Salad is only the start of the cucumber recipe road
At the start of the growing season, I purchased patio planters, one each of cucumber, tomato and pepper. Between my random watering schedule, record-high temperatures and an ill-timed trip out of town, my harvest has been meager. The pepper plant produced just a single baby, which was blown off when the pot toppled in a wind gust.
The cucumber already had a perfect specimen ripening when I realized the vine needed to be trellised. During the process of attaching the tendrils to a mesh panel, I must have jostled the flowers and baby cukes, as the only one that grew big enough to pick was the first one to appear. I did a little better with the tomato plant, plucking three bright-red globes before the hurricane.
What the cucumber and tomatoes lacked in quantity, they more than made up for in quality, beginning and ending with the salad in the photo. Because the cucumber had a slightly thick skin, unlike English cucumbers, I opted to peel it before slicing it lengthwise and then into chunks. The balance of the salad included roughly chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion and crumbled feta cheese.
For the dressing, we made a vinaigrette with olive oil, Balsamic vinegar, a splash of lemon juice and a sprinkle of herbs. By changing the dressing and tossing in additional ingredients, you can easily modify the salad. For example, adding corn kernels, black beans and a spicy cumin-forward vinaigrette gives you a Tex-Mex flavored version.
With a history that spans over 4,000 years, you would think people have had enough time to develop a vast array of techniques for preparing cucumbers. Instead, when you search the internet, all you will find are 4,000 recipes for cucumber salad. But, as a member of the same family as summer squash, why not treat them as you would zucchini and toss them in the skillet for a quick sauté?
If you are using fresh, local cucumber you won’t need to peel the skin, but if all you have is a waxed cucumber from the grocery, you will want to remove the tough skin. Just slice the cucumber in half, scoop out the seeds and cut into pieces. A few minutes over the heat with some sliced shallot, and you have a delicious (and different) side dish.
One tip for the best-tasting cucumbers is how you store them. Once they’re harvested, keep them at room temperature and use them within a few days. If you place them in the refrigerator (or chill them like the grocery stores do), the cold temperatures will cause the flesh to decay, and they become watery and pitted.
As for recipes, the larger cucumbers at the local farmers markets are perfect for any of the first three, while the smaller ones would be ideal to slice and quick-brine into pickles. Thank goodness for all the growers who supply us with cucumbers!
1/4 C sliced red onion
1/2 C crumbled feta
1 T olive oil
2 t Balsamic vinegar
1 t lemon juice
1 t Herbes de Provence
Peel the cucumber if the skin is tough or waxed. Slice in quarters lengthwise; cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks. Toss together cucumber, tomato, onion and feta in a serving bowl. In a measuring cup, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice and herbs. Pour dressing over the bowl and toss to coat. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Yield: 4 servings.
1 lb cucumber
2 T butter
1 T fresh parsley
Trim the ends from the cucumber and slice in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into 1/2-inch crescents; set aside. Thinly slice the shallot; set aside.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium. Add the shallot and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cucumber and cook until just slightly softened but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. Yield: 4 servings.
1 lb cucumbers, peeled, seeded & chopped
1/2 C plain yogurt
3 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1 T chopped dill
salt, to taste
lemon zest, for garnish
Combine cucumbers, yogurt and lemon juice in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse while gradually adding the olive oil, processing until incorporated. Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in dill. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Serve garnished with lemon zest. Yield: 4 servings.
12 oz cucumbers
1/2 C water
1/2 C rice wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 C chopped dill
2 smashed garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
Slice the cucumbers in to 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Place into a wide-mouth, pint-size mason jar; set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper; whisk until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Pour the brine into the jar over the cucumbers. Top with dill, garlic and bay leaf. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.