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Marissa Lingen

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Produce trio: cucumbers [Aug. 5th, 2013|07:36 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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For ages now I’ve toyed with doing a particular food blog project, and then I always end up thinking that it would be a lot of work. But every time I mention it, it seems like I have another friend who indicates it is relevant to their interests, and now I’m thinking it’s only as much work as I let it be depending on how often I do the posts, so here we go.


The idea is: pick a kind of produce, and I will tell you at least three good ways to eat it. They might include actual recipes, or else just things people do. There will be a lot of “to taste” and “as you like.” They might be things I made up from scratch myself, or they might be things I found elsewhere and will link. But there will be at least three tasty things to do with [insert produce here] every time I do one of these entries. Please feel free to suggest produce items in the comments! But keep in mind that I won’t always get to the suggestions right away.


A few weeks ago I went to the farmer’s market and bought a flat of cucumbers. I came home with them, tra la yay cucumbers, and then Mark went out to harvest his garden and brought in three large cucumbers. The next day he went out again and brought in four large cucumbers. Happily for the south suburbs and their gourd-related fate, this trend did not continue. But still it was plenty of cucumbers. We put them in ordinary salads, and sometimes I even peel and seed them and put them in spaghetti sauce. We like cucumbers. But still, there needs to be an end to it.


(Please note that the major down side to cucumbers in spaghetti sauce is that leftovers will not keep as long or as well.)


1. Not Really Pickles Salad. Peel cucumber if you don’t like cucumber peel in your salads. Slice. Chop fresh dill or shake dried dill over cucumbers. Dribble rice vinegar on enough that some of the dill washes off the top layer and onto the bottom layer. If you have a sweet tooth, you can add a little sugar here, but we don’t.


2. Tzadziki. Peel cucumber and cut seeds from the center. If you have a food processor, stick large chunks of cucumber in it with mint leaves and/or dill (we like both at once, mileage varies), a couple grinds of fresh pepper, a squeeze of lemon, a garlic clove or two, and as much Greek yogurt as you like. (The question is whether you want it to be a thin sauce or a combination salad/condiment. Your call.) Whirr in food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, dice the cucumber, chop the herbs, and accept that you should really go with the salad/condiment style or it’ll take you forever to chop the cucumber fine enough. Mix together. Use on lamb meatballs, gyros, salmon, whatever you like. Or eat straight.


3. Strawberry mango cucumber salad. Chop strawberries, mangoes, and cucumber into bite-sized pieces (peel cucumber first if you like it that way). Chiffonade some basil and toss that with the other elements. Dress with walnut oil and lemon juice, or possibly avocado oil and lime juice, or…yeah. Possibilities here. You can also do this with mint leaves instead of basil. You can also skip the chiffonade step and put the fruit and cucumber on top of whole leaves of basil or spinach. The world is your oyster.


Okay, so cucumber feels a bit like cheating, because we eat a lot of it and none of these are real recipes. But I’m planning to do more of these, including ones that will take research. Produce! We like produce! Oh, one more thing: while I said I would take suggestions, don’t bother suggesting celery or celeriac. I can’t tell you any good ways to make them because they are inherently ungood, even though celeriac looks like the baobab planet and makes me want to love it and also makes me wander around the house muttering under my breath about dessinez-moi un mouton. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried.




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Comments:
[User Picture]From: desperance
2013-08-06 01:13 am (UTC)
As m'friend Roger always says, those who say they don't like Bob Dylan are doomed to spend the rest of their lives listening to Bob Dylan, as their friends all fall over themselves crying "Oh, but you've got to like this one! Wait, and this, d'you see how different this is, and yet still essentially..." etc.

I was cheerfully agreeing with everything you said, and remembering the days when I fed veggie students on a stir-fry that had significant elements of cucumber in it, and so forth - and then I stumbled over yr last paragraph and was suddenly all "Oh, but have you tried celeriac in a soup? Or in a potato mash? Or in a slaw, it makes a fabulous addition to a slaw..." and so forth. But I speak as one who used to loathe celery and all its works, and learned to like it late in life, and so have that evangelical convert mentality, at least a little. (Also, you are not alone; Val McDermid still hates celery. One has to furnish her with bloody marys sans the dreaded thing.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-06 01:25 am (UTC)
Hee. Yes. And the thing is, I do try celery and celeriac every few years. I try everything I don't like every few years, because there was this glorious period of my early 20s when I started liking things I had previously not liked, and so it seems worth it to try.

