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I really don’t think too many of us have trouble using up tomatoes, but, by this point in the season, I am looking for some different ways to eat them, just to spice things up a bit (whereas in July, I have them with just salt and pepper for every meal of the day). These aren’t really recipes, so much as formulas, so play around with the flavors and ingredients based on what you have laying around and on what sounds good to you.

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Tomato-Cucumber Salad
A Sara Original

Ingredients:

A cup or two of cherry tomatoes, halved
Small red onion, diced
2-3 small cucumbers, diced
Handful of fresh basil or mint or oregano (we have all three in the garden, so I just pick on based on what sounds good, but really any fresh herb would be delicious), sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Throw all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir, barely.

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Heirloom Caprese Salad

A Sara Original (stolen from centuries of Italians)

Ingredients:

1 heirloom tomato, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced
1/4 cup feta (or fresh buffalo mozzarella for the more traditionalists)
Small handful of fresh basil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Assemble the tomatoes on a plate, followed by the onions, topped off with the cheese and basil. Dress with the oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

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Corn Salad
A Sara Original

Ingredients:

4 ears sweet corn, cooked and shucked (grilling the corn gives an even tastier, smokier flavor if you have time)
1 small red onion, diced
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1 jalapeno, diced (take out seeds for less spicy, leave them in for more heat)
Juice of one lime
1 tomato, diced
1 small bell pepper, diced
1 cup cilantro, chopped (or more, depending on your taste)
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Assemble all of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir carefully. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and jalapeno if necessary.

Now I’m hungry, so I think I’ll head out to the garden and see what I can scrounge up!

We love cucs around our house. Our cucumber plants did just alright this year. I talked to other gardener friends, and many of them said that their cucumber plants didn’t fare so well either. The plants did well, just didn’t produce much. I’m wondering if it’s just another consequence of the crisis facing our bees (and other pollinators). It’s one of those things that we need to address as communities, not just individuals. Most likely, pesticides play a significant role in the problem, but all of our neighbors use pesticides, so not using chemicals on our yard doesn’t help the bees much (although I do notice much more insect diversity in our yard than we had when we first moved her and were weaning off the pesticides and fertilizers).

At any rate, we find all sorts of things to do with the cucumbers that we did get from our garden – and the ones from Victory Acres too. Our favorite way to eat them is as cucumber sandwiches. I like lots of butter, cucs, and red onion on mine; Grant likes them with my tomato jam (recipe coming); Jasper likes one my way and one Grant’s way. I also love my mom/grandma’s cucumber salad – summer isn’t complete without it. I also make lots of jars of refrigerator pickles. I do can a few as well for the winter months, but the canning process makes them a little less crispy than I would like so I prefer the refrigerator method (plus, let’s be honest, I eat them so fast that canning them isn’t really worth it). You can even use the brine from your pickled veggies, or try this recipe below that I’ve been using.

DSC_0220Refrigerator pickles
Adapted from Food in Jars

Ingredients

8-10 small cucumbers
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced (keep the seeds if you want it spicy, leave them out for a milder version)
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar – I used white this last batch because I ran out of ACV)
1 cup water
2 tsp dill seed
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt

Directions

Clean jars. This makes about three pints worth of pickles. Clean the cucumbers and chop off the ends. Slice them into spears (or slices if you prefer) and put them in the jars. Add the garlic, dill seed, peppercorns, onions, and jalapeno to the jars, splitting them up evenly among the cars. Combine the vinegar, water, and salt in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour the brine into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Put the lids on and let them cool on the countertop before putting them in the refrigerator. They will keep in the fridge for a month (or three days at our house).

Even though I haven’t posted tons here, we have been loving our CSA box every week, especially with a newborn around. I’ve decided that, minus the extreme heat lately, summer is a great to have a baby because so many meals can just be thrown together by running out to the garden. We haven’t had tons of cucumbers (I’ve been reading that pollinators don’t like this heat, so they stay away…which means all of our garden yields will most likely be slow this year). I created this little sandwich to celebrate the first cuc from our garden because we had a few from the CSA to help bolster the sandwich. Grant says it is his favorite sandwich ever, and we both agreed that if we ever opened a restaurant, this would be a highlight of the summer menu.

BOC (Bacon-Onion-Cucumber) Sandwich
A Sara Original

Ingredients
Small cucumbers (I think the smaller ones, picked earlier, taste sweeter)
Small red onion
Several slices of local bacon
Several slices of bread
A few tablespoons of good butter (local preferably)

Directions

This is pretty obvious, but first prepare the bacon. I like to lay out the slices on a baking sheet and throw them in a 400 degree preheated oven for about 20 minutes while I do the other stuff. In the meantime, thinly slice the onion and cucumbers. Once the bacon is ready, lightly toast the bread and slather it with butter. Assemble the remaining ingredients on top of the bread and enjoy!

