The VHF chatter began early that morning. Anchored in Panama’s San Blas islands aboard Winterlude, our Passport 37, my husband, David, and I were rejoicing with all the other cruisers: The trade winds had subsided enough to allow the veggie boat to venture out. Provisions are very limited in the tiny Kuna villages here, and the lee-shore sail back to Colón makes cruisers reluctant to leave paradise in search of vegetables.
All day, cruisers tracked the veggie boat as it worked its slow and deliberate way from anchorage to anchorage, and they kept each other apprised—no one wanted to risk missing this chance to buy fresh vegetables. We were anchored in one of our favorite spots, but we were far away from most other boats. For the better part of the day, we’d been eagerly anticipating the boat’s arrival, but by the time it finally reached our location, only some miserable-looking cucumbers and a couple of squashed tomatoes remained. We were woebegone!
Cucumbers had never agreed with either of us, but I bought some anyway, craving anything fresh. A friend and fellow cruiser came to the rescue, and he told us that if we cut the seeds out of the cukes, we’d avoid the indigestion they sometimes caused us.
He went on to share a recipe for Japanese cucumber salad. It proved delicious, and it’s become a Winterlude onboard favorite. The pickings may have been slim that day, but this salad made the wait for fresh veggies worth it.
The beauty of this recipe for cruisers is that cucumbers are still edible even after most other fresh produce is gone. Preparation is easy, and if you’re lucky enough to have freshly caught fish from which to make sushi or sashimi, the salad makes a delicious accompaniment. Because it contains no mayonnaise or other ingredients that spoil easily, it makes an ideal potluck dish that’s always popular.
It does require some planning when provisioning, so stock up on sesame oil and sesame seeds before leaving a major port, because these can be hard to find in more secluded locations.
Japanese Cucumber Delight
2 cucumbers, peeled & seeded
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or other
Dice the cucumbers and set aside. In a dry nonstick skillet, toast sesame seeds over medium-high heat until they turn a rich, golden brown. Whisk together next five ingredients. Toss dressing over cucumbers, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds, and stir. Refrigerate for 3 hours or more. The longer it marinates, the better the flavor! Optional additions/substitution: Add a small, finely diced red onion or two green onions. For regular sesame seeds, substitute black, untoasted sesame seeds. Garnish with green onions and julienned carrot. Serves four.
For more recipes to cook on a boat, click here.