Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cool as a Cucumber

It's summertime, and the living is easy. Ok, the living might not be easy.. but produce is plentiful and this weekend I am spotlighting the humble cucumber.
By this time of year they are cheap and cheerful and we buy them in bulk. Buy the English variety that have the plastic sleeves and are not waxed, then you can eat the peel. Better yet, find a friend or local organic farmer who has a bumper crop.
Cucumbers are great to eat in the summer or with spicy foods, they are cooling and their high water content keeps you hydrated. According to NutritionData.com, they are also a good source of Vitamin A, Pantothenic Acid, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Manganese, and a very good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Potassium.
Here are two salads and a cocktail(!) to feature this fabulous fruit. You thought they were a vegetable? They are biologically a fruit, just like the tomato.


Cucumber Cooler
Saveur Magazine, July 2009

Ingredients
1 2" piece cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise, plus 1 additional slice for garnish
1⁄8 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 1⁄2 oz. vodka
1⁄2 oz. simple syrup

Directions
In a cocktail shaker, combine the cucumber slices, thyme, and 1⁄4 cup crushed ice. Using a muddler, crush ingredients until slushy. Add more ice, vodka, and simple syrup. Cover, shake vigorously to combine, and pour contents into a glass garnished with a slice of cucumber.
*This is a strong drink, I like it topped with soda water

Creamy Cucumber Salad
Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Ingredients
4 hothouse cucumbers, thinly sliced (3 to 4 pounds)
2 small red onions, thinly sliced in half rounds
Kosher salt
4 cups (32 ounces) plain whole milk yogurt
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh minced dill
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Mix the cucumbers, red onions, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt in a bowl. Pour them into a colander with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator to drain for at least 4 hours or over night. Discard the liquid that collects in the bowl.

Pour the yogurt into a sieve lined with a paper towel and suspend it over another bowl. Wrap the bowl and sieve in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Discard the liquid that collects in the second bowl.

When the cucumbers are ready, roll them up in paper towels or a kitchen towel and press the towel lightly to remove most of the liquid. Place the cucumbers and yogurt in a large bowl with the sour cream, vinegar, dill, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper. Toss well and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavours to blend. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and serve chilled.
*I didn't have a lot of red onion, so I added some green later, as well as chopped roasted red pepper for colour and flavour.
*I didn't have fresh dill, so I added dried dill and lots of fresh parsley


Quinoa Salad with Cucumber
Martha Stewart Living, July 2009

Ingredients
Serves 6.
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
Coarse salt
1 small shallot, finely chopped
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (1 cup)
3/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions
Bring water, quinoa, and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer until tender and water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet, and let cool on a wire rack.
Combine shallot, vinegar, and red-pepper flakes in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil until emulsified.
Transfer quinoa to a large bowl, and stir in cucumber, parsley, and vinaigrette. Season with salt.

Fabulous cucumber salads for Souper Sunday!