Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cucumbers and More Cucumbers

This post is in honor of Ellie, who asked the question.

Chances are if you've got a bunch of zucchini right've got a bunch of cucumbers piling up next to them!  They seem to go from almost ready to pick one day to gargantuan over night.

We do a few things with cucumbers here on the Little Farm.  If we get them at that stage where the flesh to seeds ratio is just right, we gobble them up raw!  We eat them for snacks and along side meals.  We dip them in ranch (OK, the Young'uns do this) or use them to scoop up hummus.  We slice them to use on sandwiches or tuck them into pita (homemade...I'll post the recipe soon.  It's really fun!) along with the hummus.

If the cucumbers are a little past perfect - meaning their seedy parts have gotten a tad out of control. After all it's really not very enjoyable to bite into a cucumber with big slimy seeds inside. We still use them in lots of the ways mentioned above but we cut out the seeds. 

This is done one of two ways.  The first is to slice the cucumber in half the long way and run a spoon down the middle of each side scooping out the seeds.  It's safest to do this in a bowl with somewhat high sides as sometimes the seeds have a mind of their own.  The second way I get rid of the seeds is to cut the cucumber in fourths the long way.  Then I stand each quarter on end and cut the seedy part off with a paring knife.  You don't get pretty round slices doing this, but the cucumbers still taste great.

Cucumbers without seeds are also great to use in salads!  I usually use the quartered cucs for salad.   We've made several salads with some combination of cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, red onion, a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  However, our favorite cucumber salad around here is made with rice wine vinegar.

Cucumber Salad
serves 2-4

1-2 large cucumbers, peeled, quartered lengthwise, (seeds cut out if they're big) then sliced crosswise

1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, basil, or Thai basil
2-3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss to coat. Serve immediately, or make ahead (up to a couple of hours) and chill.  We like it best chilled and made with dill.  It's wonderful the first day, but not so great as leftovers which usually isn't a problem as it gets eaten pretty quickly.  You have to use rice wine vinegar.  White vinegar or apple cider of balsamic won't work.

Here's a bonus lesson on cutting basil and other leafy things.  You've got to chiffonade the leaves.  Say that with me, "chiffonade."  It's pronounced like "shif - un - nadh."  It sounds fancy, but is very easy and makes cutting up things like spinach or basil or swiss chard much faster. 

I just learned this tonight - chiffonade comes from the French.  Chiffon refers to "rags" or rag-like strips, as in those strips you'd make into a rag rug.  You're family is going to be impressed with all this new knowledge so be sure to call them into the kitchen while you're cutting the basil.  I do! 

To chiffonade:  stack the leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, and cut thin slices from one side to the other.  At this point, you're done chiffonading your leaves.  However, if you want them in smaller pieces (say for the salad above) just chop the little strips you've made again going across the strips.  Viola!  Now you've got diced leaves!

I've actually never made pickles or relish from cucumbers.  I would think those would also be great options for cucumbers which have gotten a bit large once the seeds are taken out.  We just never seem to have many left after eating them fresh.

Happy Cooking!


  1. Can't wait to get a garden going at our new home. Your posts make my mouth water!

    We love thick cucumber slices with sea salt ground on them.

  2. Anj - you can grow cucumbers UP the side of a house or garage. Just put up a trellis or piece of wire fence or some string, plant the seeds at the bottom and you'll be all set. :)

    Your posts always make me want to sit on the couch and read. :)