It feels like Summer already in Chicago! (I keep saying Chicago even though I’m in Indiana now)
I was out doing yard work this week, and I was hot! I transplanted some peppers and tomato plants that I started indoors, and I finally planted a bunch of marigolds that Eric gave me for Mother’s Day (doggy momma). Feels good to get that done because I just left for Austin to work the Paleo f(x) conference, and I’m just praying my garden will be okay while I’m gone.
Summer is the time for Party after Party after BBQ after BBQ, which means Salad after Salad after Salad, and to me– this is a good thing! We love salad in my family!!!! Plus, when you go gluten-free or paleo, you will hardly find food at parties that you can eat, besides salad. Know what I mean?
So I was watching the TV show the Kitchen–who doesn’t love this show, I mean come on, they are all so fun to watch!–and the handsome Ironchef himself, Geoffrey Zacharian starts SMASHING A CUCUMBER! This man, I tell you. So simple, and so perfect. I knew I had to smash a cucumber for a recipe, and I did!
After smashing the cucumber like GZ did, I gently reassembled it on a platter. I later poured a lemon and parsley dressing over the top, and layered on plenty of raw sheep milk feta from the Farmers Market!
Let’s talk about the cheese. Many health food enthusiasts, and Paleo dieters recommend a dairy-free lifestyle, and with good reason. I usually advise the same, unless you consider a few important things. Many Americans have dietary reactions to the sugars in dairy, called lactose, or a protein in milk called casein. In fact, pasteurized milk is arguably the most common food allergy in America. But why? In a nutshell, the pasteurization and processing methods (homogenization) end up destroying and morphing the many beneficial qualities of milk, leaving us with a sterilized, acidic, destructive non-food.
Raw, unpasteurized milk, is a different story completely. It is a health food. Raw milk is quite common all over the world, and it’s the way humans consumed milk for thousands of years before pasteurization. Sure, pasteurization was created to protect us from wide-spread disease, but better protection would be to standardize raw milk farming, and give the public the whole, raw food, like nature intended. Some benefits of drinking raw milk begin with the fact that it contains lactase, the enzymes needed to digest lactose, and whey, the anti-cancer balancing effect to the protein called casein (Mother Nature thought of these important combinations when creating whole foods). Many individuals who are sensitive to dairy, can consume raw dairy products without reactions! Raw milk contains beneficial probiotics, healing fatty acids for healthy brain function, and all of the vitamins and minerals (like calcium) that pasteurized milk claims to have–but doesn’t deliver.
So, what do we do about this? Some people choose to switch over to raw milk. Customers will pay raw milk farmers a monthly “cow share” which grants them a monthly share of raw milk available for pickup on a weekly basis. People call raw milk life changing. Maybe you should try it! Head over to realmilk.com to find safe raw milk near you.
Since my family and I don’t actually drink milk, we embrace the many other forms of raw milk products, low-temp pasteurization products, and fermented dairy that are available at the grocery store. Some of these products include grass-fed butter, sour cream and yogurt with active cultures, kefir for smoothies, and all sorts of raw-milk cheeses. My absolute favorite brands on the market are Kalona Super Natural and Traderspoint Creamery. Both of these brands are organic and pasture-raised, they both pasteurize the milk at a low temperature, they do not homogenize the milk, and they use active cultures in their sour cream and yogurt.
Keep an eye out for raw milk cheeses at the grocery store today, in the gourmet cheese section. You can even find pre-packaged raw-milk cheeses by big brands like Organic Valley, in the cooler by packaged deli meats. I always snatch up the raw-milk cheese made with sheep or goats milk because variety is very nutritious, and sheep and goat farming are less influenced by modern farming practices. Did you know that feta cheese is traditionally made with raw, sheep milk? If you look at standard supermarket feta in America now, you’ll see it’s usually made usually pasteurized cows milk–that’s not the same food at all! I was so excited to find this raw sheep milk feta at the Green City Farmers Market, in Chicago. This was the location for our first Farmers Market Meetup event! Green City Market is so amazing; we will be back at the end of Summer
One more thing about the ingredients: Keep your eyes out for organic cucumbers, especially the plastic-sealed seedless cucumbers which are not coated in wax like most other varieties. The seedless variety is perfect for this!
It’s Time To Cook…
This is a great make-ahead salad that you will dress on the spot right before serving. Cucumber releases a lot of water once you dress it, so you’ll bring it to a party ready to assemble…and it takes 2 minutes to put together. Here’s how the whole thing goes:
Step 1) Peel your cucumber and place it on your cutting board with a larger sheet of plastic wrap covering it on all sides. Using a heavy-bottom pan, press down on one end of the cucumber until you hear it start to crack. Now, starting at the same end, give your cucumber a few whacks until it starts splitting and smashing all the way down:
Step 2) Next, slice your smashed cucumber into about 1 inch pieces, keeping it all in line with it’s original shape:
Step 3) Now, you will use a spatula to carefully place the chopped cucumber on a serving platter (it will take a few trips), recreating the shape of the smashed cucumber, and then mix together your dressing, and bring this all to the party:
Step 4) Once you’re ready to eat, simply scatter the feta chunks on top, and then pour your lemony herb dressing over the top of it all:
- 1 English CUCUMBER (AKA Seedless Cucumber), peeled
- 3 ounces Sheep Milk FETA CHEESE (preferably raw milk cheeses, see notes)
- 1 Small Handful of Fresh PARSLEY, chopped
- 6 CHIVES or 1 scallion, chopped
- 2 Tablespoons LEMON JUICE (about 1 small organic lemon)
- ZEST from 1/4 organic lemon (optional)
- 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin OLIVE OIL
- 1/4 teaspoon FINE SEA SALT
- Place the peeled Cucumber on a large cutting board with a larger sheet of plastic wrap covering the cucumber on all sides. Get ready to smash: Using a heavy-bottom pan, press down on one end of the cucumber until you feel it start to crack. Now, starting at the same end, give your cucumber a few whacks until it starts splitting and smashing all the way down the length of the cucumber.
- After smashing, remove the plastic, and slice the cucumber with a knife into 1 inch slices, leaving the cucumber in it's original shape.
- Use a spatula to carefully transfer the cucumber onto a serving platter (it will take a few trips), recreating the shape of the smashed cucumber.
- Mix together your dressing: Parsley, Chives, Lemon Juice, Zest, Olive Oil, Sea Salt.
- Right when it's time to eat, scatter the feta cheese pieces all over the cucumber. Drizzle the cucumber and feta with all of the dressing, being sure to cover the outside pieces of cucumber too. Serve with a spoon. This salad will save well in the fridge; even though it gets watery it's still delicious.
- Feta is traditionally made with raw sheep milk cheese. Look for labels that say sheep milk, or unpasteurized sheep milk. Read the paragraph called "Longevity Tips" in the blog post where I explain the benefits of raw milk products.