10 Ways Tuesday: Cucumber

Chilled Cucumber Soup (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with cucumbers during summer:

1.  Chilled Cucumber Soup

Chilled Cucumber Soup makes for the perfect amuse-bouche for a party on a hot summer night. Serve this appetizer in tiny espresso cups as an elegant and refreshing start to the meal. For this no-cook recipe, I peel, seed, and chop 2 pounds of cucumbers, adding them to a blender with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground fennel seed. Puree the soup until well combined and smooth in texture, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Garnish each serving with a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil (makes 6 espresso cups). I like to keep my cucumber soup dairy-free so it can be enjoyed by all.

2.  Sushi

Cucumbers chopped into sticks are often rolled into maki sushi (a sushi roll) along with avocado and seafood. The fresh, grassy taste and crisp texture of the cucumber is a nice contrast against soft and buttery salmon or meaty tuna. Asian cucumbers are small and very crisp, with less water inside than the ones we’re used to here in the U.S. Seek them out at your local Asian market. If you’ve never attempted sushi at home, check out this step-by-step guide by Morimoto. One of my favorite lunches is a light and fresh California Roll with shrimp.

3.  Grilled Cucumber

Charring cucumbers on the grill gives depth to their already sweet and grassy flavor, as well as softening their texture. Chef Paul Berglund’s recipe for Grilled Cucumber and Smoked-Trout Salad with Hazelnuts is a fun change from the same old salads. The grilled cucumbers are dressed in a pungent vinaigrette of garlic, anchovy, cider vinegar, and fresh dill.

4.  Cucumber Salad

The recipe for Khiar bel Na’na (cucumber salad with mint) from Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food, is a great example of the best a cucumber has to offer. Thin slices of cucumber are salted and left to drain in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. This step relieves the cucumber of fluid, keeping it from watering down the salad. The crisp, sweet and herbal-flavored slices are then tossed with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, a splash of orange-blossom water, and crushed dried mint leaves. This cucumber salad will intrigue your dinner guests with its unique flavor, and goes well with grilled foods.

5.  Poached Salmon Garnished with Cucumber

With its vibrant green skin and pale insides, strips of cucumber make for a striking garnish atop the pink flesh of a whole poached salmon. This is a make-ahead dish for serving a crowd. The whole fish goes into a poacher with a flavorful broth to simmer until cooked through, then spends the night refrigerated in its bath. The result is a moist and tender fish to be served on a grand platter at a party or brunch. Strips of cucumber arranged atop the fish as a garnish contribute a stunning visual and fresh flavor. The fish is served with a Cucumber, Cress, and Caper Sauce that’s piquant and cooling, with a touch of sour cream.

6.  Soba Salad

Susanna Foo’s Cold Soba Noodles with Lime Coriander Vinaigrette from her book, Fresh Inspiration, is just the kind of meal I’m looking for in the heat of summer. Light and fresh but with plenty of flavor- from nutty sesame seeds to herbal julienned cucumber to earthy soba- it keeps things interesting without weighing you down. The recipe is simple: Toss cooked soba noodles with lime coriander vinaigrette and serve over brightly colored leaves of endive. Julienned cucumber, bean sprouts, cilantro, and sesame seeds are sprinkled over the noodles and it’s time to eat!

7.  Tzatziki

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad is popular throughout the Middle East, and is known by many different names, including tzatziki in Greece, cacik in Turkey, and raita in India. Whatever the name, this salad-sauce has universal appeal. Cucumber is shredded and stirred into thick Greek yogurt with fresh garlic and chopped mint or dill. Serve the bright and herbal sauce as a cool accompaniment to grilled lamb and rice, or as an appetizer with pita bread.

8.  Sweet-n-Sour Cucumber Relish

It’s not just for hot dogs, ok? Padma Lakshmi’s recipe for Sea Scallops with Crushed Peanuts and Cucumber Relish from her book, Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet, is elegant and full of exotic flavor. Sea scallops are dredged in a flour mixture containing bread crumbs, mango powder, and cayenne, then seared in a hot pan. The rich scallops are topped with a relish of diced cucumber, tomato, brown sugar, dill, and lime juice, then sprinkled with crushed peanuts for a little extra crunch.

