Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cool as a cucumber

Due in no small part to the near-record amount if rainfall we experienced in Connecticut at the beginning of the summer, I have ended up with a garden full of freakishly large cucumbers. The cucumber plants have literally overrun the entire space, choking out everything but my squash plant, which struggles valiantly to gain ground. Not only do I have an abundance of the crisp green fruit, but they are gigantic. To quote Noe the first time he looked at my garden: "What is that, a watermelon?"

You understand what I'm dealing with here.

Now, I love cucumbers. I like to slice them and eat them as snacks. They are cool and refreshing on a hot summer day. However, I can not eat an entire garden worth of radioactive-looking fruit. And honestly, after an entire week of sliced cucumbers, I was so sick of them I didn't even want to pick any more.

I knew I needed to figure out something to do, and quickly. There had to be some recipes other than gross cucumber salad involving cucumbers. I should have realized right off the bat this was a job for Julia Child. Luckily I ended up there after a few misplaced search efforts.

The first Julia cucumber recipe I attempted was baked cucumbers. This shows you how truly desperate I was to do something with these plants because I thought the idea sounded disgusting even as I was already counting out the ingredients from my cupboards. I mean, who cooks cucumbers?

Julia does, that's who. I read My Life in France. I know she's crazy. I just went with it.

The first thing I was advised by Mastering the Art of French Cooking to do was to soak the cut-up cucumbers in a mixture of wine vinegar, salt, and a bit of sugar. According to Les Tres Gourmands, this would draw the excess water out of the fruit and the cukes would not become much in the oven. I'm not a fan of mush. I followed the instruction.

After a while (hours?) I drained the cucumbers. Sure enough, there was a pool of liquid in the bowl. I tossed the drained cucumbers with some chopped green onions, some herbs, and - of course - melted butter. I cooked them for an hour, taking them out every twenty minutes to toss/stir them.

Noe and I were a bit apprehensive, but we dug in anyway. Surprisingly, the cucumbers were really quite good. The salt/vinegar/sugar marinade had not only drawn out the excess water but given them a very slight pickle-y flavor. It's hard to imagine something roasted for an hour in melted butter tasting cool and fresh, but these almost did. They also retained a bit of their crispness, which I thought was great since limp cucumbers sounded pretty gross.

The second Julia cucumber recipe was not from MTAOFC. It was from a later book and not quite as out there as the idea of baking the fruit. Recipe number two was a sort of cucumber salad. The two recipes began similarly, only recipe number two added water to the marinade of sugar, salt, and vinegar. After the cucumbers chilled out in the marinade in the refrigerator for a couple hours, I drained them, tossed them with olive oil and some fresh basil and parsley, salt and peppered them to taste, and served them up at Amanda's house. This cucumber recipe truly was cool, crisp, and delicious.

These two recipes have given me confidence that I will not grow to hate one of my favorite garden items. So if you, like me, find yourself with an abundance of cucumbers, I highly suggest letting Julia guide you on your path to cucumber enlightenment. You won't be disappointed.

Photo courtesy of readersdigest.com

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

lol, i can totally see Noe pointing and saying "What's that? A watermelon" :) can't wait to see you guys!