18 July 2012

Summer Cucumbers

Well, it's the time of year that, no matter how sparse your garden looked a month or two ago, you find yourself SWAMPED with some produce or other and looking for creative new ways to use it.  A few weeks ago, I made a quart and pint of refrigerator pickles from this recipe.  I forgot to harvest and add dill the first time through.  But the fun of doing pickles like this is you just keep adding more stuff (new cucumber slices, extra seasoning, etc.) to the brine and just keep on eating!  I think the flavor improves with time.

With pickles in the fridge and lots of cucumbers still to use (and more growing in the garden!), I made a goal to eat some cucumber at every meal.  This primarily took the form of a sweet-n-tangy cucumber/onion/mayo salad, but when we got tired of that I had to move on (and yes, we had raita once or twice too!).

Last night I tried another take on the cucumber, one that Asian cuisine is probably more familiar with than my native Menno-Americo-Germanic food culture.  I had a few pretty old cukes still sitting in the fridge that had gotten partially frozen (from the top shelf of the fridge being a little too cold).  While they might not make great pickles and definitely wouldn't be good for fresh eating, I thought they might do okay in something cooked.  Enter stir-fry cucumbers.  

Before cooking anything, I peeled and sliced cucumber halves which I salted and let sit to drain.  After it had sat awhile, I wrung the slices in a towel to get as much moisture out as possible.  In the meantime,  I made a cheater's spinach kimchi (cheating because it didn't ferment at all and had no cabbage in it) and prepped the other ingredients I wanted for my cucumber saute.  

I started cooking the dish by pan-scrambling a few eggs which I removed from the pan to add back in later.  In the hot skillet, I quickly seared my red pepper and onion chunks with some smashed garlic in a little oil.  When they started looking tender, I added the cucumbers and a soy-ginger-rice vinegar-chili kinda sauce I'd mixed up.  I didn't want the cucumbers to get mushy, so I really did not cook it very long once I'd added them.  I pulled the skillet from the stove then added the scrambled eggs back in along with some fresh-chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.  We ate it over rice noodles with my spinach kimchi on the side.

Now.  The low-down.  While the flavor of the saute was good, the flavor of the cucumbers in it was not.  They were bitter, and I should have checked them out before cooking them.  On the other hand, there were so many other flavors happening, that it was still possible to enjoy the dish overall.  I think I would make it again with fresh, sweet cukes.  And I'm not sure I would use soy sauce again as it made the whole dish a rather unattractive brown.  Well, here's to experimentation!  

Got any stellar cucumber recipes to share?  We'll take 'em!