For many gardeners, zucchini can be the bane of one's summer existence. It's prolific production and occasional creation of torpedo-sized squashes (my fault for not capturing all of them when they are smaller)can be overwhelming and even stretch the capacity and generosity of friends who are asked over and over to take them. However, my garden burden is not zucchini, it is cucumbers.
My garden's abundance of cucumbers is actually a pretty neurotic problem. It is completely self-induced. I consciously think about, buy the seeds for, and grow about six cucumber plants each year (three each of two varieties). No one forces me to do it. I do it out of fear. Cucumbers are one of the crops that, in my garden, can easily get some sort of wilt. In fact, every summer, they inevitably do. ...but not until I have harvested pounds and pounds of the stuff. (See below for a picture of cucumber wilt.) My fear of not having enough before the wilt sets in drives this crazy practice of over planting. Next year, I promise myself, I will only grow one....or two....probably.
So... what this boils down to is once again searching far and wide for new and different recipes that call for lots of cucumbers. (I have made so many pickles in years past that I still have dozens of jars full....so that route is closed for now.) However, I am happy to report that I have found two really, really good cucumber salad recipes that I recently made for members of my extended family while we were on vacation together. They are different than the standard fare of tzadzikis and Greek salads. I found them on a food blog I like called Food52.
Crunchy, Creamy Cucumber Salad serves 4
- 2 large cucumbers
- 2 ripe avocados
- 1/2 cup chopped mint
- Juice and zest of 1/2 lime
- 4 ounces feta cheese, diced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Pepper to taste (or lemon pepper)
2. While cucumbers are draining, dice the avocados into 1/2-inch pieces and put into a salad bowl. Drizzle with lime juice and toss gently.
3. Wash and coarsely chop the mint. Chop the lime zest.
4. In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lime juice and lime zest to make dressing.
5. Add drained cucumbers, mint, feta cheese and dressing to the avocados and gently combine. Add pepper (or lemon pepper) to taste. Cover and let stand in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Sesame Peanut Cucumber Salad serves 2-3
- 1 large cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 large or a few small radishes, cut into matchsticks
- 1 fresh hot red chile pepper, diced (Remove the seeds for a milder salad.)
- 1 clove garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
- 1 lime, zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons salted and roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
- Fresh Thai basil, mint, or cilantro or a combination of them, chopped. (I recommen
- Place the cucumber slices, radishes, and chile pepper in a large bowl, toss to mix.
- In a small bowl whisk together the garlic, ginger, lime zest and juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, sesame oil, and honey. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the cucumbers and toss until thoroughly mixed. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to deepen.
- Before serving add the sesame seeds, peanuts, and herbs and toss again.
Just a word about Fish Sauce. I have written about this before, but it is worth repeating: the best fish sauce (according to my cooking teacher at the Elephant Walk restaurant in Boston), is Three Crabs.