Cucumber

10 years ago, if you’d told me that I’d move to the far west, cookie-cutter suburbs of Houston and judge most of the restaurants frequent-visit list by the quality of their playground and not necessarily the food, I might have laughed in your face.

Probably would have, actually. All those margaritas I made with Mrs Ts neon-green bottled mix would have no-doubt left me pretty giggly.

But here we are 10 years later. In the far west, cookie-cutter suburbs of Houston. And we judge most of the restaurants that we frequently visit by the presence of a playground, the quality of said playground, and lastly: the food.

One of those restaurants shoots to the top of that list simply because of the playground. Because why else would anyone pay more for average TexMex when you can get better, for less?

But we have a 4 year old with endless amounts of squeals and climb-up-the-slide energy. And they have free ice cream and a covered playground smack-dab in the middle of the cookie-cutter suburbs. They are, as you can imagine, raging successful.

And sometimes being able to talk over a bowl of chips and green sauce on a patio while The Little plays 20 feet away is totally worth it. So you pick your battles. And I made peace with it once I discovered their Fish Tacos with double Cucumber-Mango salsa. Because the fresh, crunchy, and sweet salsa has been the best thing I’ve tasted there.

At home, we ditch the oily coleslaw and heavy chipotle mayo that comes on the restaurant version in favor of keeping it light and simple: chile-lime grilled fish, thin slices of avocado, cucumber-mango salsa, and whatever crumbled cheese I have (queso fresco or goat cheese).

Fresh, bright, light, and flavorful. And if we had a rocking playground like that our backyard, we’d never have to go back.

Grilled Chile-Lime Fish Tacos with Cucumber-Mango Salsa

Flaky white fish seasoned with chile and lime is topped with a sweet, fresh scoop of cucumber and mango salsa and queso fresco.

Ingredients

  • For the fish:
  • 1 lb tilapia
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • Chile powder (I used chipotle)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • For serving:
  • 1/2 cup diced mango
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • Small handful of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • Tortillas
  • Crumbled cheese (queso fresco or goat cheese)

Instructions

  1. Preheat your grill to medium-high.
  2. Squeeze a couple of lime wedges over the fish and then season both sides with salt, pepper, and dust with chile powder.
  3. When the grill is heated, lightly spray/brush the filets with olive oil and cook for ~4 minutes each side.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the mango, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno with a pinch of salt and the juice from 1-2 lime wedges (to taste).
  5. Squeeze the remaining limes over the fish when it comes off the grill.
  6. Flake the fish into large bite-sized pieces and serve on tortillas topped with a generous scoop of salsa and crumbled cheese.

Notes

Yields: ~6 servings

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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Tzatziki Sauce

What is one thing you always, always have in the fridge? For us, it’s a leftover bowl full of tzatziki. (And a bottle of Tobasco.)

I love tzatziki sauce. It’s perfect for dipping everything from tortilla chips to carrot sticks. It’s also great smeared onto sandwich bread in place of mayo. Or dolloped onto tacos and quesadillas in place of sour cream. And the best part? Unlike other white spreadables & dollop-ables, this one’s good for you.

We load up tzatziki with fat-free greek yogurt, pre-salted cucumber to remove the extra liquid (not a necessary step, but one that makes the leftovers last longer), lime juice, and loads of cilantro. Because there’s no such thing as too much cilantro!

Fat-free Greek yogurt is my favorite substitute for sour cream or mayo. It’s thick, rich, and creamy and works well in everything from chicken salad to chocolate cake recipes – I use it nearly exclusively when a baked good calls for buttermilk, sour cream, or plain yogurt. All Greek yogurts aren’t created equal so look for one that has lots of protein per serving and little sugar.

Tzatziki Sauce

Tzatziki Sauce

A cool cucumber-yogurt dip, flavored with lime and cilantro.

Ingredients

  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 17 oz container of fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Large handful of cilantro, chopped
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 - 1 lime
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape the seedy center out.
  2. Cube the cucumbers into 1/4-inch dice. (You should end up with about 2 cups diced cucumbers.)
  3. Salt cucumbers with a rounded 1/4 tsp salt and stir or toss to coat.
  4. Transfer to a colander set over a plate or in the sink and let sit for up to an hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir/shake excess liquid from the colander and lightly pat with a paper towel to dry and remove excess salt, and transfer the cucumbers to a bowl.
  6. Add in yogurt, garlic, parsley, cilantro, and lime.
  7. Stir, season to taste, and serve with your favorite dippers.
  8. Refrigerate leftovers in a covered bowl, pouring off any liquid that separates before serving.

Notes

Yields: ~3 cups

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 1 hour 10 minutes

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Korean Beef Tacos with Cucumber Slaw

How often do you use your crockpot? A while back, mine actually broke. The safety glass in the lid exploded into eleventy billion perfect little squares that scattered across the kitchen and pantry floor. And none of us were wearing shoes.

I wasn’t that sad. Aside from pulled pork and french dip sandwiches, it saw little action. I didn’t really miss it at first. A covered dutch oven and a 275 degree-oven produces the same fall-apart, amazingly tender meats as a crockpot. But I couldn’t leave to run errands with the oven on. And heating up the oven for 6-8 hours seems less energy-efficient. So I begrudgingly replaced it a couple of weeks ago.

