Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer. In Miami that means high temperatures and humidity. One of the most refreshing foods I enjoy in the summer is melons. Did you know that cucumbers are a type of melon? Yes, a cucumber is technically a fruit! We consider it a vegetable because it is not a sweet melon like its popular cousins honeydew, watermelon or cantaloupe. It is low in calories and high in fiber.
Best way to store cucumbers:
- Wrap each cucumber individually in paper towels. The towels absorb excess moisture (cucumbers have a super high water content), which keeps the bag from getting prematurely slimy and speeding along the rotting process
- Place them in a zip-top bag and seal tightly
- Store up to one week in the fridge
- Wrap the cut pieces in paper towels
- Place them in a zip-top bag or other sealed container
- Store up to two days in the fridge
- Freeze cut pieces in ice cube trays or in a single layer on a cookie sheet
- Once frozen, store the frozen cucumber in a zip-top bag or other airtight container for up to six months
Salad: I am sure you have made a cucumber salad or two: wash them, remove the skin or not, cut them up in pieces and toss them with any other vegetable and/or fruit you have available. Season to taste with salt, olive oil, vinegar or citrus juice. Add your favorite herb (cilantro, basil, Thai-basil, mint, thyme, etc.) and your salad can stand up to that of any restaurant's.
Pickle: You can make a quick pickle with soy sauce and lime: cut a cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then finely slice into half-moons and place into a small bowl. Drizzle with a tablespoon of soy sauce and squeeze over the juice from a lime, scrunch and toss together, then leave to pickle for at least 30 Mins.
How an Indonesian pickle variation: atjar ketimun
- 1 cucumber
- 1 small red onion
- 1/3 cup of vinegar
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 hot pepper (optional)
- Heat the vinegar, sugar and salt in a pan and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, slice into long thin strips.
- Cut the onion in small pieces
- Depending on your tolerance for heat, and the pepper you are using, remove the seeds and membranes and cut it in small pieces
- Stir the cucumber, onion and pepper in the cooled vinegar mixture
- You can keep this in a jar in the fridge for 1-2 weeks
* It goes well with pork or a rich meat.
Agua Fresca: the name means fresh water in Spanish and boy does it live up to its name. Especially, on a hot summer day. It's like the cucumber water served at a spa but, better!
- 1 cucumber
- the juice of two lemons or limes or 1/2 cup of any citrus
- a hand full of mint leaves or leaves of your favorite herb
- 3-4 cups of water or more depending
- Blend until smooth
- Serve over crushed ice as is to get all the benefits of the fiber.
* You may also choose to strain the juice to remove some of the "pulp". Notice that I did not add sugar to the blender. I omitted the sugar since this is a spa inspired drink. I suggest adding just enough sugar to slightly sweeten it and reducing the sugar you add every time you make it.
Pineapple cucumber spritz
- 2 cucumbers cut in small cubes
- 1 cup packed mint leaves
- 2-3 cups pineapple juice
- Put all the ingredients in your blender or food processor and process until smooth
- Put this through a fine mesh or sieve
- Refrigerate until cold
- Add to a tall glass with ice and filled halfway with seltzer
- 2 cucumbers, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 quart homemade or store-bought lemonade
- Puree the cucumbers with 1/2 cup lemonade in a blender or food processor
- Strain through a fine-mesh sieve
- Combine cucumber juice and lemonade
- Serve over ice.
*The juice can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to three days