Yes, yes, I know I’ve been complaining about the trials and tribulations of my garden; but the one thing it’s been giving up this week is cucumbers. And more cucumbers. I’m talking that every time I check on these plants, there’s another one of these green monsters lurking on the vine. And they can’t stay there- the gardening guides say you need to pick every last one of them or they will stop producing. After I’ve given half of them away, I’ve still got a load to deal with.
Make pickles, you say? Well, sure, that’s a no-brainer. But there had to be something beyond the pickle, something beyond the slice ’em up and put ’em in your green salad kind of thing. Something I haven’t yet tried… like cooked cucumbers?
COOKED? Well, yes, and bear with me for a moment. Flipping through our Down Jersey cookbook for a little inspiration, I came across this little gem of a recipe: Crispy Cinnamon Cucumbers. Now hold on and don’t freak- first, they are not sweet. And second, when cooked, they actually taste more like zucchini than a cucumber. And apparently, this recipe comes from itinerant Pakistani farm workers who were overjoyed at the sight of the plentiful Jersey cuke- and they‘ve been cooking cucumbers for quite a while, so they know what they’re doing. Think of the cinnamon as a spice that adds a background note, not French toast. Try to add the optional zest at the end, it really adds a special finishing touch. Trust me, you have to try these!
(from Down Jersey Cooking by Joe Colanero)3/4 pound of non-waxed cucumbers
1/4 cup all purpose flour for dredging
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. of butter
1Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
Wash cukes and cut off ends. Cut into 3/4 inch slices. Mix flour cinnamon, and salt and pepper in an wide bowl. In a large frying pan, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Dredge cucumber slices in flour mixture and place them in the pan in a single layer. Fry for about 5 minutes or so, until lightly browned on one side, then flip for another 4 minutes or so. remove to drain on paper towels. Toss with more salt to taste and lemon zest, if desired. Serve hot or cold.
Hmmm, not buying it? Or it’s just too dang hot to cook? I made this refreshing salad as well. Unfortunately, my tomatoes are still ripening on the vine, so I had to use canned- but it still came out really, really good: the chewy barley contrasts nicely with the crunchy cucumber. Don’t skip the step where you toast the barley- it adds a special nuttiness to the flavor. Soooooo easy!
(Inspired by a recipe from Mediterranean Harvest: Vegetarian Recipes From the World’s Healthiest Cuisines by Martha Rose Shulman )1 cup of barley, rinsed
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 -2 cups diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 cup cucumbers, peeled and diced
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. crumbled feta
1-2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
Place barley in a dry pan over medium heat and shake and toss until grains are lightly toasted. Add chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Simmer over medium to low heat for about 30 minutes or so, until liquid is absorbed and the barley is chewy-tender. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, place tomatoes in a bowl and toss with salt, sherry and balsamic vinegars. Let sit for 1 hour. Afterwards, add remaining ingredients (except barley) to the tomatoes and combine. Add the barley and toss to combine well. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.