These tacos were one of the first things I made in the new crockpot (which is digital! And programmable! And has a tiny hole in the lid for a digital thermometer!). I saw them on My Life as a Mrs last week – she combined Joelen’s Korean beef short rib recipe with Jaden’s pickled cucumbers to make a taco so flavorful, it gives my beloved smoked brisket taco a run for its money. For real.

The meat is cooked in a mixture of soy, brown sugar, garlic, fresh ginger – and the sriracha I added for extra heat. 3 hours into it, if you’re home, your house will smell amazing! Because I used quite a bit less brown sugar than the original recipe called for and I added extra water that the original recipe didn’t call for, I reduced some of the liquid in a sauce pan while I was shredding the cooked beef. This concentrated the flavors and made a thicker glaze that nicely coated the beef. Certainly not required if you’re in a hurry. But totally worth it if you’ve got time.

We served the tacos topped with a cucumber slaw, bean sprouts, cilantro, additional sriracha, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.The cucumber slaw adds a cool, tangy, fresh crunch to the tacos. They’re also loaded with water so I took the extra step of salting them to pull out some of the excess moisture since I was making the slaw ahead of time.

Tina noted that short ribs were quite pricey in her area and used back ribs instead. I have successfully used chuck roast (which is what I use for french dip sandwiches). As for the leftovers? If you get tired of tacos, tuck the leftovers and a couple of mango slices inside a spring roll wrapper.

Korean Beef Spring Rolls with Mango

Crockpot Korean Beef Tacos with Cucumber Slaw

Tacos filled with sweet, tender Korean-style beef and tangy cucumber slaw.

Ingredients

  • For the Korean beef:
  • ~5 lbs beef short ribs (can also use chuck roast or back ribs)
  • 1 bottle (10 oz) low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp ginger, grated
  • 6 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 cup water (optional)
  • For the Cucumber Slaw:
  • 1 cucumber (seedless recommended)
  • Thinly sliced red onion rounds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • For the tacos:
  • 16 small wheat tortillas
  • cilantro
  • bean sprouts
  • Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • sriracha

Instructions

  1. To make the cucumber slaw, slice the cucumber very thinly and sprinkle with salt. Place in a colander and let sit for up to an hour over a bowl or in the sink.
  2. Shake additional water from the colander or pat with paper towels.
  3. Transfer to a bowl and toss with red onions, rice vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Refrigerate until ready to use (leftovers get less and less crunchy as they sit but it can be made ahead, just pour off any accumulated liquid and toss with an additional 1-2 tsp vinegar to taste, if necessary).
  4. To make the Korean beef for the tacos, spray your slow cooker crock with non-stick cooking spray and add the ribs.
  5. Whisk soy sauce, sugar, and vinegar with the garlic, ginger, sriracha, and oils.
  6. Pour over the ribs in the crockpot. (I thought the liquid level looked a little low so I added ~ 1 1/2 cups of water.)
  7. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  8. (optional) Remove 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid and skim the fat from the top. Pour the liquid into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer while separating the meat from the bones. Reduce the liquid by about half and pour over the shredded meat.
  9. To assemble, serve the shredded meat on warmed tortillas topped a spoon of cucumber slaw, cilantro, bean sprouts, sriracha and a dollop of yogurt.

Notes

Yields: 8 servings

Adapted from What's Cookin' Chicago and Steamy Kitchen via My Life as a Mrs.

Estimated time: 9 hours

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Jalapeno-Cucumber Margarita

It’s cool. It’s refreshing. It tastes like something you’d get at a spa on Cinco de Mayo. It tastes like the color light green.

When we were creating our menu for Chile Fest, there was no doubt what our signature cocktail would be: Jalapeno-Cucumber Margaritas.

Years ago, we watched one of the funniest 10 seconds in Iron Chef America history go down (and because it was years ago, the only evidence appears to be a poor-quality video-of-a-video). Morimoto pops a jalapeno in his mouth, takes a few bites, and then reaches for a fire extinguisher. I hate when that happens. And nearly every time we’re slicing peppers in the kitchen, someone reenacts the event. It’s funny. It’s juvenile. But so are we :)

That episode also spotlighted the cowboy-hat wearing, tequila-shooting Tim Love. The Texas chef served up a jalapeno margarita with one of his dishes that left a big impression on us. We love jalapenos. And we love margaritas. Putting them together is an experience. You take a sip, think, “Wow! This tastes just like jalapeno, cucumbers, and tequila!” After 1-2 more sips, most people are done. A little goes a long way here so serving it in tall, chilled shot glasses makes the most sense to us.

Jalapeno-Cucumber Margaritas

Jalapenos and cucumbers offer a unique, cool, and refreshing twist on the classic margarita.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar)
  • 4 thin slices cucumber
  • 4 thin slices jalapeno
  • Salt for glass rims (optional)

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a pitcher.
  2. Chill for at least an hour (the longer the margarita sits, the more cucumber and jalapeno flavors infuse into the drink).
  3. Serve over ice in salt-rimmed glasses.

Notes

Yields: 2-3 drinks or 8 shooters

Inspired by Chef Tim Love

Estimated time: 1 hour 5 minutes

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