FOR a lot of people, cucumbers only bring to mind an everyday addition to a green salad or a filling for tea sandwiches.
Not that I'm giving a bad rap to cucumber sandwiches - I love them. But cucumbers lend themselves beautifully to many other preparations too. I must make it clear right off the bat that when I say "cucumber" I refer only to the long English variety; the woody, seed-laden field cukes aren't worth buying, in my opinion. Now that English cucumbers are in season and priced very reasonably, try out these recipes for the coolest veggie in the garden.
And if you are making sandwiches, try combining cucumber slices with baby shrimp, smoked salmon or liver paté for a new twist (spread the bread with some mayonnaise or softened cream cheese first).
SCANDINAVIAN CUCUMBER AND SOUR CREAM SALAD
This is perfect with grilled salmon.
1 English cucumber, approx. 12-14" long
1 tsp kosher or sea salt
½ cup sour cream (regular or reduced fat, not fat-free)
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
Dash of Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Trim the ends from the cucumber and peel off alternating strips of the peel to create "stripes." Cut the cucumber into very thin slices and place in a colander; sprinkle with the salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain the cucumber thoroughly and dry on paper towels; place into a serving bowl. Combine the sour cream, vinegar, Tabasco, chives, dill and pepper. Pour over the cucumber and mix gently but thoroughly.
Refrigerate until chilled. Makes four to six servings.
Try this on a chicken salad, green salad, or over sliced ripe tomatoes. It's low-cal and delicious.
½ of an English cucumber (about 6-8" of it), peeled, seeded and chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp plain low-fat yogurt or low-fat mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp prepared horseradish
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
Few grindings of black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until completely smooth. If dressing is too thick add a little milk to reach desired consistency. Makes about 1¼ cups.
Japanese Cucumber Salad
If you like Japanese Sunomono, you'll like this.
1 English cucumber, approx. 12-
14 inches long
¼ cup rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Trim the ends off the cucumber and peel to leave alternating green stripes. Slice the cucumber into very thin slices and blot inside a double layer of paper towels, squeezing gently to remove excess moisture. Combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the cucumbers and sesame seeds and toss to combine. Serve immediately. Makes four to six servings. (Try serving this in small individual bowls topped with a few baby shrimp).
Microwave Bread & Butter Pickles
These are so good and so easy you might never buy pickles again!
1 large English cucumber, ends trimmed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
½ cup white sugar
½ cup white vinegar
½ tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp celery seed
¼ tsp ground turmeric
In a medium microwave-safe bowl mix together the last six ingredients; stir until sugar is nearly dissolved (warning - the turmeric will stain light-coloured plastic bowls). Add the sliced cucumber and onion and stir gently to mix. Microwave on high for six to eight minutes (depending on power of your microwave), stirring every two minutes, until the cucumbers are just tender and the onion is translucent. Transfer to a sterilized canning jar. When cool store in the refrigerator until serving. Makes about one pint.