Cool as a Cucumber

           We’ve all done enough of that these past few weeks. This is when I say, bring out the cucumbers and start chopping. They’re tasty, low in calorie and can be diced and sliced and thrown into a salad, sandwich or even used as a main course.
           There are three main types of cucumber, slicing, pickling and English. Slicing cucumbers are the most popular and have a dark green skin. Most slicing cucumbers are waxed to extend their shelf life. I always recommend washing the skin to remove the wax. The pickling cucumber (sometimes called a gherkin) is small and crisp and has a bumpy skin. The English cucumber is long, narrow and almost always seedless. English cucumbers are wrapped in cellophane to extend shelf life. Cucumbers should be refrigerated and you shouldn’t wash them until you’re ready to use them.
         There are two really good techniques for making cucumbers “decorative”. The fist is to scrape the length of the cucumber with the tines of a fork before you slice it. The second is to use a zester the same way. The zester (a tool used for removing the colored part of fruit rind) makes a deeper groove in the cucumber. You can also use a melon baller to remove the seeds before slicing. Just cut the cucumber in half, start at one end and scoop away.

The recipes below are a mixture of easy appetizers, salads and main course. Some include herbs and spices. Whenever possible I suggest you use fresh. Fresh herbs enhance the taste of cucumbers and makes the flavors pop.

GREEK SALAD (dairy)

1 small to medium red onion or sweet onion
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons good red wine vinegar
3 to 4 large Kirby cucumbers or 2 medium regular cucumbers
1 large, ripe tomato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
8 kalamata olives, pitted and quartered, lengthwise

Cut the onion into very thin rings. If using a regular (not sweet) onion, put it in a shallow bowl with 2/3 cup vinegar and marinate 1/2 hour, tossing a few times. Meanwhile, trim cucumbers, halve lengthwise and cut into half moon shapes, about 3/8-inch thick. Put into a mixing bowl. Core tomato, halve, then cut into wedges. Halve wedges and add to the cucumber. Drain and add the onions. Put olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper and remaining vinegar in a small mixing bowl or large cup. Mix and add to vegetables. Toss well and let sit, covered, 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.  Add feta and olives. Toss. Check for seasoning. Serves 6.

CUCUMBER SOUP (dairy)

4 green onions, trimmed
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
Salt and white pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fried onions (I like Durkees)

Detach the green part of the green onions and mince about 3 tablespoons. Set aside. Put white part of the green onions and cucumbers in a food processor or blender and puree. Add the buttermilk, dill and salt and pepper.Blend until smooth. Refrigerate at least an hour. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Sprinkle the green onion tops and fried onions on top. Serves 4.

ASIAN CUCUMBER SALAD (pareve)

4 large cucumbers; cut in slices
5 green onions white part only, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves (you can substitute flat leaf parsley)
1/2 cup crushed roasted peanuts (I like to use honey roasted)

Put the sliced cucumbers into a bowl with the shallots and sprinkle over the vinegar. Add the sweet chili sauce and soy sauce and toss the salad. Just before serving add the coriander leaves and peanuts and toss again. Serve at once. Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

CHEESEAND CUCUMBER SLICES (dairy)

1 large cucumber
1/2 oz. Swiss or Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or 1/4 tsp. dill weed
1 tablespoon whipped cream cheese
Dash each salt and white pepper

Cut off ends of cucumber. Using tines of a fork, score peel of cucumber. Cut cucumber in half crosswise and using a melon baller or small spoon, remove and discard seeds from both halves; set aside. In small mixing bowl thoroughly combine remaining ingredients. Spoon half of the cheese mixture into cored section of each cucumber half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. To serve, remove plastic wrap and carefully slice each cucumber half into 6 equal slices. Makes 2 servings, 6 slices each.

CUCUMBER DILL SAUCE(dairy/fish)

Wonderful with fish or as a vegetable dip

2 cups sour cream or pareve substitute
2 med. size cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and chopped fine
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill OR 2 tablespoons dried dill weed
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons milk or non dairy substitute
1/2 teaspoon salt
For garnish: 1 jar (2 oz.) red lumpfish caviar, dill sprig

Mix all ingredients in a medium size bowl. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, spoon caviar around edges of sauce; place dill sprig in middle. Makes 3 1/2 cups. 

 
CUCUMBER ORANGE AND POMEGRANET SALAD (pareve)
2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 large naval oranges, zest and pith removed, halved and thinly sliced
8 ounces young spinach leaves
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

In a large bowl combine the cucumbers, fennel, onion, oranges and spinach in large shallow bowl. Whisk together vinegar, orange juice, honey and olive oil. Toss with salad. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.  Serves 8

SWEET AND SOUR CUCUMBER SALAD (pareve)

3 cups peeled, seeded and thinly sliced cucumbers
11/2 cups thinly sliced sweet onions
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dried dill weed

2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a medium bowl toss together cucumbers, onions and carrot; set aside. In a liquid measuring cup combine oil,vinegar, sugar, dill 2 tablespoons water, salt and black pepper. Pour over cucumber mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top serve immediately. If you want to make this ahead of time cover and refrigerate and don’t sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top until ready to serve. Serves 6.

