Cucumbers are one of those special foods that have more uses than just culinary. A quick search turns up things like removing crayon drawings on walls, firming up cellulite on skin, soothing dry, tired eyes, relieving sunburn and curing a hangover. I have no idea about the validity of many of these claims, but I do know that a summer without cold cucumbers is like a winter without hot soup!
For cooking cool this summer, think beyond the salad. Cucumber’s flesh is crunchy, the seeds are edible and the uses are numerous. Adding cucumbers to soups, main dishes, beverages and smoothies will provide whole new slew of cucumber-cooling, culinary creations.
Here’s a good start:
- Peel and puree cucumbers with favorite salad dressing. This Yogurt-Cucumber Dressing is wonderful with baby spinach and a variety of lettuce.
- Serve Creamy Cucumber Side with salmon or lamb.
- Add to smoothies or fresh morning juice. Delicious with ginger and a squeeze of lime.
- Make Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup or Cucumber Mint Soup.
- Add to salsa or make this Peach and Cucumber Salsa.
- Add them to chopped vegetable salads. Here’s a refreshing Jicama Salad with Cucumber and Lime.
- Chop and garnish hot or cold soups, grain or legume dishes, and grilled meats.
- Make a wrap with sliced meats, cheeses, hummus or simply veggies. Try this Turkey and Cucumber Wrap with Ranch Dressing.
- Entertain your guests outside with Pineapple Cucumber Gazpacho.
- Nix the summer sweat with Cherry-Cucumber Coolers.
- Add to dips and spreads. Here’s a healthy recipe for Creamy Cucumber Dip.
- Make cucumber “sticks” for dipping into hummus or other favorite dips.
- Chop and toss with yogurt, lemon juice and spices such as cumin, coriander and sea salt. Or make this recipe for Spicy Lamb Burgers with Cucumber Raita.
- Slice and layer on a hamburger, turkey burger, tofu burger or a Portobello mushroom burger. Try our recipe for Turkey Burgers with Cucumber-Pineapple Relish.
- Cucumber Sandwiches with Strawberries and Watercress are perfect for picnics and outdoor munching.
- Try Shrimp and Cucumber Stuffed Avocados for an outdoor luncheon with friends.
- Have a summer party featuring Seafood Cucumber Stacks with Lemon Cream and Chives or Creamy Cucumber Chive Cups.
- Take 2 slices of cold cucumber. Lay down. Close your eyes and lay one cucumber slice over each tired, sore, dry eye. Relax!
Slicers, or salad cucumbers, are the most common type. Pickling varieties are smaller and squatter than their slicing cousins, with thicker, bumpier skins and are usually harder to find. Greenhouse cucumbers, also known as English or "burpless" cucumbers, are seedless and milder in flavor than field-grown varieties, and can be substituted for slicers in any recipe. Although slicing cucumbers are available year-round, all varieties are at their peak in summer.
Got a favorite recipe that keeps you cool as a cucumber? Let me know.