I don't know about you, but we've got a bumper crop of cucumbers. Fortunately we all like them. And fortunately we have two tried-and-true recipes to trot out when we feel like showing off. Actually – I can't lay claim to either of these. Bill's the one who found them and who usually makes them.
The first is from a The Book of Curries & Indian Foods published by HP Books. Bill had picked up a copy before we met, when he was getting into cooking all kinds of Asian cuisines.
Here's the recipe:
"Cucumber and Chiles"
8 ounces cucumber
salt to taste
2 green chiles, seeded, finely sliced
1 small fresh red chile, seeded, finely chopped
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon superfine sugar.
(my notes: today we had neither variety of chile pepper – Bill picked a green cayenne from the garden and we used a dried thai bird chile for the red. Also, I just used regular old granulated sugar. May take a tiny bit longer to dissolve, but not THAT much longer than the superfine.)
Here's what you do:
1. Very thinly slice cucumber. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Drain 30 minutes, then rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels and arrange on a serving plate.
2. Sprinkle chiles over cucumber. Put vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle over cucumber, then cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. Serve cold.
Simple, huh? We leave the peppers off for the kids – they're okay with some spice, but not this much.
And here's what it looks like:
Next up we have "Chilled Cucumber Soup," from my falling-apart copy of The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Mine was published in 1980. A Christmas gift from my Mom one year. She wrote, on the inside cover: "Christmas 1987 For Jayne – I hope this book brings you as much pleasure as I think it will. I hope, too, that in years to come favorite pages will have as many drips on them as mine do. With love, Mom"
Well, the book has been so well-used that the entire picture section falls out. The spine is broken in numerous places, and there are lots and lots of drips on the pages. Thanks, Mom. You thought right.
Anyway – Bill found this recipe a year or two ago, when, again, we had a surplus of cucumbers and he was looking for something different to do with them. It's kind of like a vichyssoise. Here goes:
"Chilled Cucumber Soup"
1/4 cup butter or margarine
4 cups chopped, peeled cucumbers
1 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
cucumber slices for garnish
1. In 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, in butter, cook cucumbers and onions. Blend flour well into the pan juices.
2. Gradually add broth, stirring; cook until mixture thickens and begins to boil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cover; simmer over low heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate until chilled.
4. In covered blender container at medium speed, blend some of the mixture until smooth.
5. Strain blended mixture through sieve into bowl; discard seeds. Repeat with rest of mixture.
6. Stir in half-and-half. Pour into chilled individual bowls; garnish with cucumber slices.
(my notes: instead of running this through a food processer or blender in batches, Bill used an immersion blender, which got the whole batch done in one shot. He also used a pot instead of a skillet – something you might want to plan on doing if you're going to use the immersion blender. Less splatter.)
(Speaking of splatter and soup…memory from my childhood…we used to have the washer and dryer in the kitchen, and we'd sit on them while my mother made dinner. One day she had made pea soup, and she was running it in batches through the food processer because immersion blenders hadn't been invented yet, or if they had, we didn't have one…and all of a sudden, the lid of the food processer flew off and pea soup shot straight up into the air like a geyser. It was all over the ceiling, cupboards, washer, dryer, counter, and us. (I'd been sitting on the dryer next to the counter where the food processer was.) Apparently a bone from the ham hock had broken off in the pot, and she hadn't seen it. The bone jammed the blade that somehow forced the green soup up and out. It's a very fond memory – still makes us laugh to this day.)
Anyway – back to the soup…oh – one other fancy-schmancy suggestion – instead of blending the half-n-half in BEFORE you serve the soup…ladle the soup into your chilled bowls, and then drizzle some of the cream onto the soup and swirl it with a knife or spoon. Then garnish with the cucumers. Ooooh. Aaaah. Very pretty. Like a cold, green cappucino. Sort of.
And here's the result:
The cucumbers used for garnish in that photo were actually from a batch of the cucumber and chile recipe above.
The soup is creamy and comforting – even without the cream – and it's particularly yummy, we discovered, when you have some warm rosemary and garlic focaccia handy to dunk in the soup. Gluttony doesn't begin to describe our behavior in this situation…
Anyway, I hope one or both of these recipes comes in handy if you've got a surplus of cucumbers this year. Enjoy!