Post #502 Seven New Ways to Eat Cucumbers

August 20, 2016 at 2:36 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

At the store recently, a man brought up a bag of cucumbers to the register.  There had to be at least a dozen and I commented that he must be going to make a lot of salad or pickles.  He chuckled and said, “No, I just like cucumbers.”  So do I.  I’ve liked them since I can first remember eating solid food.  I’ve never bought a dozen at one time.  Turns out, he was going to make a something like zucchini bread but use cucumbers instead.  After grating the cucumbers, you let them drip into the sink for an hour, then squeeze as much of the juice out of them as possible, then make the cake as a zucchini but put in the cucumber instead.  I’m not going to try it because I don’t like zucchini bread, and I prefer my cucumbers raw, except in one case I’ll explain later.

cucumber 01

But it did get me to wondering what you could do with a dozen cucumbers.  Cucumbers can by amazingly good, and so easy to use.  Not just for salads anymore, you have to think outside the box, or rather outside the vine to discover just how versatile this member of the gourd family is.  First, you have to understand your cucumber.  There are three main types:  slicing, pickling, and “burpless” also called English.  The pickling cucumber is smaller and harder than the other two, which can be used interchangeably as far as I’m concerned.  Just remember that cucumbers are exceptionally juicy, which is part of their appeal.  Some recipes call for removing the seeds and I’ve found that to be a good recommendation, although I love the seeds.  The easiest way to remove them is to slice the cucumber in half lengthways and use a spoon to gently scrape the seeds out.

One way to use cucumbers is the standard “in a salad” way.  I’ve probably eaten 50 pounds of cucumbers in a salad.  They add crunch and flavor.  But rather than making a cucumber an addition to a salad, what about making it the star of the salad?  We make a wonderful cucumber salad by peeling and seeding a cucumber and cutting it into bite sized chunks.  Then we add small, ripe grape tomatoes, and shelled pistachio nuts.  We add roughly grated cheese of any kind, a small amount of dried oregano, and lemon juice.  That’s all.  An onion can be added if you like it, and the tomatoes can be omitted if you don’t want them, or don’t have them.  It works as a side, or throw on some leftover chilled grilled chicken and it becomes a main dish.  All it takes is think about the cucumber as the salad base.

Another way we use cucumbers is from a Julie Child recipe.  It cooks the cucumbers.  You wouldn’t expect cooked cucumbers to be exceptional, but they are amazing.  I’ve written about them in the blog before but it bears repeating.

  1. 3 medium to large garden cucumbers (not the English or Persian variety)
  2. 2 Tablespoons butter
  3. 1 pinch sugar (optional)
  4. 1 pinch salt
  5. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice (white vinegar will work if lemon juice isn’t around)
  6. 1/2 chopped fresh mint leaves
  7. Peel the cucumbers leaving the ends on.  Slice in half lengthways.  Cut in half across the length of cucumber making four quarters of even size for each cucumber.  Using a spoon, gently remove the seeds.  Cut the cucumber into one inch pieces.  On medium heat, melt butter in a large heavy bottomed skillet until bubbles disappear, then add sugar if using.  Add the cucumber and stir to coat evenly.  Cover the skillet and cook for five minutes, stirring twice during the cooking time.  Add salt, lemon, and mint stirring to mix thoroughly.  Cover and cook for two more minutes, then remove from heat, uncover, and serve hot.

So good!

Pickles are small cucumbers that have been preserved either in a cold or hot processed method.  Cold processed results in crispier pickles, which we prefer.  They can be sweet or sour or savory, but in our house, it’s only sour.  No other pickles shows up except by accident.  (When I was a kid, mom couldn’t keep dill pickles in the house because of me.)  But did you know there’s a quick and dirty way to making sour pickles in the refrigerator in just an afternoon?  My mom used to make these in a bowl, but I use a jar.  They’ll keep for about two weeks.  Use as many cucumbers as will fit in a jar either sliced or cut into spears.  Add fresh garlic cloves.  Put enough white vinegar to fill the jar about one quarter of the way, then add cool water to fill to the top.  Tighten a lid onto the jar, and leave in the fridge for a minimum of three hours.  The pickles are ready to use, but the longer they stay, the more pickled they become.  Kinda like me and wine.  Like I said, they should be used fairly quickly, but in our house they don’t usually last longer than a couple of days.

In keeping with the latest trends, you can use cucumbers in smoothies.  Just make your favorite smoothie and throw in a peeled cucumber cut into chunks.  Make sure the flavors are complementary or you won’t like the results.  Think fresh veggies and you won’t go too wrong.

Another trend is to substitute cucumbers for tomatoes in salsa.  Gotta say, I like this one!  Leave the seeds in and allow the cucumber juices to mix with the lime and other flavors.  So good!  Next time I make it, I’m going to cut the amount of tomatoes in half and put cucumbers in for the rest.  That should taste like a salad salsa?

Ever have gazpacho?  It’s a chilled tomato soup, of sorts.  Well, you can make a chilled soup from cucumbers that’s perfect for a summer day.  Use a pound of cucumbers.  Peel them and seed them, then slice them thin.  Sprinkle with a little salt and set in a colander in the sink to drain all the moisture off.  After an hour, squeeze the cucumber to release more juice.  Place the cucumbers in a food processor with a garlic clove that’s been chopped, and one or two green onions that have been chopped, and 2 cups of plain greek yogurt.  Process until it’s smooth and pour into a bowl.  Stir in five or six mint leaves that have been chopped fine and pour into chilled bowls.  Serve immediately.  This best served with cold chicken or cold beef, and crusty bread with butter.

One of my favorite ways to use cucumbers is replace them as crackers for cold appetizers.  Slide the cucumber thin, but not too thin.  They need to be able to hold their toppings.  Place thin slice of cheese on the cucumber and then a small piece of your favorite meat.  Or put a cream cheese and herb mixture into a piping bag and pipe it onto the cucumber slices.  You could also use a deviled egg mixture.  I’ve found that due to the juiciness of the cucumber, trying to spread the filling on with a knife is problematic.

Well, I hope this has tweaked your creative juices for using cucumbers in different ways.  Let me know what you come up with!

Enjoy

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2 Comments

  1. I adore cucumbers and like them on sandwiches for a fresh flavor. Have you tried sichuan style cucumbers? Totally bet you’d love them!

    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/09/sichuan-style-smashed-cucumber-salad-recipe.html

    • Never heard of these. I’ll try them soon and post about it. Thanks!


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