CSA #5, 6, and 7: Cucumbers!

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L to R: Slicing cucumbers, lettuces, kale, basil, zucchini, kohlrabi, tomatoes, Swiss chard, pickling cucumbers.

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L to R: Summer squashes, kale, kohlrabi, cabbages, lettuce, slicing and pickling cucumbers, Swiss chard, jalapenos, tomatoes.

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L to R: Slicing cucumbers, pickling cucumbers, kale, green peppers, Swiss chard, chives, basil, zucchini, eggplant.

One of those weeks, turnips were available, but they are one of the vegetables my family just couldn’t develop a taste for, so I left them for someone else.

Clearly if we let them, cucumbers will take over the world. So, in the interest of saving the world, here is how I am doing my part to do away with as many cucumbers as possible.

With the help of two books from America’s Test Kitchen, I am making pickles – lots of pickles.

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The small jar is a batch of Swedish Pickled Cucumbers, a quick pickle from The Science of Good Cooking. These come together in less than an hour, and are both salty and sweet, with a spicy kick from the whole allspice berries. I’m sure I can try this method for other vegetables (or fruits?!) I want to pickle quickly, as the brine liquid’s flavor is perfectly balanced.

The big jar is a batch of Sour Dill Pickles from the D.I.Y. Cookbook. These will take a little longer, about 2 weeks. When I break out the first one, I’ll let you know how they turned out, but I am confident they will be great. The thing that made me happiest about this recipe is that it makes a small batch. I have another recipe for crock dill pickles that relies on the lacto-fermentation process like this one does, but it’s meant for a much larger crock. I have been reluctant to try it, because in this type of pickling, the brine’s balance of salt and vinegar is crucial, and I’m not sure I can simply “do the math” to make the batch smaller, and still have the fermentation be successful.

Dispatching pickling cucumbers is not enough, however! The slicing cucumbers still have the numbers to execute their plan of world domination. What to do? Decimate them in the food processor and drown them in dressing…em, I mean make hummus and salad!

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I’m starting to believe you can put anything into a food processor with chickpeas, and make an amazing hummus. Cucumbers are no exception. This Cucumber Hummus is my own creation, but it’s pretty standard as hummus goes. Chickpeas, cucumber, garlic and parsley were ground to a paste in the food processor, and olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt, and pepper were added to render it smooth, light, and refreshingly clean-flavored. It benefited from a few hours in the refrigerator, allowing the flavors to mellow and blend.

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The two salads here are both from The Science of Good Cooking, and the preparation of the cucumbers is the same for both salads. They are peeled, seeded, and sliced, tossed with thinly sliced red onion and salt, and pressed down in a colander over a bowl to remove some of their moisture. Without this step, the salads would quickly become watery. Before dressing the salad, the cucumber/onion mixture is rinsed, drained, and patted dry. The two dressing recipes make a lot of dressing, and we prefer our salads lightly dressed, so my plan is to try these dressings on some other vegetables. I have a lot of cabbage and kohlrabi to think about, you know.

The dressing on the left is made with sour cream, dill, and cider vinegar. The dressing on the right is made with yogurt, mint, olive oil, and cumin. Both dressings are better if the salads are given some time to sit in the refrigerator.

Cucumber Hummus

2 C chickpeas (a 15 oz can is fine, cooking your own dry chickpeas and storing them in the freezer is tastier and less expensive)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, diced
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
a good handful of parsley leaves
2 T tahini
a squeeze of lemon juice from half a lemon
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Place chickpeas, cucumber, garlic, and parsley in bowl of food processor and blitz into a paste. Add tahini, lemon juice, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and process. If it seems too thick and chunky, add another good pour of olive oil and process again. Check the texture and flavor, and if it is to your liking, add salt and pepper and spin one more time. This is about as precise as I can get with this recipe, as there is a lot of variation possible depending on the chickpeas, cucumber, lemon and garlic you use. It’s okay, you can do this.

Cucumber Salads (The Science of Good Cooking, America’s Test Kitchen)

2 lbs. cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4 in. thick
1 small red onion, sliced very thinly
1 T salt

Toss together in a colander over a large bowl, place a gallon zipper bag full of water on top to press, and let sit for 1 to 3 hours. When ready to dress, rinse, drain, and pat the salad dry.

Creamy Dill Dressing

1 C sour cream
3 T cider vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 C minced fresh dill

Yogurt-Mint Dressing

1 C plain low-fat yogurt (I used fat-free plain Greek yogurt; it works too)
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 C minced fresh mint
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste (remember the cucumbers are salted, so go easy on the salt until you taste the salad)

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Dress the cucumber salad as you desire, toss to coat, and chill until serving. Check seasonings before serving.

Well, that was an epic blog post. Hopefully you’ve made it to the end, and have some ideas for the cucumber invasion of your house. I will post the pickling recipes in a separate post soon. Until then, do your part! Eat your cucumbers, and I’ll see you on down the Road.

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