When I first moved to Cuenca I remember being on the phone with my grandpa and describing to him what living here was all about – the “good”, the “bad” and let’s say the “surprising” – and he just had one simple comment to make. He said that it sounded like growing up in New York City in the 1930s. My grandfather’s comment helped shape my viewpoint regarding the pace of life here and has also helped me to more easily accept the good along with the so-called bad as well as the surprising. Simply put, if it weren’t for being a little behind, the simple and quite lovely pleasures of Ecuadorian life would be lost.
Many of those simple pleasures, at the very least, bring a smile to my face every single day and some of those simple pleasures add greatly to my personal quality of life. For instance, I can’t help but look on in amusement when I’m walking down a crowded city center street and a man with a bunch of very large freshly caught fish hanging from a pole which is balanced across his shoulders passes me by or when I get to catch a glimpse of an intense street soccer match between the neighborhood kids. And who isn’t tickled by the two older gentlemen all suited-up having their afternoon coffee in the window of the local café?
Something I’ve come to really personally appreciate is the change in how I do my errands. And what a change it is! When I first moved here I did what came natural and normal to me, one-stop shopping. You make your list of stuff you need, you pick a store, you take a couple of hours, you buy your groceries, the end. Over the past few years I’ve learned that if you’re looking for a high-quality and trustworthy item, one-stop shopping is not always where it’s at. Taking the time to slow down, search out a vendor, get to know the product and the person behind the product is not only more cost-effective but it’s so much more fulfilling. Knowing that I’m bringing home a carefully chosen item from a trusted individual is a slower paced simple pleasure and adds greatly to my quality of life. So now my once a week errands include a visit to the milk place, the yogurt place, the bread place, the veggie market, the chicken place, the lady I get my fruit from, the coffee place, etc. And when we need honey, what do we do? We call the honey guy and he hand delivers beautiful, golden, fresh, natural honey! Cause that’s the way we do our Ecuaerrands! Seem like a lot? For some, it might be a little too much but it helps me to focus on the positive, slow down and live and learn real life in Cuena.
The recipe I’m posting today features a bit of that all natural, golden, hand delivered honey. If you’re looking for high-quality honey in Cuenca, I’d suggest looking in and around the markets and even around town. You will often find a sign in the most peculiar place (like a furniture store for instance) that says they have 100% miel de abeja (bee honey). Why would you want to buy furniture store honey (or fruit)? Often the family that owns the store also has a country house where they raise/harvest random things. Since they are not selling these items commercially, they are almost always, fresh, natural and chemical-free. It is a delight to get to know the story behind these items.
Speaking of going back in time this recipe is inspired by a cherished family recipe we would often enjoy in the summertime. The dressing is bright, cool and creamy and as always full of whole food deliciousness. It’s best to let this marinated salad really marinate for a good couple of hours or more. That way the acid in the dressing has time to break down the onion a little bit and the garlic has a chance to mellow and meld with the sweetness of the honey and sourness of the lemon juice.
MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD WITH A CREAMY ALMOND DRESSING
2 cups baby cucumbers sliced very thin
1 medium red onion sliced very thin
1/4 cup raw unsalted almonds
1 teaspoon raw honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (juice from about a quarter of a large lemon)
2 pinches of sea salt
1 slight sprinkle of black pepper
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup of a water
Start by layering the thinly sliced cucumbers and onion in a medium sized salad bowl. To make the dressing, add the almonds, honey, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic to a blender. Top with water and blend until almonds are pulverized. Toss the veggies together with the dressing, making sure the cucumbers and onions are completely coated with the dressing. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place the salad in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least a couple of hours. Serve chilled all on it’s own or with a garnish of fresh snipped cilantro and a scattering of sliced and toasted almonds for a pop of festivity.
Makes about 3 cups of salad