Cucumbers are a summer crop known for their light, refreshing qualities. They are after all 95% water, which helps keep us hydrated in the summer heat. They also contain some vitamin A and C, and a good amount of vitamin E, as well as some minerals. Perhaps because of the vitamin E content, cucumbers are also used as skin conditioners.
While cucumbers store best at 45-50°F, refrigeration is necessary to keep moisture in. Cucumbers can be stored in the hydrator drawer of the fridge for up to a week. Once cut or peeled, cucumbers deteriorate quickly, so use leftovers as soon as possible.
Cucumbers do not need to be peeled, but do wash to remove any dirt. Dice or slice and add into green salads or chilled vinaigrette salads, or add to a sandwich. Alternatively, for an easy snack, eat cucumber by itself – either whole or in slices. Make a chilled cucumber soup by blending cucumber slices, plain yogurt, and a pinch of mint, basil, salt and pepper.
Simple and oh so refreshing!
1 medium cucumber
2 quarts water
Slice cucumber into thin slices. Combine cucumber and water in a pitcher; let steep for an hour. Serve over ice. (Variations: add lemon, mint, &/or ginger.)
Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad
2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced into rounds
4 large tomatoes, sliced into rounds
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon slivered fresh basil strips
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Arrange cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in a serving dish. Combine oil, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl, and pour over the vegetable dish. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and allow to marinate for 1-4 hours. Top with herbs immediately before serving. (Tip: Save any leftover marinade for a salad dressing.)
(Recipe by MACSAC, in From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce (Third Edition).)
Refrigerator Pickles (Classic Chilly Dillies)
5 medium cucumbers
1 Tablespoon pickling salt, sea salt, or kosher salt
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 head dill or small bunch dill leaves
1 clove garlic (optional)
3 black peppercorns (optional)
Cut cucumbers into spears or slices, as desired. (Optional: To increase crunchiness, sprinkle cut cucumbers with a couple tablespoons of salt and let sit for 2 hours; then rinse and drain.) Place dill in a quart jar, peel and crush the garlic clove (if using), and drop add to jar along with peppercorns (if using). Add in the cut cucumber. Mix salt, vinegar, and water in a separate container, and stir until the salt is dissolved; pour over the cucumbers and fill to the top of the jar. Screw on lid and refrigerate jar. (Original recipe from Rodale News.)