Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cucumber and Shaved Radish Salad #OXOGreenSaver

When you hear about how much food Americans waste, what's the first thing you think of? Is the picture in your head about uneaten food on plates?

But what about all the food that never makes it to the plate? The stuff that goes bad before it gets cooked?

As hard as I try, I'm guilty of that, at least once in a while. I know there's a lime in the crisper, but when I reach in to grab it, the poor thing is petrified. Or the zucchini is slimy. Or half of the lettuce is brown.

Sometimes you can trim off the bad bits, but sometimes there's a lot heading to the compost bin. Which is better than trash. But still ... not what we intend when we buy fresh vegetables.

So when OXO offered to let me test one of their GreenSaver containers, I was very interested. When they sweetened the pot by adding some vegetables from Melissa's Produce, I knew it would be fun.

I chose mini cucumbers, and when they arrived, I kept four as my control group and put the rest into the GreenSaver container. I let them sit for two entire weeks.

Well, okay, I reached into the container a few times to grab a cucumber for a salad. But I left most of them for two weeks. I figured that would give them enough time to show me the difference the GreenSaver would make.

The theory behind the GreenSaver is that there are three reasons why produce goes bad. First, there's ethylene gas that speeds up ripening. One step beyond ripening is rotting. Fruits and vegetables give off their own ethylene gas, but the carbon filter in the OXO container absorbs it, so it takes longer for the vegetable to proceed to the rotting stage.

The second problem is airflow. The product that sits against the side of a container or bag doesn't have air flowing around it. Moisture tends to accumulate, and then things get slimy. The OXO container has an inner basket that keeps food away from the container's sides. The basket comes out, and you can use it as a colander to rinse the vegetables before using.

The third problem is humidity. Different fruits and vegetables and leafy things need different levels of humidity to keep them crisp and to avoid wilting - while also keeping them from getting wet or soggy. The OXO container has a vent on top and a cheat-sheet printed on the underside, which shows which vegetables need more humidity and which want less.

Just realized the light is out in the fridge. Oops.
After two solid weeks, none of the cucumbers were ready to be discarded (they're pretty sturdy, compared to some vegetables), and it was hard to tell the difference between the two groups just by looking at them casually.

Upon closer inspection, the cucmbers left outside the GreenSaver container looked slightly more wrinkled. But the real difference was when I started peeling and cutting. The ones inside the container were crisp, while the ones outside the container were much less crisp and even a little bendy. They were on their way to becoming compost. Not quite there yet, but close.

The reason I chose cucumbers for my vegetable was that I love cucumber salads in the summer. They're crisp and clean and crunchy and sweet ... and they just remind me of summer.

This salad actually has two lives. Served immediately or within about an hour of mixing - it's a fresh crisp salad. Left to marinate overnight, it becomes more "pickled" as the vegetables absorb the tartness of the vinegar and lemon juice.

It's not so tart that you couldn't eat it as a side dish, but you could also use it as the pickled component on a sandwich.

Cucumber and Shaved Radish Salad

8 mini cucumbers, peeled and sliced thin
1 small onion (or half of a large one), peeled and sliced very thin
4 radishes, sliced extremely thin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons neutral-flavored vegetable* oil
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon dill weed (fresh or dry)
Pinch of sugar

If you have a mandolin vegetable slicer, this is a good time to drag it out. If you cut the onions very thinly, they'll marinate faster and lose their harshness quickly.

Meanwhile, if you can manage to cut the radishes paper-thin, they look much more interesting in the salad, because you can see through them. And cutting the cucumbers evenly lets them marinate at the same rate. And it just looks nicer.

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Let it sit 15-20 minutes before serving, if you have time, or longer if you prefer. The longer the salad sits, the less harsh the onions will be.

Refrigerate the leftovers - they'll have a more "pickled" flavor the next day, which I find particularly appealing. It's almost like a quick pickle - but not so quick, and not quite as tart.

*You can use olive oil, if you prefer, but I prefer a very mild oil for this. While I love olive oil, I think it can be too assertive for this, unless it's a "light" olive oil.

This post was sponsored by OXO and Melissa's Produce. For more posts about the GreenSaver, look for the hashtag #OXOGreenSaver and look for @OXO and @MelissasProduce on social media.