziness often prevailed and my diet consisted mainly of chips and salsa, cottage cheese, fruit, and anything that can be marinated and eaten cold. My mom often has a bowl of thinly sliced cucumbers marinating on the counter, and I have continued this practice in my own kitchen.
Big, raunchy looking cucumbers are everywhere right now. Go snap up a bag for 100 yen and make yourself some marinated cucumbers for on a hot day.
Marinated Cucumbers (makes about 2 servings, or 4 Japan-sized side servings)
1 large cucumber
100 ml/half cup rice vinegar
30ml/2 tablespoons olive oil
15 g/1 tablespoon crushed black pepper
15 g/1 tablespoon salt
few pinches white sugar (optional)
fresh/dried garlic or herbs to taste (optional)
- Wash and slice the cucumber into very thin pieces. You can use a knife or, more conveniently, the slicer on a cheese grater or mandolin.
- Spread the cucumbers out in a shallow bowl.
- Add all ingredients and mix. Cover with foil or plastic wrap.
- Let the mixture sit for at least 2 hours. 8 is best, so I usually make it in the morning and eat some that evening.
- Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Eat it when you want a cool, refreshing snack or meal addition.
What do you eat them with? Naturally, you can eat them by themselves. Or mix them into a salad. I used to eat them with pickled garlic and cottage cheese. But I recently had some with a little rice and a fried egg on top. Total. Heaven.