Thursday, October 8, 2009

An Examination of Cucumbers

Ah, Cucs. For me they are kind of like radishes, I like them, but never know what to do with them except to throw them sliced onto salads (yawn) or Greek tomato and cucumber salad with feta, cucumber sandwiches with cream or goat cheese and for Japanese Cucumber Salad, recipe below.  I guess that is a pretty good start, but I was wanting to know more about my cucs.

So I went through all of the cookbooks, magazines and online blogs and discovered a few new ideas for using the ordinary cucumber in the kitchen.

I really like cold soup. I have only had a couple of cold soups before, an avocado soup in Mexico that was amazing and I make a couple styles of Spanish Gazpacho. My usual thinking is that soup is supposed to be hot and cucumbers do not sound very...well satisfying as a blended cold soup...watery comes to mind. But I was surprised how delicious
and satisfying my rendition of Middle Eastern Cold Cucumber Soup is. There are many different styles for cold cucumber soup, but for me, the spices that I used for this soup sounded like a nice mix. Recipe is below.

Another great idea for cucumbers is for Greek Tzatziki, which is a thick yogurt and cucumber dip or spread that is great with vegetable sticks or pita bread sandwiches. Here is the recipe that I found that is really good. Greek Tzatziki Recipe from The Fearless Kitchen Blog

The following article from The New York Times on other ways to use cucumbers in your world is highly interesting and amusing, so I thought that I would share it with you. I have tried putting cucumber slices on aluminum foil around the garden to repel garden grubs see if it works, but they just kept flying away!

The Amazing Cucumber

This information was in The New York Times several weeks ago as part of their "Spotlight on the Home" series that highlighted creative and fanciful ways to solve common problems.

Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.

Feeling tired in the afternoon, put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.

Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.

Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.

Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!

Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!

Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explores for quick meals to thwart off starvation.

Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.

Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!

Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.

Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemcials will kill the bacteria In your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.

Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.

Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!

Cucumbers come in many sizes and shapes. There are Japanese, English, Armenian Yard Longs, Picklers, Salad, Lemon, Gherkins....on and on and on. I am currently growing several types here on the farm. Armenian Yard Long, Tiny Mexican Gherkins and a basic Salad type. Any type of cucumber will work great in the following recipes.

Japanese Cucumber Salad - Sunomono

a quick pickle!


2 large Cucumbers
1/3 cup of Japanese Rice or Heinz White Distilled Vinegar
4 Tablespoons of Sugar (or to your taste)
1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon of fresh Ginger root - sliced or minced

Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Slice them as thin as you can and place in a bowl. Add in all of the other ingredients and toss together to marinade. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

This salad goes great as a side dish for all kinds of meals, Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai. It is fresh and cooling to go with any kind of dish that has some heat or lots of spices. Here are some additional ideas to add to the salad:

Minced Hot Pepper or a little scoop of any of the Thai Curry Pastes
Sliced Scallions or Chives
Shrimp or Crab
Chopped Cilantro or Parsley

Middle Eastern Cold Cucumber Soup

6 Servings

1 Lb. Cucumbers, peeled, halved, seeded & diced
2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
4 oz or 3/4 cup crumbled Queso Fresco (local fresh cheese)
3/4 cup chopped Onion
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Mint leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh Oregano leaves
1 or 2 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon Salt
2 cups (1 big container) plain Greek Style Yogurt or strained regular Yogurt

Chopped fresh Chives or Scallion Greens
Toasted Nuts: Pine, Walnut or Almond

Puree cucumbers, broth, queso fresco, onion, mint, cilantro, oregano, garlic, and salt in blender or food processor until smooth. Pour soup into large bowl; whisk in yogurt. Refrigerate until cold. The soup can be made 1 day ahead.

To Serve, pour cold soup into bowls and garnish with chives and nuts.

You could take out 1 cup of yogurt and replace it with ripe Avocado!
You could use local goat or imported feta cheese instead of queso freso. or just leave it for an aven smoother texture.

Other possible garnishes:
Toasted ground Cumin and Coriander
Diced tomato and more cucumber
More crumbled cheese
A drizzle of good tasty Olive Oil

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