Cucumber sandwiches: the classic savory partner to afternoon tea, in England, as well as here in San Jose! Afternoon tea is meant to be a light afternoon snack rather than a heavy meal, so all of the foods served with the meal are presented in such a way as to appear light, delicate and dainty, no matter how filling they may actually be. Cucumber sandwiches are not only delicate in appearance, but refreshing in flavor, and are also eaten to cleanse the palate so that the taste and aroma of the tea and other treats can be enjoyed better.
The recipe can be as simple as putting thin cucumber slices between pieces of bread and butter, but there are also numerous variations. From smoked salmon to fresh herbs, cream cheese to Ranch dressing, many foods can be added to the cucumber sandwich to change it around and make it more interesting. Here is one variation that is a favorite among the members of the South Bay Ladies’ Tea Guild:
Cucumber and Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches
1 fresh cucumber
2 to 4 oz. smoked salmon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 slices white bread
ground black or white pepper
Slice the cucumber as thinly as possible; if you like, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin first. Spread cucumber slices in one layer on paper towels, and pat dry with more paper towels. Sprinkle black or white pepper on the cucumber slices and set aside. Spread a thin coating of butter on one side of each slice of bread. Cut or break the smoked salmon into small pieces. Place the salmon in a thin layer over the butter on 3 of the bread slices, flattening it with a fork to make the salmon adhere to the bread. Top each with a single layer of cucumber slices, and then add one of the remaining bread slices, butter side down. Press each sandwich gently with your hand to flatten it slightly and make the filling adhere better to the bread. Trim the crusts off each sandwich and cut into thirds or fourths. Makes 9 to 12 tea sandwiches.
English cucumbers are the traditional choice for tea sandwiches, because they are seedless and the rind is thin and tender; they are available at most grocery stores including Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Lucky, and Zanotto’s. If you can’t find an English cucumber, then a regular cucumber is perfectly fine, but make sure to wash it well to remove any wax coating, or peel off the rind with a vegetable peeler, before slicing it for your tea sandwiches. Smoked salmon is commonly available in the meat and seafood section of the supermarket.
Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.
Other favorite afternoon tea recipes:
“Favorite tea-time recipe from Gourmet magazine: Meyer lemon curd”
“Slightly spooky savory black olive scones for Halloween”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“Holiday tea-table recipe: turkey and cranberry tea sandwiches”
“Recipe for radish tea sandwiches”
“Chicken-mango tea sandwich filling recipe”