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Spiced Cucumbers and Coconut Milk: The Changes Ahead

I turned 29 this weekend, and it still feels weird to say that. I’m not sure when it happens, but sometime in your twenties, you start forgetting your age. People will ask you how old you are, and you have to pause the way you never did when you turned 17 or 21. Sometimes you lie. Not because you are trying to deceive people, but because you’ve simply lost count. I’m pretty sure that there’s a time in your life when this trend starts to reverse, and every year you live is a precious number you proudly display like a badge of honor. My grandfather never forgets his age.

I happen to share a birthday month with some very lovely ladies, and a few of them wrote inspiring posts about what it means to exit your 20s. My mom told me that your 20s and 30s are the years of ‘I don’t understand.’ It’s a time period when you feel like you know a thing or two about life (and in some ways, you do) and therefore you feel equipped to be judgmental. It’s the time when you are really certain of the things you want in life, and the people you want to spend it with. So, inevitably, it is a time for scaling down. I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

I’ve definitely noticed that my 20s have been some of my most confident years. I’ve finally admitted that I dislike baseball, and I don’t care much for day drinking (unless I’m tasting wine in wine country). I’ve also aggressively pursued career options that I would have otherwise not had the courage to go after. I’ve cut back on some friendships with people I felt were generally not bringing positive energy into my life. I’ve realized that going home after work, cooking dinner, and writing a blog post does count for ‘having plans’ and is a completely legitimate reason to say no. In fact, saying no to things that I simply don’t want to do is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Even if the only reason for saying no is ‘because I don’t feel like it.’ I’ve been able to enjoy spending the money that I work hard to make. Food, travel, music, books, wine, coffee, and culture are some of my favorite things, and my 20s have allowed me to enjoy all of these things, and not be embarrassed to admit it for fear of sounding too ‘hipster,’ ‘bourgeois,’ or whatever other term is supposed to make you feel like you must hide the fact that you, in fact, want to be successful in life and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

I do sound quite crotchety, so please allow me to assure you that all of this goes to show that my 20s have allowed me to say no to things I wish I could have said no to earlier, but I just never had the courage to. They’ve allowed me to proudly wave my geek flag. They’ve given me an opportunity to decide how I should be treated by people, and set the standard for what I will and will not stand for in a work environment. But I’m hoping that in this last year of this decade, and as I move into a new one, I’m able to reflect back and see that I’ve built my platform, and now it’s time to soften back up…a bit. And to let some things just happen to me and around me, without passing so much judgement.

This recipe is an unusual one for me. I’ve long disliked coconut and anything coconut-flavored, but every once in a while, I am reminded of brief tastes that linger. I had a craving for coconut rice for some reason, and just as this craving attacked me, the latest issue of Bon Appétit arrived on my doorstep, featuring a recipe that called for both coconut milk AND cooking cucumbers. I would never. In a million years. Think of cooking cucumbers. But, after making this recipe, which turned out to have a very mild coconut flavor and a welcome kick from the chiles, I realized that cooking cucumbers is GENIUS. Try it!

Spiced Cucumbers and Coconut Milk
*serves four
adapted from Bon Appétit

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
approximately 4-6 Persian cucumbers, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch rounds (roughly 2 cups worth)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large heirloom tomato, roughly chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 red Thai chiles, thinly sliced (remove the seeds if you are sensitive to spice)
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons of honey
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
a squeeze of lime juice

1. Heat the oil in a medium, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Stir in the cucumber slices and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften.
2. Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomatoes, chiles, smashed garlic, and green onions. Sauté for another 2–3 minutes, or until all of the vegetables have softened.
3. Stir in the coconut milk and honey, lower the heat and cook for another few minutes. Add the cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Musical Pairings: Conveyor – Conveyor + Spiced Cucumbers and Coconut Milk

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Posted by Kasey

Kasey is the food editor and co-founder of Turntable Kitchen. She loves dark chocolate, warm crusty bread, and traveling to new places. She speaks Russian, but does not like vodka.

  • Oh I love this post. I celebrated turning 28 1/2 this weekend (and by ‘celebrated’ I mean that I demanded that my boyfriend by me a present) and there is so much to be said for being in your late 20s and really learning to enjoy life.

    Cooking cucumbers sounds utterly bizarre but I can sort of see how the flavours will all work together to create something delicious.