9.  Cucumber Lime Pops with Gin

I’ll take my cocktail frozen, thank you, and this recipe for Cucumber Lime Pops with Gin is exactly what I need on a blazing hot summer day. A cucumber puree is mixed with lime juice, lime zest, gin, and gelatin (to keep the frozen pop from melting too quickly). Pour the mixture into paper cups and freeze for an hour, then place a popsicle stick into the partially frozen pops and continue freezing until ready to serve.

10.  Pickles

I can’t do a list on cooking with cucumbers and leave out pickles, can I? Though they’ve been around forever, pickles don’t have to be boring. I consulted the book, Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff and found several interesting recipes. The Persian Tarragon Cucumbers is Iranian recipe in which the cucumbers are placed in a jar with garlic, tarragon, coriander seeds, and chiles, then topped with a vinegar-salt mixture and simply placed in the fridge to cure for 4 weeks. The Bread & Butter Pickles are sweetened with honey and flavored with mustard and red pepper flakes for a more complex, sweet and spicy pickle. Maybe try her Long-Fermented Kosher Dill Pickles, which the author describes as “extraordinary.” Three weeks of fermenting at room temperature gives these pickles a more mellow tang and complex flavor.

What is your favorite way to cook with cucumbers? Share it in the comments section. Click Here.

18 Comments

  1. I just love cucumbers in the summer. I have a batch of refrigerator pickles in the fridge right now and I recently made panzanella with chunks of unpeeled cucumber and grilled pork bahn mi with matchstick cucumbers. I must try your cucumber soup!

    Reply
    • Nicole,
      The panzanella sounds so good!

      Reply
  2. I too love cucumbers–especially the skinny little Armenian ones. :) Salads are my favorite. Cucumber with thinly sliced red onion and vinegar, cucumber with fresh summer tomato and a little salt, cucumber with yogurt and mint–I love them all!

    Reply
    • It all sounds so refreshing, Eileen!

      Reply
  3. My favorite cucumber treat (besides my favorite summer cocktail, the Cucumber Collins) is a simple appetizer. Grab some crackers (I especially like water crackers here), spread on a bit of cream cheese, top with slices of cucumber, and grind salt and pepper over top. Also works well for an open-faced sandwich with toast instead of the crackers. Simple, refreshing, and oh-so-good!

    Reply
    • Great ideas- thanks for sharing, Shelby!

      Reply
  4. I’m LOVING the theme this week! Just bought 4 lbs today!

    Reply
    • Awesome! So glad you are feeling cucumber week, Kelsey!

      Reply
  5. Very intrigued by the cucumber soup. I was so surprised to see there is no dairy in it! It looks so creamy…

    Reply
    • Sarah,

      I used to work at a restaurant in Boulder that served the best cucumber soup, and there was no dairy in it. A lot of people out here are vegan or don’t eat dairy because of food allergies, so I like the idea of serving something that’s delicious and you don’t have to worry about dietary restrictions.

      Reply
  6. That cucumber soup is so beautiful! Such a welcome, refreshing appetizer this time of year. Cucumbers were an acquired taste for me but now I can’t get enough of them. I want to try everything on this list!

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Kathryn!

      Reply
  7. I anticipate the arrival of local pickling cucumbers each year as I love making quick refrigerator pickles. I love the sound of your cucumber lime gin popsicle!

    Reply
    • Refrigerator pickles are so easy and a nice treat to have on hand. Thanks for stopping by, Adrienne!

      Reply
  8. Cucumbers are so crisp and refreshing in the summer! I’d love to try cucumber soup, but I know I love cucumbers with soba noodles, tzatziki and salads.

    Reply
    • I know you’d love the cucumber soup, Kathryne- and put your own fun twist on it!

      Reply
  9. I’ve never thought of grilling cucumbers! Such a cool idea!

    Reply
    • Debbie,
      I’m glad you found a new technique to try. Cheers!

      Reply

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