Winter Salad with Salt-Brined Cucumber, Leek and Apple

leek_cuc_saladpSomehow, even though lettuce is available throughout the year, I rarely have it in winter (while I can have prepare a green salad sometimes every other day in the summer!). At this time of the year I often need more crunch, more texture in cold side-dishes and this one is a good example. This salad is based on one of the many versions of the Polish salt-brined cucumber and leek salad, usually prepared during cold months. Vinegar-pickled cucumbers can be used here too, but I prefer salt-brined ones which are a typical source of vitamin C in the winter and have less “violent” flavours. The super light sauce is barely perceptible, but I think a good dose of freshly ground black pepper is an important taste improvement.

TIPS: Some people find eating raw onions or leek difficult. If it’s your case, after slicing it, sprinkle with salt, rub with your fingers and leave for about 15 minutes and then rinse. It should make it milder.

Salt-brined cucumber can be found in Polish, Russian or Ukrainian shops, but I regularly buy it also in Germany (in an organic shop), so look for it in organic shops too. The visual difference of the jar is that vinegar-pickled cucumber’s brine is clear while the salt brine is a bit muddy at the bottom and not perfectly clear.

If you cannot find salt-brined cucumber, you can use vinegar-pickled, but rather the milder ones which have a low vinegar content (more sugar and more water). I’m not sure if the amount shouldn’t be cut down in this case… it depends how strong they are.

If you have fresh dill or parsley, they suit this salad, but are not very important.

Since salt-brined cucumber is already salty, I don’t add any more salt, but you can add it of course to the sauce if you wish (or if you use vinegar-pickled cucumber).

Preparation: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves two-three as a side-dish):

1 big apple (I prefer rather the tangier varieties)

1 medium leek (the white and light green part only)

3 big salt-brined cucumbers


2 tablespoons good quality oil (it can be any neutrally tasting oil or olive oil)

1 tablespoons lemon juice or white wine/cider vinegar

freshly ground pepper

(fresh dill or parsley leaves)

Cut the leek in half lengthwise and then slice it.

If you have problems with raw leek, sprinkle with salt, rub with your fingers and leave for about 15 minutes. Rinse it. (It should make the taste milder.)

Cut up the remaining vegetables, coat in the sauce and season with freshly ground pepper just before serving.

16 Replies to “Winter Salad with Salt-Brined Cucumber, Leek and Apple”

  1. Another way that we are the same! I never buy lettuce in the winter, but go for the crunch. Sometimes I’ll replace the lettuce with cabbage, but not always. Love the crunch of this salad with the apple, raw leeks (I would probably replace with onion), and those easy pickled cucumber. What a great winter salad!

    1. Thanks a lot, MJ. Actually it’s made with Central/Eastern European salt-brines cucumber (which is a long-term pickle), but it’s of course possible to prepare with the Japanese short-term pickled too.
      Talking about the cabbage, I discovered an amazing salad while in Japan. Will post it soon!

  2. Since Pickled Cucumbers are not available for some of us in small towns, I slice cucumbers, sometimes very thin and sometimes a little larger, into a bowl they go, sprinkle with plenty of salt, cover and refrigerate for a day or so. Out comes the bowl, I squeeze the cucumbers by the handful, disregard the brine and use this in a salad or make a cucumber salad. Delish! Yes, it originate in Germany.

    1. Hi Oma, thank you so much for the tip and for visiting my blog! Your method sounds a lot like Japanese way of pickling cucumber! (I also do this -but for a shorter period, like 15 min – with cucumber for Greek tzatziki… or Korean bibimbap! it seems to be surprisingly international!).

  3. Ah me too! I love eating warm vegetables (like roasted veggies or stir fry veggies) so I skip lettuce-like veggies in winter! I rarely eat salad too, maybe once in a while. I’ve never had a chance to try salt brined cucumbers but that sounds delicious. I love crunchy food most and it sounds really good! It is so nice that you live close to other countries and have access to different foods options! Thanks for teaching us this dish that was new to me! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Nami. It is a very similar method to Japanese cucumber tsukemono, but since the cucumber stays in brine for longer, the taste is stronger (more sour). I’m sure you would love salt-brined cucumber. Well, I don’t live close to Poland, but since I am Polish, I can sometimes share Polish recipes…. Luckily I can buy salt-brined cucumber even here (in multi-ethnic food shops).

  4. I love salads any time of the year and yes I love eating raw onion but I cannot digest it easily so what I do is wash it and squeeze it so it becomes milder. Your salad looks delicious!

    1. Thanks a lot, Katerina. I usually salt onion or leek if I have guests who have problems to digest it, so thank you for sharing your method!

  5. What an interesting salad, I have not seen leeks used raw. I’m making a leek broth right now and the aroma of the leeks is intoxicating! I still have one leek stalk left, I will have to try it raw. The combination of the salt brined pickles and the apples must be delicious, and I totally agree with the crunch this time of year, which I think reminds me of summer (fresh veggies eaten raw!). My Mom used to make a salt-brined pickle (she would put a piece of bread on top and allow it to ferment(?) on the stove (not on). It was a mild and deliciously crunchy pickle.

    1. Hi, Eva! Thank you for the compliments. Really??? I thought raw leek was often consumed raw everywhere… In Poland it’s often put into salads. I often put the white part for rice salads too and in general I use it the same way I’d use raw red onion.
      I’ve heard about the bread method, but strangely no one practices it in Poland! I must try one day to see the difference in taste (or maybe it simply accelerates the fermentation?). Salt-brined pickles are definitely milder than vinegared. And healthier too!

  6. It’s so true – eating desires change seasonally and even here, where most things still appear/taste half decent through the year, I am still inclined to eat differently summer vs. winter. It’s so interesting that you seek crunch in the winter… I think I am more inclined towards raw in the summer and soft/cooked in the winter. Love how these preferences express themselves individually. Beautiful salad and the apple is such a delicious addition, I imagine it would deliver some lovely flavour contrasted against the delicate sauce, x

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I must say the majority of meals I have are typical cold weather dishes, but from time to time I need something to wake me up and such a salad certainly does.

  7. I love how simple your ingredients are whether it’s salad or pickles. Raw leeks or raw onions. . . not a problem here because I love those. Thank you and have a lovely week, Sissi. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Ray. I love dishes which are easy and simple but surprise but their delicious results. Then I think that there’s something magical about cooking…

  8. The photo is so pretty! I don’t like law onion so thanks for the tip.

    I hope you enjoyed your Japan trip. My husband and I are going there this Spring.
    I love the PBS TV show ‘I will have what Phil’s having’ Tokyo episode. It was so fun to watch Phil try to eat ultra fancy cuisine to Tokyo street foods. You could watch on Netflix.

    Thank you for the very kind comment on my blog. You’re so neat!

    1. Thank you so much, Nipponnin. I did enjoy it a lot….it was in November, but seems as if it had been yesterday 🙂
      And thanks a lot for the advice! I’ve already read somewhere about this program… but had no idea I could watch it on Netflix! Great news!

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