Food Friday: Cukes!


This is a previously published Food Friday, as I am on vacation, avoiding the kitchen like crazy! Enjoy!

Cucumbers! Cool as a cucumber! Did you know that the inside of a cucumber can be 20 degrees cooler than the surrounding air? Usually we like to think of cool as being hip, self-assured, calm and collected. With the temperatures this weekend I think I will stick with the relief found in cool cukes.

I am a lazy git, and my Gentle Readers know I do everything in my powers to avoid the heat of the kitchen in the summer. I sidle in for refreshing items I can filch from the fridge. Ice cream. Cool berries. Watermelon. Leftovers. Salads. Popsicles. Cheap white wine.

I love a good cucumber salad. It is my default dinner salad. I buy a seedless English cucumber, peel it, slice it on a mandolin where I delight in the risk of danger to my drawing fingers from the nearness of the super sharp blade. Then I add some less thin slices of Vidalia onion, and pour on some salad dressing, or oil and vinegar, and add a pinch of Maldon salt. If I am trying to impress you, I will add a cloud of fresh dill. Voila! And then I whisk it to the table. Fast. Maybe with some sun-warmed bread and good butter. Deelish.

This is a last minute salad – not one you can prepare in the morning and wander away from for your day of honest toil. It does not greet you when you stagger home and into the kitchen, overcome by the summer heat, seeking cool sustenance. Those thin, crisp cuke slices get all rubbery and flaccid unless you have steeped them in a brisk and crisp vinegary marinade.

Here is a way around the quaggy salad – smash the cukes! The salad dressing is absorbed into the cracks and crevices created by smashing the cukes, bathing every inch of cucumber with a piquant garlicky flavor. What a concept! There is probably a chemistry lesson here, but you can trust me, this is the way to go. Plus it is all the rage in New York City this summer, and since we can’t get tickets to Hamilton, at least we can ride the crest of the latest cucumber fashion.

English cucumbers, or Kirby cucumbers, are preferred. They have thin skins and tiny seeds. But if you get nice farm-fresh, unwaxed cukes, you won’t be dealing with stale, stodgy cukes with pumpkin-seed-sized seeds. Buy local!

Here is the New York Times’ take on cucumber smack downs.

Get out your aggressions and smash the cukes with your fists:

Here is a more civilized and controlled approach:

This is a more substantial cucumber salad, and it could be a nice, light summer meal:

And imagine how great your basic panzanella recipe will be if you smash the cukes? Amazing!

If you are following a Paleo diet, try the smacked cuke treatment here:

Martha doesn’t like it if you change a single blessed thing about her recipes, but I have smashed up the cukes, and substituted chicken for the pork in this salad. Mr. Friday grills a boneless chicken breast (which we split) and then we get to revel in cucumbers and watermelons. This is a perfect summer meal if ever I supervised one!

“Who coined these words that strike me numb? . . .
The cuke, the glad, the lope, the mum.”
Ogden Nash

About Jean Sanders

Letters to Editor

  1. Lee walker says:

    I would love to see the NYT lime,yoghurt etc. cucumber salad, but it won’t let me in without registering….lee

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