Cukes, cukes and more cukes…

When I was little, I used to love the cucumbers straight out of my grandmother’s garden. Together, she and I would pick them, peel them, slice them and sprinkle them with a good helping of apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and dried dill. I would eat them every night. With all that vinegar, it’s a miracle I have any enamel left on my teeth.

This summer, we’ve had a bumper crop of cucumbers. They’re producing faster than I can keep up with them, and it’s difficult to create different preparations for all of them (especially since cucumbers don’t cook well, so they aren’t quite as versatile as some other veggies). And despite our best efforts to plant only slim, seedless varieties this year, one persnickety plant keeps producing chubby, seedy cukes that are slightly bitter and not ideal for eating right off the vine.

I’ve experimented a lot, and I’ve learned that the best thing to do with a bitter or tough cucumber is to marinate it in an acidic substance, such as vinegar or lemon juice, to “soften” it up (although this preparation is great with any type of cucumber, including the European seedless and thin Persian varieties).

The first step is to remove any seeds from the cucumbers. Peel off the skin, and then slice the cucumber in half length-ways. Lay one half in your palm, seedy side up, and run a knife or spoon at an angle all the way around and slightly under the seeds to remove them (as illustrated below). I prefer a grapefruit spoon with a serrated tip for this purpose. Then, place the seeded cucumber half, cut-side down, on a cutting board and thinly slice into half moons. Repeat with remaining cucumbers.

Of all the cucumber recipes I’ve tried, my husband really loves the nuttiness of the sesame oil in the following recipe :

Open Sesame Cukes

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Open Sesame Cukes

  • Difficulty: easy
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A dash of sesame oil adds a flavorful punch to this simple salad.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium cucumbers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced (refer to illustrations)
  • 1-2 very thin slices of red onion, quartered (or Vidalia, if you prefer)
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 Tbl rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce*
  • Cilantro leaves (optional)
  • Red chile flakes (optional)
  • Kosher salt
  • White pepper

Directions

    Unless you have seedless or Persian-style cucumbers, you will need to prepare your cukes in the manner described separately. Once they are seeded and sliced, you have the choice of whether to “sweat” them or not. Cucumbers naturally release quite a bit of liquid. To reduce the amount of production, lay your sliced cukes on paper towels, sprinkle with a bit of fine salt and let sit for half an hour or so. When you return, you will notice that the paper towels are wet. Now, they’re ready to marinate. (It’s fine to skip this step, but just know that any leftover cukes will be a little waterier than normal later. They will still be delicious!)

    Spread half of your sliced cukes in the bottom of a medium-size storage container that has a tightly fitting lid. Sprinkle the cukes with some of the sesame seeds, chile flakes (if using), salt and white pepper (skip the salt if you used salt in the sweating process). Layer the rest of the sliced cukes on top and repeat with the sesame seeds and seasonings.

    In a small bowl, mix together the lime juice, rice vinegar and fish sauce with a whisk. Add the sesame oil in a slow stream while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the cilantro and thinly sliced onions over the top. Now, place the lid on the container, making sure it’s tightly secured, and vigorously shake the container to mix all the ingredients together. Place in the fridge and let marinate for at least an hour, but longer is preferable. Marinated cucumbers will last for several days, even a week. When the cucumbers are almost all gone, I often add more sliced cukes to the marinade and keep the party going!

  • Fish sauce is a widely used Asian condiment that provides the necessary umami flavor to balance the acidity of this dish. Umami is a savory taste and is considered to be the fifth basic taste with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Soy sauce is also an umami flavor. Although the name ‘fish sauce’ may sound a bit unappealing (and the smell isn’t much better), it is a versatile and complex ingredient that should be a staple in your cupboard. You will see me refer to it often in my recipes.
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    This delicious recipe brought to you by: 2peasinapod.online


 

Greek Salad Cucumbers

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Here’s another recipe I created in desperation, when we were inundated with cucumbers coming out of our ears. Cucumbers typically factor prominently in a Greek salad, so I decided to make them the focus of the salad instead of just a bystander. And, as luck would have it, this recipe has become one of our favorites.

Greek Salad Cucumbers

  • Difficulty: easy
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Add some Opa! to your cucumbers with this Greek-inspired dish.

Ingredients

  • 3-4 medium cucumbers, halved, seeded and thinly sliced (see illustrations)
  • 1 large plum tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1-2 very thin slices of red onion, quartered (or Vidalia, if you prefer)
  • Pitted kalamata olives, sliced
  • Crumbled feta (fresh is preferable to packaged)
  • 3 Tbl lemon juice
  • 1 Tbl red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbl EVOO
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • Red chile flakes (optional)
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper

Directions

Unless you have seedless or Persian style cucumbers, you will need to prepare your cukes in the manner described separately. Place the sliced cukes on paper towels to release their liquid, if you choose to do this step. Then, spread half of the sliced cukes in the bottom of a medium-size storage container that has a tightly fitting lid. Sprinkle the cukes with some of the chile flakes (if using), salt and pepper (skip the salt if you used salt in the sweating process). Layer the rest of the sliced cukes on top and repeat with the seasonings.

In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar and oregano with a whisk. Add the olive oil in a slow stream while whisking constantly. Pour the mixture over the cucumbers. Sprinkle the chopped tomato, kalamata olives, crumbled feta and thinly sliced onions over the top. Now, place the lid on the container, making sure it’s tightly secured, and vigorously shake the container to mix all the ingredients together. Place in the fridge and let marinate for at least an hour, but longer is preferable. Marinated cucumbers will last for several days, even a week.

 

This delicious recipe brought to you by: 2peasinapod.online

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Greek Salad Cukes before mixing.

 


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Photo courtesy of Ottolenghi and Ebury Press

Ottolenghi’s Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad

One of my other favorite cucumber recipes is by my main man, Yotam Ottolenghi. You will often hear me reference Ottolenghi because he’s a true genius! Jerusalem born and London trained, Ottolenghi is a master of making stunningly beautiful and delicious dishes out of the simplest ingredients. His unique cooking style proves, time and time again, that less is more. When I lived in London, I would regularly go to his Notting Hill restaurant to ogle at the glorious, colorful dishes on display.

Featured in his eponymous cookbook, “Ottolenghi: The Cookbook” (which everyone should have, in my opinion), the description for this particular recipe begins…

Our friend, Ossi Burger, says that Sami is a genius for having managed to turn something as dull as a cucumber into a delicacy in this salad. She is right about the genius thing, but that’s beside the point. What Ossi has in mind is the typical mammoth cucumber that you find in supermarkets – a cucumber with no texture, no flavour and no character.

In typical Ottolenghi fashion, this recipe has only eight, simple ingredients. But it makes a big statement!

6 small cucumbers (about 500g)
2 mild red chillies, thinly sliced
3 tbsp roughly chopped coriander
60ml white wine vinegar or rice vinegar
125ml sunflower oil
2 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp caster sugar
salt and black pepper

 

Here’s a link to the full recipe: Ottolenghi’s Cucumber and Poppy Seed Salad

 

One thought on “Cukes, cukes and more cukes…

  1. Reblogged this on Two Peas in a Pod and commented:

    Got cukes? I’ve got bushels. So I thought this would be a good time to re-post my blog entry from this time last summer when my garden was also flush with cucumbers. Here are three of my favorite recipes for marinated cucumber salads — one Asian, one Greek and one Middle Eastern. You take your pick…or try them all!

    Like

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