But. I just can't.
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[User Picture]From: wshaffer
2013-08-06 01:28 am (UTC)
What a neat idea!

When I make tzatziki, I grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater, and then I gather it up in a big double-handful and squeeze as much of the water out of it as I can. In theory, this keeps the water from the cucumbers from diluting the yogurt as much, although it's probably more fussy than is absolutely necessary. But it's kind of fun to squish a big double handful of cucumber.

I'll have to try the food processor method and see how it compares.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-06 01:37 am (UTC)
I have an unreasoning dislike of box graters. I know they are no big deal to use, I just...I don't like 'em. They are the number one reason I have never tried to replicate the vegan carrot cake from the New Riverside Cafe, may it rest in peace.
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[User Picture]From: rushthatspeaks
2013-08-06 07:44 am (UTC)
I love tzatziki, but I wish I could figure out how to make it without having to make soup. It is entirely my own fault, is the thing. Because I learned that after chopping/grating/slicing the cucumber I could salt and squeeze it, and then fifteen generations of my ancestors, as portrayed by Ibsen, leaned over me ominously and said 'what, you're just going to throw all that nicely seasoned water laden with nutrients down the drain? That is a component of a vegetarian stock if we have ever seen one!' Only it doesn't really keep, so I wind up having to make soup within the next couple of days, or else feel annoyed about my use percentages again, which is a quick way to madness.

In other news, the salted water one squeezes out of cucumbers goes well in soup, assuming the other things in the soup have been salted by a human being personally and not by a large corporation who put terrible sodium percentages in everything. Saute a few carrots and shallots or onions and garlic in a little olive oil at the bottom of the soup pot, and then whatever else one is souping, and then drown in a little white wine and the cucumber water: I consider that stock without having to pre-make it. Have never actually put the cucumber in the soup, but I could see that as a plan, maybe, in summer, if there were tomatoes involved and the eventual product is meant to be served cold.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-06 12:08 pm (UTC)
The things you have to make on the way to the thing you wanted to make because there's perfectly good food left can be kind of a lot of work. Both my strawberry cake and my hazelnut cake involve doing something with leftover egg yolks (usually scrambling them for the dog, but still), and the strawberry cake involves leftover strawberry puree going into things also, since guessing how many strawberries will make exactly a cup and a half of puree is not one of my talents.

Also, fifteen generations of my ancestors as portrayed by Ibsen is a problem for me also. (But better than when I get them portrayed by Munch.)
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[User Picture]From: sam_t
2013-08-06 12:55 pm (UTC)
Oh! I would not have thought of the fruit salad-y thing, even though I have already come across strawberry-cucumber-mint in Pimm's. Hmmm...
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2013-08-06 01:29 pm (UTC)
MMM, I've never been able to make Tzadziki as good as I get in the local Middle Eastern restaurant but this recipe looks good. We've had some kind of cucumber blight this year, cucumbers get planted and the plants turn to mush.

Thanks for this. I like produce too, and if I could find more creative ways to prepare it maybe I'd eat more of it.

Green beans?
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-06 03:12 pm (UTC)
I am so sad about your cucumber blight. That would be just awful.

I have put green beans on the list. I'm going to do a post before too long about how I was defeated by wax beans, but green beans are more robust in flavor.
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[User Picture]From: thanate
2013-08-06 01:31 pm (UTC)
Huh-- I am fond of celery as a thing that goes in things (soup, stir fry, stew, anything for which I also chop up carrots...) Possibly this is because I don't consider onions to be food, and so celery has stepped in as the substitute.

Ok, suggestions-- have you things to do with red currants? (or gooseberries, or elderberries?) I got a thing of them at the farmers' market and then we discovered that our ideal serving size was about two, so only half of them got eaten before they all died. It was very sad.

