Here’s an eastern European way with cucumbers. This is particularly lovely if you can get your hands on home-grown cucumbers, which are often sweeter than the ones you find at the greengrocer. The cucumbers and some shallots are salted to drive out excess moisture and make them extra-crisp, then chilled and tossed in sharp dressing with crème fraîche. The mildly acidic dressing reacts with the cucumbers to form a lovely, lightly foaming texture. This salad is delicious with rich meats and with oily fish.
To serve four as a side dish, you’ll need:
1 large cucumber
1 banana shallot
3 heaped tablespoons crème fraîche or soured cream
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
4 tablespoons snipped chives
Salt and pepper
Slice the cucumber and the shallot as finely as possible, and layer the slices, sprinkling them with salt as you go, in a colander. Put a heavy plate on top of the slices inside the colander, and leave it to drain for four hours. Blot the cucumber and shallot pieces on kitchen paper and put in a large bowl, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Add the chilled crème fraîche, some pepper and the vinegar to the dish and toss the salad vigorously with two spoons. The mixture should be looking frothy. Return to the fridge for half and hour, toss again, dress with the chives and serve cold.