“Cool as a cucumber” sounds pretty good right about now, as we approach the hottest days of summer. Cucumbers don’t inspire deep thoughts, which is just fine, since summer heat and an abundance of produce means we would rather be on the patio than cooking over a hot stove. Whether long and thin or short and fat, cucumbers are mostly water inside. They are crisp and grassy-flavored, adding texture and freshness to salads, sandwiches, chilled soups, pickles, and even cocktails!
According to The Produce Bible, there are many varieties of cucumbers. Everyone is friendly with the classic gherkin, a cucumber destined for the pickle jar. They are short, no more than 4 inches in length, have warty skins, and are meant to be pickled whole. The garden cucumber is also known as a slicing cucumber. This stout specimen averages about 8 inches in length, with a thick, green peel and seeds which should be removed before eating, since they are hard to digest. For this reason, many prefer the seedless English cucumber, which is long and slender with a more delicate skin that doesn’t require peeling. Occasionally, you may come across unusual cucumber varieties (like twisty Armenian cucumbers or round cucumbers) at the farmer’s market or specialty grocery store- don’t be afraid to give them a try. A good way to test a new variety out is by adding it to your standby salad.
Regardless of the type of cucumber, look for firm bodies that feel heavy for their size. Avoid the largest specimens, though, as an old, overgrown cucumber will by dry with large, tough seeds. Store whole cucumbers in a ventilated plastic bag, unwashed, in the vegetable crisper of your fridge. They will keep this way for a week.
Raw cucumbers contribute sweet, herbal notes to summer salads and cool us down when used in yogurt sauce for a spicy curry. They can also be grilled or roasted, which leaves them soft and succulent and deepens their flavor. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday at la Domestique, and you’ll find creative recipes for cooking with cucumbers during summer.