MINI CUCUMBER SANDWICHES (dairy/fish)

1 medium cucumber
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion salt
dash Worcestershire sauce
1 loaf sliced whole grain bread
 paprika

Score cucumber lengthwise with fork (for looks) and slice thin. In medium bowl, combine vinegar and water, add cucumber slices; let stand at room temp. at least 30 min. Drain WELL. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese, mayo, garlic powder, onion salt and Worcestershire. Cut bread slices into rounds (or any shape you want, with a cookie cutter) and spread with cream cheese mixture. Top each with a slice of cucumber. Shortly before serving top with olive slice or paprika, or both. You can also add a little dab of cream cheese/mayo and top with a baby shrimp.

Makes about 48 round tea sandwiches.

To make these the night before, cover with SLIGHTLY damp paper towels, then cover the whole plate with foil. Keep in fridge and they’ll be just great.

APPLECUCUMBER AND WALNUT SALAD (dairy)

For the dressing:
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about ½ large lemon)
2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup chopped cucumber (well drained)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint or parsley
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

For the salad:
1 head red leaf of bib lettuce, trimmed, washed, and dried
1 cucumber, peeled if you want, diced large
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, cored and diced large
1/3 cup dark raisins
2/3 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and olive oil. Add lemon juice, honey, cucumber, coriander, min and salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, cucumber, apple, and raisins. Stir in 2/3’s of the dressing well, add just enough to moisten the ingredients, and toss to coat.

Place on a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with the walnuts and the pomegranate seeds if you have them, and serve.

TOMATO CUCUMBER SALAD (pareve)

2 cucumbers, sliced thin

sea or kosher salt for sprinkling
6 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 green onions, sliced
3 to 4 radishes, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and finely diced
1/3 cup minced parsley
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kalamata, black or nicoise olives for garnish

In a serving bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, onions, parsley, lemon zest, olive oil, lemon juice. Toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Garnish with olives and serve. Serves 6 to 8.

CUCUMBER MUSTARD AND DILL SAUCE(dairy)

Great with fish or with vegetables

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup peeled, coarsely chopped cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of finely ground white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well blended. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve.Serve cold. May be kept up to 2 days in refrigerator.

ROASTED PEPPERS AND CUCUMBER SALAD (pareve)

1 large green bell pepper
3 6-to 8-ounce tomatoes, halved, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
3/4 cup black olives, pitted, quartered
2/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Char pepper over gas flame or in broiler until blackened.Enclose in plastic bag 15 minutes. Peel, seed, and cut pepper into 1/3-inch cubes. Place in large bowl. Add tomatoes, cucumber, olives, onion, and parsley. Whisk oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend; season with salt and pepper, then mix into vegetables. Let vegetables marinate at least 15 minutes before serving. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Serves 6.

Modified recipe from epicurious.com

CUCUMBER AND PINEAPPLESALAD (pareve)

2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (2-inch-long) fresh serrano or jalapeno chili, minced, including seeds
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
2 cups fresh pineapple, cored, peeled,  and cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
2 to 3 medium tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges

In a large salad bowl whisk together lime juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved, then whisk in the oil, garlic, chili, and soy sauce (to taste). Add the cucumber, pineapple cilantro mint and tomato. Toss to coat and then season with salt. Let set in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour for the flavors to blend. Serves 6 to 8.

GARLIC CUCUMBER CHICKEN (meat)
1lb boneless chicken breasts, skinned
1lb cucumber
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoons oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 green onions sliced
1 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or white wine
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes and set aside.  Peel the cucumber, halve it and remove the seeds with a teaspoon. Then cut it into 1 inch cubes, sprinkle with salt and put the cucumber into a colander to drain for 20 minutes. (This removes the excess moisture from the cucumber). Next rinse the cucumber cubes in running cold water and blot them dry with kitchen paper. Heat a wok or large frying pan until very hot.  Add the oil and when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the chicken cubes and stir-fry them for a few seconds.  Add all the other ingredients except the cucumber and continue to stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
 Now add the cucumber cubes and keep stir-frying the entire mixture for another 3 minutes. Serve at once. Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

SUPER EASY GOURMET CUCUMBER CHICKEN SALAD (meat)

1 lb. cooked chicken, diced (leftovers are great for this)
1 cup seedless red or green grapes, halved
2/3 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup diced cucumbers
1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
3/4 mayonnaise or salad dressing

In a salad bowl combine the chicken, grapes, pecans, celery, cucumber, oranges and salad dressing. Toss to coat and serve. Makes 6 servings

 

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