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Vintage California Cuisine: 300 Recipes from the First Cookbooks Published in the Golden State



Books cited on this page:

Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys & Chowchows
By Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby

Lettuce in Your Kitchen
By Chris Schlesinger & John Willoughby

Cooking at the Kasbah : Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen
By Kitty Morse


North Africa: The Vegetarian Table
By Kitty Morse

The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean
By Paula Wolfert

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The Cuisine of California
By Dianne Rossen Worthington

Six Recipes Starring Fresh Cucumbers

Carrot-Cucumber Acar with Fried Garlic
Tomato-Cucumber Relish with Lemon and Seeds
Frisee with Apple, Cucumber and Walnuts
Cucumber, Garlic and Yogurt Sauce
North African Cucumber-Tomato Salad
Cucumber-Mustard Dill Sauce

The first two recipes are from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys & Chowchows, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby. Acar, they explain, is the name for various Indonesian mixtures of vegetables, vinegar and spices, which serve as condiments, pickles or salads. In this recipe, take care not to let the garlic burn or it will turn bitter. The authors say this tomato-cucumber relish is modeled after koshimbirs, the relishes of India’s Maharashtra state.

Carrot-Cucumber Acar with Fried Garlic

¼ cup virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin, ground white pepper, ground nutmeg,
and curry powder
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup small-diced carrots
2 smallish unpeeled cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then in thin disks
1 red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
salt to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Saute the garlic in olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently for 6 to 7 minutes, until garlic turns light brown.
  • Add the ginger and spices and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring to prevent burning.
  • Add vinegar and sugar and cook 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the carrots, cucumber, and bell pepper slices, remove from the heat, and stir well.
  • Season with salt to taste, then add the cilantro.
  • Allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate.
    This acar will keep, covered and refrigerated, 4 to 5 days.

Tomato-Cucumber Relish with Lemon and Seeds

1 baseball-sized tomato, diced small
1 unpeeled cucumber, seeds in, diced small
1 small red onion, diced small
1 tsp minced red or green chile pepper of your choice
¾ cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 T sugar
1 tsp each crushed cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds, black mustard seeds
(you may substitute yellow mustard seeds)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

  • In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well.
  • This relish will keep, covered and refrigerated, about 4 days.

This recipe, from the same pair’s Lettuce in Your Kitchen, is Schlesinger and Willoughby’s take on the classic Middle Eastern-style combination of yogurt, cucumbers and mint. (See below for North African variations on this dish.) True to form, Schlesinger and Willoughby add some surprising twists with the honey, apples, pomegranate seeds, and the salad green frisee. While that lacy-leafed chicory is the green of first choice for this recipe, Schlesinger and Willoughby say that watercress, escarole or curly endive will do fine, if you can’t find frisee.

Frisee with Apple, Cucumber and Walnuts

For the dressing:
¼ cup plain yogurt
½ cup olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice (about ½ large lemon)
2 T honey
1 T ground coriander
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

For the salad:
1 head frisee, trimmed, washed, and dried
1 cucumber, peeled if you want, diced large
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, cored and diced large
¼ cup dark raisins
½ cup walnut pieces, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking, until they
just begin to sizzle, about 5 minutes
½ cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and olive oil. Add all remaining dressing ingredients and whisk to combine.
  • In a large bowl, combine the frisee, cucumber, apple, and raisins. Stir the dressing well, add just enough to moisten the ingredients (you will have some dressing left over), and toss to coat.
  • Place on a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with the walnuts and the pomegranate seeds if you have them, and serve.

This is Paula Wolfert’s Eastern Mediterranean version of the classic Middle Eastern-Central Asian salad-like sauce featuring diced cucumbers and mint in yogurt, which goes by a variety of names. In Persian fashion, I like to add raisins or dried currants and chopped walnuts to the mixture detailed below. This recipe is from Wolfert’s The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Cucumber, Garlic and Yogurt Sauce

1 long English cucumber, peeled
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with a pinch of salt
sea salt
3 tsp dried mint, crumbled and pressed through a fine sieve
1 tsp olive oil
Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish

  • Finely dice the cucumber.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Add the cucumber and the dried mint, and blend well.
  • Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
  • Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprigs of fresh mint.

This is an ubiquitous salad in North Africa, writes Morocco-born cookbook author Kitty Morse. Each nation in the region adds its own accent to the dish. Algerians toss in chopped mint while Moroccans might add some chopped preserved lemon rind while Tunisians use Tabil, a spice mix made from ¼ cup ground coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon ground caraway, 1-1/2 tablespoons garlic powder and 1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder. In my favorite of Morse’s cookbooks, Cooking at the Kasbah, she offers a simpler version of this salad, holding the radishes and bell pepper and using just cucumber, tomato, green onion, and chopped mint tossed with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. In her book, The Vegetarian Table: North Africa, Morse calls for the cucumbers to be diced and sprinkled with salt for 30 minutes to drain, and for this salad to be chilled. In the version of this recipe that appears in Cooking at the Kasbah, the cucumbers aren’t drained and the finished dish is supposed to be served at room temperature. The cucumbers Morse prefers are long, thin and virtually seedless, and are sometimes marketed as English, European or hothouse cucumbers in the United States.

North African Cucumber-Tomato Salad

2 cucumbers
salt for sprinkling
6 tomatoes
4 green onions with tops, finely chopped
2 radishes, finely diced
½ red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and finely diced
15 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, minced
2 T minced fresh mint
or 1 tsp Tabil
or 1 tsp finely diced preserved lemon rind
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 Kalamata or nicoise olives for garnish

  • In a serving bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, onions, Tabil or mint or preserved lemon, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

This recipe is from The Cuisine of California, the book by Diane Rossen Worthington first published in 1983, that is considered the leading classic on the cuisine that came to be known as Californian. She calls this cucumber sauce "extraordinary" and says it goes well with fish or artichokes or as a dip for raw vegetables.

Cucumber-Mustard Dill Sauce

½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 T finely chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 T finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup peeled, coarsely chopped cucumber
½ tsp salt
Pinch of finely ground white pepper

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well blended. Taste for seasoning. 
  • Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Serve cold. May be kept up to 2 days in refrigerator.

Copyright 2002 Seasonal Chef