Experiment and add more or different veggies. We made them last week with guacamole instead of butter – wow!

Like most gardeners, the end of January brings another Christmas for me: the arrival of the seed catalogs. I have my favorites: Baker Creek, Pinetree, Seed Savers. But I don’t usually order from any of those gorgeous, drool-worthy catalogs anymore. I would rather support the grower in our backyard: Nature’s Crossroads. Not only do I feel better about spending money at Nature’s Crossroads, but the plants I’ve started from their seeds thrive in our backyard garden unlike seeds that we buy elsewhere. Nature’s Crossroads prides itself on providing Midwest gardeners with varieties particularly suited to our soil and climate. Buying from Nature’s Crossroads takes much of the guesswork out of seed buying. With those catalogs, I would get sucked into the beautifully-worded descriptions for varieties that common sense told me would not do well here in Indiana, but I can go crazy picking out seeds from Nature’s Crossroads because they have already done the research and hard work that goes into finding varieties well-suited to my Midwest backyard.

We’re still laying out our garden for next year, but here’s what I have in my shopping cart so far:

  • Trusty tomato. I grew these last year, and they definitely lived up to their name.
  • Red striped furry hog tomato. With a name like that, I really can’t be expected to resist!
  • Toma verde tomatillo. Tomatillos and I just don’t mix. I tried these last year, but after an incident with the dog, toddler and the seed tray, they never really had a chance. Fingers crossed for better luck this year!
  • Ragged jack kale. They used to call this Red Russian kale, and I’ve always had great luck with it, both in the spring and fall.
  • California Wonder pepper. I grew these last year and loved them. We can’t really grow too many peppers at our house.
  • Marketmore 76 cucs: I’m always on the lookout for a new cuc to try because we eat them like candy around here. I’m terrible about trellising them, so this looks like a good one for me.
  • Hungarian hot wax: I’m turning our pots on our front porch over to food this year, and I think these would make a pretty – and tasty – addition.

Best of all, Nature’s Crossroads donates to Westfield’s Plant a Row, as well as to many other local gardening-related organizations. That makes me feel even better about my tendency to over-do-it when it comes to seed buying time.

What are you planning on growing this year?!

 

My mom made this salad for us every summer that I can remember. It has become a staple at our house too. Grant hasn’t always been a big fan, but the bigger gardener he’s become, the more he’s enjoyed it. I made a huge batch last night for dinner, thinking there would be plenty for dinner and for leftovers for me today, but he ate at least three portions worth, leaving none for me today.

Nothing says summer to me like a dinner of Indiana sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and this cucumber salad. Hurry up and try it before the last of the cucs are gone!

Mom’s Cucumber Salad

Ingredients
3-4 cucumbers (I prefer the smaller ones. If you use larger ones, you wouldn’t need as many.), sliced thinly
1 small sweet onion, sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey (Mom always uses white sugar, so try that if you would prefer)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Directions
1. Assemble the mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a lidded jar and shake contents until thoroughly combined.
2. Assemble the sliced cucs and onions in a bowl and dump the dressing onto the vegetables. Mix the salad until all of the vegetables are covered in the dressing.
3. You can serve this immediately, but I think it tastes even better after sitting and soaking up the dressing for a few hours.

I used to think asparagus was my favorite vegetable, but lately I think I’ve switched my allegiance to the cucumber. It’s not as exotic as asparagus, but neither am I. I look so forward to those first cucumbers. I like to pick them when they are only three or four inches long because 1) I’m impatient and 2) I think they taste a bit sweeter than if you leave them on the vine a few days longer. I like how you can’t really preserve cucumbers except for pickling them, which, if you ask me, is really another category of vegetable altogether (and delicious at that), so when they’re in season, I eat them all the time. But then once their time has passed, I go all year until I eat them again. Maybe it’s the anticipation that I like so much.

Cucs first arrived in our CSA box last week and this week, there were even more of them! I brought the box in and immediately made a delicious cucumber sandwich. There’s nothing fancy to a cucumber sandwich, but I think that first one probably tastes the best. We’ve made them in many, many different variations, so feel free to experiment. Last week at the farmer’s market, we picked up some roasted red pepper pesto, which I think really took the simple cucumber sandwich to whole new heights. I’m already experimenting with my own versions, so stay tuned…

Cucumber Sandwich

Ingredients
1 small cucumber, sliced thinly
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thinly
Herb cream cheese or pesto (or other spread of your choice)
Bread (I prefer something a little out-of-the-ordinary and toasted)
Basil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Slice and toast two slices of bread.
  2. After the bread is toasted, spread one side with the cream cheese/pesto/whatever you’ve picked.
  3. Assemble the sandwich with the remaining ingredients.
  4. Enjoy! And then repeat…

 

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