Lots of Things to Do with Cucumbers

Carrot-Cucumber Acar with Fried Garlic
Tomato-Cucumber Relish with Lemon and Seeds
Frisee with Apple, Cucumber and Walnuts
Cucumber, Garlic and Yogurt Sauce
North African Cucumber-Tomato Salad
Cucumber-Mustard Dill Sauce

Spicy Frozen Cucumbers
Quick Dill Pickles

The first two recipes are from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys & Chowchows, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby. Acar, they explain, is the name for various Indonesian mixtures of vegetables, vinegar and spices, which serve as condiments, pickles or salads. In this recipe, take care not to let the garlic burn or it will turn bitter. The authors say this tomato-cucumber relish is modeled after koshimbirs, the relishes of India’s Maharashtra state.


Armenian, Southeast Asian and other cucumber varieties from the farmers market in Chico, Calif., June 28, 2007

Carrot-Cucumber Acar with Fried Garlic [top]

¼ cup virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 tsp each ground coriander, ground cumin, ground white pepper, ground nutmeg, and curry powder
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup small-diced carrots
2 smallish unpeeled cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, then in thin disks
1 red bell pepper, very thinly sliced
salt to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Saute the garlic in olive oil over medium heat, stirring frequently for 6 to 7 minutes, until garlic turns light brown. Add the ginger and spices and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring to prevent burning.

Add vinegar and sugar and cook 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots, cucumber, and bell pepper slices, remove from the heat, and stir well.

Season with salt to taste, then add the cilantro. Allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate.

This acar will keep, covered and refrigerated, 4 to 5 days.
Source: Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys & Chowchows

Tomato-Cucumber Relish with Lemon and Seeds

1 baseball-sized tomato, diced small
1 unpeeled cucumber, seeds in, diced small
1 small red onion, diced small
1 tsp minced red or green chile pepper of your choice
¾ cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 T sugar
1 tsp each crushed cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds, black mustard seeds
(you may substitute yellow mustard seeds)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well.

This relish will keep, covered and refrigerated, about 4 days.

Source: Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys & Chowchows

This recipe, from Schlesinger and Willoughby’s Lettuce in Your Kitchen, is their take on the classic Middle Eastern-style combination of yogurt, cucumbers and mint. (See below for North African variations on this dish.) True to form, Schlesinger and Willoughby add some surprising twists with the honey, apples, pomegranate seeds, and the salad green frisee. While that lacy-leafed chicory is the green of first choice for this recipe, Schlesinger and Willoughby say that watercress, escarole or curly endive will do fine, if you can’t find frisee.

Frisee with Apple, Cucumber and Walnuts [top]

For the dressing:
¼ cup plain yogurt
½ cup olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice (about ½ large lemon)
2 T honey
1 T ground coriander
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

For the salad:
1 head frisee, trimmed, washed, and dried
1 cucumber, peeled if you want, diced large
1 Granny Smith or other tart apple, cored and diced large
¼ cup dark raisins
½ cup walnut pieces, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat, shaking, until they
just begin to sizzle, about 5 minutes
½ cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and olive oil. Add all remaining dressing ingredients and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, combine the frisee, cucumber, apple, and raisins. Stir the dressing well, add just enough to moisten the ingredients (you will have some dressing left over), and toss to coat.

Place on a serving platter or individual plates, sprinkle with the walnuts and the pomegranate seeds if you have them, and serve.

Source: Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys & Chowchows

This is Paula Wolfert’s Eastern Mediterranean version of the classic Middle Eastern-Central Asian salad-like sauce featuring diced cucumbers and mint in yogurt, which goes by a variety of names. In Persian fashion, I like to add raisins or dried currants and chopped walnuts to the mixture detailed below.

Cucumber, Garlic and Yogurt Sauce [top]

1 long English cucumber, peeled
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with a pinch of salt
sea salt
3 tsp dried mint, crumbled and pressed through a fine sieve
1 tsp olive oil
Sprigs of fresh mint for garnish

Finely dice the cucumber. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Add the cucumber and the dried mint, and blend well.

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and sprigs of fresh mint.

