This dish hits every flavor note—sweet, sour, salty, bitter . . . and it’s all kinds of crunchy. The more herbs you pack in there, the better. Mint, parsley, basil, and celery are just the beginning—you can add sorrel, every kind of basil you can find, chives, even some cooked grains or couscous. Serve this with grilled lamb, friends, the great outdoors, and cold pink wine.
1 1/2 pounds cucumbers (a mix of varieties if possible)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 medium celery stalks (leaves reserved)
1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup pistachios, lightly toasted (see below) and chopped
1/2 cup lightly packed mint leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed celery leaves (if you have them)
1/4 teaspoon dried chile flakes
Extra-virgin olive oil
Trim the ends of the cucumbers, halve lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves crosswise on an angle into very thin slices.
Put the cucumbers in a colander and toss them with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Set aside for at least 20 minutes to extract their water and give them a “quick-pickled” flavor.
Meanwhile, cut the celery crosswise on an angle into very thin slices and soak in ice water for
10 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and pile into a serving bowl.
Put the apricots, garlic, and vinegar in a small bowl. Let the apricots plump for 10 minutes.
Pat the cucumbers dry and add to the celery, along with the pistachios, mint, parsley, basil, and celery leaves (if using).
Remove the garlic from the apricots and discard it. Add the apricots and vinegar to the bowl, along with the chile flakes and 1/4 cup olive oil.
Season with black pepper, but don’t add more salt yet because the cucumbers will have absorbed a bit. Toss, taste, and adjust the flavors with more salt, vinegar, chile flakes, or black pepper until it’s bright and zingy. Finish with another drizzle of olive oil. Serve right away.
Quantity is up to you
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Spread the nuts on a pan in a single layer. For a small quantity, a pie plate is good; for more, use a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake until you smell the nuttiness and the color is deepening slightly, 6 to 8 minutes for most whole nuts.
When the nuts are done, transfer them to a plate so they don’t keep cooking on the hot baking pan. Determining doneness can be tricky, because the final texture won’t develop until they’re cool, so at this stage, you’re mostly concerned with color and flavor. To be safe, take them from the oven, let cool, taste one, and if not done enough, pop them back into the oven.