22 August, 2011

Achick-Chuck aka Uzbek summer salad


A couple of years ago Eric, Liza and I launched PassiFlora magazine - a bimonthly online magazine filled with eco-friendly recipes, craft ideas, and articles.  Working on both content and presentation was much more demanding than we expected so after 2 issues we had to slow down and eventually close the project altogether.  Today's recipe and the image come from the 3rd issue of PassiFlora, the one that never got to be published online.

This is my version of achick-chuck - a salad you get to taste in Uzbekistan and some other republics of former Soviet Union.  Traditionally it is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions but feel free to add your favorite vegetables.
Unlike typical North American chef - salads, achick-chuck is juicy without addition of any dressing.  The trick is in the way you slice onions and tomatoes (make sure you get the juiciest tomatoes possible). 

What you need:

1 medium onion
2-3 small (Lebanese) cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
1 red bell pepper
2-3 big ripe tomatoes
a small bunch of parsley, cilantro or dill
splash of olive oil
salt and pepper
lemon juice

 What to do:
  • Thinly slice onions in half-moons.  Rinse them under cold water
  • Remove any excess water from the onions; there is no need to dry them or pass through a salad spinner. Generously salt the onions, mixing thoroughly with your hands.  This allows onions to give out some juice
  • Cut cucumbers either in half-circles or quarter-circles.  Your slices should be fairly thin, but not as paper-thin as onions
  • Similarly slice thinly red pepper.  Combine all the vegetables in a salad bowl
  • Time to cut your tomatoes.  Typically, in Uzbekistan we don't use a cutting board for this step, instead we hold the tomato on top of a salad bowl and using the sharpest knife possible thinly slice half circles with the circular motions.  This way sweet tomato juice will drip in the salad bowl 
  • Add chopped herbs (roughly 2-3 tablespoons) and a splash of olive oil.  You can also add a little bit of lemon juice at this point
  • Mix the salad thoroughly, taste and adjust for salt and pepper

Tips and Suggestions: 
If you are not a big fan of juicy salads and want to add your favorite dressing, omit salting sliced onions and cube your tomatoes instead of slicing them
This salad does not keep well and is better eaten soon after prepared
You can experiment with herbs and add a mixture of cilantro, dill, and parsley (or any other herb you like)
A fast Google search told me that in some republics of the former Soviet Union, this salad is known as "shakarab"

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