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TIP OF THE DAY: 9 Ways To Use Cucumbers Beyond The Usual

Chicken Salad Cucumber Stacks
[1] Cucumber hummus stacks. For variety, there are many other fillers (photo courtesy Willow Tree Farm).

Parma Ham Appetizer
[2] Fancy or casual roulades: julienned cucumbers rolled in prosciutto. You can soak the cucumbers in gin! (Here’s the recipe from Parma Crown.)

Cucumber Dip
[3] Cucumbers, yogurt, garlic and dill are the ingredients of Greek tzatziki, but can also be served as a dip (photo courtesy Ausport | Australia).

Cucumber Soup
[4] Chilled cucumber soup is a summer refresher (here’s the recipe from Food & Wine, © Con Poulos).

Cucumber Ice Pops
Cucumber ice pops, here accented with green tea and mint (here’s the recipe from Cake Over Steak).

 

June 13th is National Cucumber Day. In the U.S., cucumbers are eaten raw as crudités, in green salads, as pickles, and as sushi rolls (kappa maki).

But what else can you do with them? Here are nine more ways to go.

While it is natural to buy the largest cucumbers to “get your money’s worth,” smaller cucumbers are more tender.

Should you peel them? It’s a question of how tough the peel is. Chew a slice with the peel on to decide. One of the things that we like to do is make vertical stripes with a vegetable peeler.
 
1. CUCUMBER APPETIZERS

Fancy cooks have long used cucumber slices as a base for hors d’oeuvre, instead of bread or crackers. Just add the topping.

With thicker slices, you can scoop out a well in the center to stuff crab salad, goat cheese, etc.

Or, make cucumber stacks: “sandwich” bites filled with chicken salad, hummus, olive cream cheese or whatever you like.

Here are two recipes to start you off:

  • Stuffed Cucumber Bites
  • Cucumber-Prosciutto Roulades
  •  
    2. CUCUMBER DRINKS

    Use cucumbers in cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Serve cucumber water often!

    The details and recipes are here.
     
    3. CUCUMBER ICE

    Make cucumber sorbet or ice pops. There are many recipes for both, accenting with coconut water, lemon, lime, matcha tea or mint.

    Here’s a recipe to start you off (photo #5).
     
    4. CUCUMBER PICKLES WITH GLOBAL FLAVORS

    You don’t need to put them up in Mason jars: Recipes for quick pickles abound.

    By changing spices and vinegars, you can create delightful “signature pickles.”

    Look at your spice shelf, pass by the conventional pickling spices and go for it. Cayenne? Cumin? Curry?
     
    5. CUCUMBER SANDWICHES

    Cucumber sandwiches on buttered bread are a perennial feature of afternoon tea. Use good butter and bread, and they’re delicious.

    Use cucumber slices like iceberg lettuce, to add crunch to a sandwich.
     
    6. CUCUMBER SAUCES & DIPS

    Cucumber and yogurt are served as sides to grilled meats. The two most famous:

  • Raita, from India (recipe).
  • Tzatziki, from Greece (recipe).
  •  
    The major difference is the seasoning: garlic, cumin and cayenne for raita; garlic and dill for tzatziki.

    You can thin either of these for dips.
     
    7. CUCUMBER SIDES

    You can grill cucumbers, stuff and bake them, or dredge them in cornmeal and fry them. Serve those with lemon wedges and ketchup!
     
    8. CUCUMBER SOUP

    Chilled cucumber soup, like vichyssoise, has long been made in France with a base of cream.

    With the growth of yogurt fans in the 1980s, Americans have embraced soups with a yogurt base.

  • Use lots of garlic and dill, and garnish with chopped scallion.
  • There are many cucumber gazpacho recipes. This chunky cucumber gazpacho is topped with shrimp and cantaloupe or mango.
  •  
    Garnishes or mix-ins for cucumber soup include avocado, feta, fresh herbs, garlic, red onion or shallots, and tomato.
     
    9. MARINATED CUCUMBER SALADS

    Leave the salad greens behind, and create salads with cucumbers and vinegar.

    Israeli salad, a combination of cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and parsley, is one of our favorites (here’s a recipe)

    Asian cucumber salads are sweet-and-sour. Try this recipe for starters.

    Our own recipe for Greek-style cucumber salad: thinly-sliced tomatoes, marinated in wine vinegar; thinly-sliced red onion; halved cherry tomatoes; drizzled with olive oil and topped with kalamata olives and diced feta.

    We keep containers of it in the fridge all summer long. If you store it, hold the feta until you’re ready to serve.

    And those of you with spiralizers: Make cucumber “zoodle” salad.

     
     
    CUCUMBER HISTORY

    The cucumber originated in India and was cultivated more than 4000 years ago. Easy to cultivate, it spread to other parts of the Pacific.

    By the first century B.C.E., it was traded to ancient Greece, Rome, the Middle East, and to modern-day Bulgaria and Serbia.

    The march of the cucumber was global. It is the fourth most widely cultivated vegetable in the world [source].

    The Roman Emperor Tiberius (14 B.C.E. – 16 C.E.) ate cucumbers every day of the year. Special gardens were tended just for his vegetables. In the winter, the cucumbers were grown on bed frames or wheeled carts that were moved around to follow the sun, and brought indoors at night for warmth.

    (The first practical greenhouse was invented by the French botanist Charles Lucien Bonaparte during the 1800s, to grow medicinal tropical plants.)

    Because it is such a prolific grower (one vine grows many cukes), the vegetable was inexpensive and accessible to both the wealthy and peasants. In addition to eating, cucumbers were widely used as medicinal remedies.

    After the fall of Rome, cucumbers receded for a long period, resurfacing in France at the court of Charlemagne in the late 8th and 9th centuries.

  • They were brought to England in the 14th century but were not well received. Another attempt, in the mid-17th century finally took hold (and led to those cucumber sandwiches).
  • Christopher Columbus brought cucumbers to Haiti in 1494. They were grown by there by Spanish settlers and made their way across New World.
  • In the 16th century, European trappers in North America introduced cucumbers to Native Americans in the rGreat Plains and the Rocky Mountains.
  • During the 18th century, several medicinal journals reported (erroneously) that raw cucumbers represented serious health risks. Cucumber use plummeted, to be revived only in 19th century.
  •  
    In 2010, worldwide cucumber production was 57.5 million tons, with majority of the world’s production and export coming from China (40.7 million tons).

      




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