I’ve come late to this cucumber party.
I don’t just mean that I’m finishing up this post at nearly midnight. I mean that, for decades, I steadfastly refused to eat cucumbers. Their slippery innards kind of grossed me out. The seeds slid around my tongue when I took a bite — ugh. The outside is crisp, the inside is mush. I wanted nothing to do with them. Even when my best friend Sharon suggested we put together a high tea for ourselves and make cucumber sandwiches on soft white bread with the crusts cut off, I ate them just to amuse her. Really, I hated cucumbers.
Somehow, though, I’ve changed.
Several things shifted my perspective. Danny loves cucumbers. He adores the soft seeds inside, the way they cling to each other. He slices open the long green vegetables, takes a paring knife to the insides to loosen the line of seeds, and then scoops them out with his tongue. Wow. I trust his taste enough that I started trying them too.
The other is that I realized I spent most of my life eating old cucumbers. The ones in the grocery store any month other than June, July, and August are pretty awful. Try to slice one open and you’ll feel the cucumber bend under the knife. You have to hack at it to get one piece free. How does that taste on the tongue? Pillowy and crumpled into itself, like an old man without teeth.
Now, I just wait to eat cucumbers until they are fresh. Just out of the garden, they have crunch and coolness, a kind of collected zen energy that no other vegetable shares. Lu reaches across the table for the plate of cucumber spears when we have them out.
And of course, there are pickles.
I have to be honest. My attempt at growing cucumbers was a big old failure this year. The deer ate them all, it turns out, along with the lettuce, the arugula, the spinach, the strawberries, the red currants, and most of the herbs. However, the farm stand just down the street from us sells glossy green cucumbers in their refrigerated case. We like our farmers. We’re happy to give them money for what the deer took away from us.
Now that I’ve joined the ranks of cucumber lovers, I can’t get enough of them. Bring me crisp cucumbers on a plate and I will eat them up.
- Cooking Channel TV delves into zucchini’s versatility.
- The Food2 blog looks at zucchini appetizers.
- Food Network Dish is loving Paula Deen’s zucchini bread.
- Food Network’s HealthyEats talks cuke salad and lighter cuke/zuke ideas.
- Diane and Todd/ of White on Rice Couple are all over stuffed cucumbers with prosciutto and feta.
- Cate at Sweetnicks is obsessed with cucumber wraps.
- Paige Smith Orloff at The Sister Project hates zucchini excess (who blames her?).
- Kelly Senyei of Just a Taste says it’s nonstop cucumber and sesame salad.
- Gilded Fork is all about zukes and cukes, and Chef Mark Tafoya features cucumber mint soup.
- Caroline at The Wright Recipes has cucumber salad galore ready, with lemon and poppy seeds. Oh, and marinated summer squash salad, too.
- In San Diego, Caron is making cucumber and radish confetti soup.
- Tigress in a Pickle is all about putting things up, or as she says: 50 Ways With Cucurbits.
- Alana will feature cucumber mint sorbet on Eating From the Ground Up.
- Judy the Tuscan Diva (yes, all the way from Italy) has fried squash blossoms and more.
- Tara at Tea and Cookies went wild with stuffed zucchini, zucchini noodles and pickles.
- Nicole at PinchMySalt delivered a gorgeous grilled zucchini and an archive rich with other cuke-and-zuke ideas.
So now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting with our posts of Wednesday, July 28, for five Wednesdays, you can contribute in various ways, big or small.
Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:
Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. Yes, copy and paste them everywhere! That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.
Or think bigger: Publish entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites.com).
The 2010 Schedule:
- Wednesday, August 4: CORN.
- Wednesday, August 11: HERBS-BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (any one or both/all, your choice).
- Wednesday, August 18: STONE FRUIT.
- Wednesday, August 25: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?
- And then…more, more, more if you want it (potatoes? sweet potatoes? root veggies? winter squash?). You name it.
Chilled Cucumber Soup with Fresh Mint and Dill
The day I found out that we were all going to waxing poetic about cucumbers or zucchinis in Summer Fest, I read a little message from Eric Ripert on Twitter: “Blend cucumber+freh mint+dill+salt+pepper+yogurt=great chi soup.”
Okay, he was typing fast, and he writes in shorthand like Danny does, like all chefs do. I understand what he meant. He meant I should make this soup.
Late last night, while Jon Stewart was talking, Danny threw this together, adding a bit of his own flair, of course. Our friends Diane and Todd were sitting on our couch, working on matching laptops, while Danny threw the dill into the blender. “That smells good,” Todd said, looking up.
“That smells really good,” Diane said a few moments later, craning her neck to see what was going on. When it was done, I ran a full spoon over to them both and gave them a taste.
“Wow,” Todd said. “That’s amazing soup.”
And I so I poured most of the soup into a large glass jar and slid it into the refrigerator. And then I filled up the popsicle molds.
That’s right. I made cucumber soup popsicles. They’re utterly unexpected and fantastic. Imagine the hottest day of the year (that might be today for some of you). Now imagine sucking on a cool cucumber popsicle with sprigs of dill tickling your tongue. You don’t want to miss these.
p.s. Diane and Todd are marvelous teachers, kind-hearted people, and some of the best folks we know. We’ll tell you more about why they were here, soon. I just wanted to say that it was Diane’s insightful suggestions, and smart styling, that allowed me to take these photographs.
3 large cucumbers, peeled
1 tablespoon fine-chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon fine-chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
24 ounces plain full-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1/4 cup soda water
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Chop 2 of the cucumbers and throw them into the blender. Remove the seeds from the third cucumber. Throw the seeds into the blender, then fine dice and set aside the rest of the cucumber for garnishing later.
Put the rest of the ingredients into the blender and mix it all up. Season to taste.
Refrigerate the soup for at least 1 hour before eating, and preferably overnight. Top each bowl of soup with a handful of fine-diced fresh cucumber.
(And if you wish to make these into popsicles, simply pour some of the chilled soup into popsicle molds and let them freeze for at least 4 hours.)