Other things I would be interested to read about should you feel inspired include swiss chard, and summer squash of the not-cucumber varieties.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-06 03:14 pm (UTC)
I don't like onions, either, so I'm not sure that's it.

I have added the others to the list. I know that a friend of mine has a currant recipe she says tastes amazing but looks like the least appetizing thing ever, but eating with your eyes closed is an option, so if/when I get to currants, I'll ask her.
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[User Picture]From: lynnal
2013-08-06 04:18 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, please post many recipes for veggies! I have a CSA membership and veggies to eat but very limited ideas on how to cook them. My mother only cooked canned veggies when I was a kid. When I was in high school we upgraded to frozen veggies. Heat and add butter is the only method she used. My cooking skills are fine by my repertoire needs help.

I like the cucumber salad (#1). I am looking forward to trying #3. I have cucumbers, basil and mint in the fridge. I bet I can get strawberries and mangos to go with it.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-06 04:25 pm (UTC)
I am so glad this is useful to you. I hear a lot of people saying that about their CSA, or expressing that they are daunted by the prospect of what to do with x or y veggie (or fruit), so that's what I'm hoping to help with.
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[User Picture]From: miz_hatbox
2013-08-06 04:41 pm (UTC)
I tried braising cucumbers in butter. It was good enough that I did it more than once. The only problem is that Mirth can't eat cukes and La Jeune Hatbox won't eat them, so I had to eat them all. Which in itself wasn't a bad thing, but if I'm making something just for me in cucumber season, I'll make horiatiki instead. Mmmm, horiatiki....


I see that someone else asked about Swiss chard, and I'll second the question. LJH decided the only salad green she likes is baby chard, so I planted lots of chard plants, but they turned out to be the wrong kind of chard (too tough!) for eating raw.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2013-08-07 01:24 am (UTC)
Do I need a recipe for this, or is it just "slice cucumber, melt butter, braise"?
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From: sheff_dogs
2013-08-06 07:28 pm (UTC)
I like stir-fried cucumber with black bean sauce or with hot spices. And it's good popped into a dhal for the last ten minutes of cooking before you putthe tarka in.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2013-08-07 06:49 pm (UTC)
I wanted to tell you that my co-worker was so enamored of the recipe for the strawberry mango cucumber salad, she went home and tried it out on her family. She made two additions - some chopped walnuts and chicken. It looked delicious. I'm not a mango fan, but I think peaches might be a substitution.

Edited at 2013-08-07 08:14 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-07 09:31 pm (UTC)
I am so glad to hear it! The proteins make it pretty much a meal salad instead of a side salad. Sounds great.

Also, yes, peaches and mangoes are often substitutable, considering how structurally different they are. Weird but true.
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[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2013-08-08 02:09 am (UTC)
That cucumber salad sounds delicious, and we have CSA cucumber that should be used up soon.

Beets, please? I have CSA beets, and I can eat some of them roasted in goat cheese, but I haven't yet found anything that the rest of the household likes.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-08 02:22 am (UTC)
I like roasted in goat cheese too! With walnuts even. But I will think further about beets.
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[User Picture]From: rmnilsson
2013-08-08 02:36 pm (UTC)
I love cucumbers in sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. Then a little beef teriyake and sticky rice to go with them. But really, it's all about the cucumbers.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2013-08-09 01:30 am (UTC)
Inspired by this, I have now made tzatziki for the first time. I diced the cukes small enough that it's in the condiment/sauce direction rather than the cucumber salad direction, so now I need to decide what to put under or next to it.
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[User Picture]From: cloudscudding
2013-08-11 10:11 pm (UTC)
As far as cucumbers go, I am very fond of Midsummer Green Bean Salad (also good for zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and, well, green beans): http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com/1073355.html

Quantities of vegetables called for are more of a guideline.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-12 12:06 am (UTC)
Good, so I can opt for "quantity of zucchini and onions = zero" and go forward with it!
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[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2013-08-12 03:50 am (UTC)
Just tried the cucumber salad tonight--delicious, and thank you for the suggestion! We added a little bit of lime juice and some salt.
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