Quick & Easy|
By Beverly Barbour
Cool cukes for a hot day
Whether your cucumbers are exotic (called Persian or English--no seeds and less water) or the plain old garden variety that we pick up and peel before eating, the vegetable is perfect for summer eating. You've probably noticed children in Poland, Russia and the Middle East eating them like they were popsicles.
If the garden variety is what you have on hand (they have the added virtue of being either free or much less expensive that the seedless variety), you can quickly narrow the advantage that the Persians have by cutting the peeled cucumbers in two lengthwise and scraping out the pulpy, seedy centers with a spoon. Treated this way you smooth out the playing field and can use the two varieties interchangeably in recipes.
All that you need for a light lunch is chopped cucumbers, diced hard-cooked egg and a dressing made by whisking together 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon lemon juice with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Salt and pepper, too, of course and maybe some fresh tarragon leaves or dried can be added.
C. J.'s Sauteed Cucumbers
Few people realize that cucumbers can be enjoyed as a cooked vegetable. They can be and are delicious served with rich meats like turkey, duck, lamb, etc. Makes 4 servings.
2 large, firm cucumbers
Peel the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. With a spoon scrape out the pulpy center and seeds. Turn the cucumbers over, flat side down, and cut into 1/2-inch crescents. Melt butter in a large skillet and add the cucumbers. Toss the crescents to bathe them in butter. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, so that are heated through but not brown. They should be a pale gold at the most and crisp tender to cut or bite. If there is moisture in the pan increase the heat and boil it off. Just before serving add the dill, cilantro or parsley and toss together for both flavor and color.
Quick and easy with fresh jalapeno peppers to hotten the mixture up a bit. Delicious with barbecued anything but especially chicken. Makes about 2 cups.
1 cucumber, about 1/2 pound
Toss together and refrigerate until served.
*Use well drained canned jalapeno if fresh are not available. Or, use chili flakes when desperate.
Grilled Cucumbers, Japanese Style
This recipe calls for two somewhat exotic seasonings: miso (soybean paste) and mirim (sweet rice wine). Sweet sherry is often substituted for mirim. Perhaps you could skip the miso as it doesn't have a lot of flavor. Lemon juice can be substituted for the lime juice. Makes 6 servings--4 cucumber spears per serving).
1/4 cup white miso (soybean paste)
Combine first 4 ingredients in bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add cucumbers, toss to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator of 1 1/2 hours or more. Prepare grill to high heat (or you can broil in your oven). Remove cukes from bowl, reserving marinade. Arrange cucumbers in a single layer on grill rack which has been coated with cooking spray. Grill 2 minutes. Brush cucumbers with reserved marinade and turn over; grill for 3 more minutes or until browned, again brushing with marinade. Sprinkle cooked cukes with sesame seeds and pepper and serve immediately.
The English relish cucumber sandwiches with butter but my favorite spread is a tasty cheese such as Boursin, a creamy goat cheese, or even cream cheese. If you slice too many cucumbers just make a salad or quickly pickle them with 1/3 cup cider vinegar, 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. You can add onion, dill, etc. to this 3+3=3 combo.
1 English cucumber
Thinly slice unpeeled cucumbers on the diagonal and arrange on a platter. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt and let stand 10 minutes. Toss the slices and drain off the excess liquid. Mix cheese with yogurt or sour cream and then mix in chives and optional dill, tarragon or parsley. Spread cheese mixture thinly onto 4 slices of bred and spread a thicker layer on the other 4 slices. Arrange well-drained cucumber slices on the 4 more thickly spread slices of bread. Top with lightly spread slices. Press firmly but don't squish the bread. With a sharp bread knife, cut off crusts, then cut sandwiches into quarters. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving.
When life is too hot to handle, pick up a cucumber.