  • Happy birthday! You seem to really have gotten to know yourself – my 20s were just me flailing and making so many mistakes, but that’s okay too as it’s made my 30s so much better. I just started liking cucumbers a year or so ago, and the idea of cooking them seems so wrong. I do love coconut though, so call me curious.

  • Thank you, Kathryn! When I first saw the recipe, I too thought it was utterly bizarre. But cooking the cucumbers doesn’t actually take away from their taste! They become meltingly soft, yet still super refreshing. Happy half birthday! Hope 29 is an excellent year for you!

  • Thanks, Jeannette! I’m far from having figured everything out – I’m still making mistakes! But, I have a feeling that those 30s are actually pretty great. Let me know what you think if you end up trying this! x

  • Lindsey Zouein

    Your life musings were JUST what I needed this morning! Thanks for bringing us on the journey.

  • Aw, I am so glad to hear that, Lindsey! I love having you in my life. xo

  • I definitely hear you re forgetting your age. I once had this conversation with a new doctor who asked my age: “I’m twent–OH WHOA HEY WAIT, I’m not twenty anything! I’m thirty-one!” NICE. & crotchety–whatever. Do what you want!

  • sarah kieffer

    Mmm. This looks good! One of my favorite restaurants has a thai-cocount-curry sauce that I can’t get enough of.

    And I like all your musings. It took me such a long time to figure out my boundaries! I worked in so many places where people walked over me, and said yes to so many things that I didn’t want to do. It’s so wonderful, figuring out what you really love, and what you really want to be doing, and embracing it. And protecting it. I like myself much better the older I get. 🙂

  • I hope you had a wonderful day, Kasey. I completely agree with you on all of these life lessons/reflections. I’m making a conscious effort to judge others less and to be less hard on myself, too. Fewer, high quality relationships all the way and yes to always forgetting my exact age! I’m just over the 30 threshold (or am I?) and the problem persists! My mother-in-law sent me a happy 30th birthday card on my 31st, ha, so I guess I’m not the only one 🙂 Very intrigued by this recipe!

  • Happy birthday! I hope it was as fabulous as every birthday should be.
    I’m not sure I’ve ever cooked cucumbers either. I used to love them raw and all alone but lately I haven’t been able to eat them except in a salad. Cooking might just be my future cucumber preparation of choice!

  • Meganjgordon

    So glad you had a nice birthday, Kasey. I’ve become a pro at saying no lately! Maybe you reach pro level at 30? 🙂 It’s so, so important though in maintaining a hold of who we are. I also would’ve never in a million years thought to cook cucumbers. Nope. Never. And I don’t remember seeing this recipe, so I must’ve just glazed on over it, but it looks really delicious, actually. Can’t wait to try. Miss you and hope all is well!

  • happy happy bday! This summer will mark the final months of my twenties, September brings the big 3-0. What’s funny is that I already think I’m 30. I’m filled with dread and anticipation of this upcoming birthday, so much so, that I’ve already convinced myself it’s come and gone and can be heard telling people I’m 30, even 31. Too funny! 20s were good, but I think 30s will be better.

    I agree, learning to say “No” just because is a very important step. It opens up all sorts of things, it’s empowering.

    This dish looks delicious and I can’t wait to try it this week. Beautiful post Kasey!

  • I have done that so many times! Hooray for doing what you want!

  • So beautifully-put, Sarah. I think we all spend years saying yes when we should say no…and probably vice versa! I’m definitely more comfortable in my skin the older I get. So, yay for being older and wiser!

  • Thank you, Nicole! It’s great that you’re also making a conscious effort to be less judgmental, and also easier on yourself. To rocking 29, 30, 31, and every year after!

  • Thanks, Rachel! You should totally give this a go! You still get the taste of cucumber, but the texture is totally different.

  • Thank you, darling!! Sometimes you have to get through a period of no to get to a period of yes. I miss you, too, and can’t wait to hopefully catch up with you soon! xoxo

  • Thank you so much, Talley! I hope that you have a fantastic 30th birthday. Every 30 year old I know is in the best place of their lives, so there’s that 🙂 Here’s to being older, wiser, and knowing yourself!

  • LP @dishclips

    Just came across this. I love that you’ve incorporated cucumbers in the recipe.

  • Flapjack Recipes

    Sound delicious for this Cucumber recipe! It’s make me so hungry! I can’t wait to eat this 🙂

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