Source: The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, by Paula Wolfert

This is an ubiquitous salad in North Africa, writes Morocco-born cookbook author Kitty Morse. Each nation in the region adds its own accent to the dish. Algerians toss in chopped mint while Moroccans might add some chopped preserved lemon rind while Tunisians use Tabil, a spice mix made from ¼ cup ground coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon ground caraway, 1-½ tablespoons garlic powder and 1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder. In my favorite of Morse’s cookbooks, Cooking at the Kasbah, she offers a simpler version of this salad, holding the radishes and bell pepper and using just cucumber, tomato, green onion, and chopped mint tossed with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. In her book, The Vegetarian Table: North Africa, Morse calls for the cucumbers to be diced and sprinkled with salt for 30 minutes to drain, and for this salad to be chilled. In the version of this recipe that appears in Cooking at the Kasbah, the cucumbers aren’t drained and the finished dish is supposed to be served at room temperature. The cucumbers Morse prefers are long, thin and virtually seedless, and are sometimes marketed as English, European or hothouse cucumbers in the United States.

North African Cucumber-Tomato Salad [top]

2 cucumbers
salt for sprinkling
6 tomatoes
4 green onions with tops, finely chopped
2 radishes, finely diced
½ red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and finely diced
15 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, minced
2 T minced fresh mint
or 1 tsp Tabil
or 1 tsp finely diced preserved lemon rind
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 Kalamata or nicoise olives for garnish

In a serving bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, onions, Tabil or mint or preserved lemon, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Source: Cooking at the Kasbah, by Kitty Morse

This recipe is from The Cuisine of California, the book by Diane Rossen Worthington first published in 1983, that is considered the leading classic on the cuisine that came to be known as Californian. She calls this cucumber sauce “extraordinary” and says it goes well with fish or artichokes or as a dip for raw vegetables.

Cucumber-Mustard Dill Sauce [top]

½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 T finely chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 T finely chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup peeled, coarsely chopped cucumber
½ tsp salt
Pinch of finely ground white pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until well blended. Taste for seasoning.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve cold. May be kept up to 2 days in refrigerator.

Source: The Cuisine of California, by Diane Rossen Worthington

Spicy Frozen Cucumbers [top]

4 cups sliced pickling cucumbers, 3-4 inches long (about 12-14)
2 large onions
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon whole white mustard seeds

1. Wash and thinly slice the cucumbers, unpeeled. Peel the onions and slice thin.
Combine the cucumbers, onions, and salt in a glass or ceramic bowl. Let them stand 2-4 hours to extract the moisture.

2. Rinse and drain the vegetables well, blotting them with paper towels to absorb all the moisture.

3. Combine the remaining ingredients and mix well until the sugar dissolves completely, about 10 minutes.

4. Pour the cucumber mixture into clean freezer containers, leaving 1 inch of headspace for expansion. Cap and seal. These will keep up to 1 year in the freezer.

5. To use, thaw about 4 hours in the refrigerator. Serve chilled.

Source: The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, by Carol Costenbader

Quick Dill Pickles

Yield: about 8 pints

8 lbs. of 3- to 5-inch pickling cucumbers
2 gallons water
1-¼ cups canning or pickling salt
1-½ quarts vinegar (5 percent acidity)
¼ cup sugar
2 quarts water
about 2 tablespoons whole mixed pickling spice (1 tsp. per pint jar)
about 3 tablespoons whole mustard seed (1 tsp. per pint jar)
14 heads of fresh dill (or 1-½ tsp of dill seed per pint jar)

1. Wash cucumbers. Cut a sliver off the blossom end and discard, but leave ¼ inch of stem attached. Dissolve ¾ cup salt in 2 gallons of water. Pour over cucumbers and let stand 12 hours. Drain.

2. Combine vinegar, ½ cup salt, sugar, and 2 quarts water. Add mixed pickling spices tied in a clean, white cloth. Heat to boiling.

3. Fill jars with cucumbers. Add 1 tsp. mustard seed and 1-½ heads fresh dill per pint. Cover with boiling pickling solution, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in boiling water bath, pints 15 minutes, quarts 20 minutes.

Source: University of Minnesota Extension