All About Cucumbers
Featured Recipe: Ranjan's Yogurt Raita
More Ideas for Cucumbers

All About Cucumbers

Choosing: Select cucumbers that look fresh, are firm, and do not bend. Smaller ones are often firmer and have fewer seeds.

Storing: All sources (including UMNFood52, and the kitchn) seem to agree that cucumbers should be stored away from fruit to avoid exposure to the ethylene produced by fruit such as tomatoes, apples, bananas, and melons. In researching these notes I learned that some experts are emphatic about storing cucumbers unrefrigerated, because they can apparently develop pitting and water soaked areas if chilled below 40°F or 50°F. Others emphatically urge us to store cukes in the fridge. If you do plan to store them in the fridge keep them in a warmer part of the fridge and away from fruit. Wherever they are stored, try to use them within a few days.

– Jackie Starr

Ranjan's Yogurt Raita

I learned this recipe from an amazing teacher of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Ranjan Ravilaya, who teaches at Minuteman Tech Continuing Ed.  My daughter Lydia and I took her classes a couple of years ago, and we became more adept with the cuisine (which is a shared favorite) than we had ever hoped to! 
I highly recommend this class, which is called Masala Mixin' (Vegetarian Style).  It's offered every fall and spring.  Sign up for the next session this fall here.  There's even an Intermediate class offered.
Here is Ranjan's Yogurt Raita, which is delicious alongside or on top of so many dishes, and I enjoy it with rice.

Serves 4
2 Cups plain low fat Greek style yogurt 
1-2 cucumbers, skin and seeds removed, chopped
1/2 an onion, minced (optional)
1/2 a tomato, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 teaspoon roasted cumin
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons urad dal (split black moong beans)
Fresh cilantro
Mix yogurt, cucumbers, (onion, tomato) salt and roasted cumin powder in a mixing bowl. Heat the oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds. Once they have popped add the urad dal and let it brown a little. Add this to the raita in the bowl, season to taste with salt and cilantro. 

Nancy Gold is a Board Member of LexFarm, working to bring Farm Based Education Programs to the public. She is sad to see so many area farms lost to development pressures and is gratified that the community valued the Busa Farm enough to rally around it and ultimately save it!

More Ideas for Cucumbers

Cocktails and Mocktails
No juicer required:  Make cucumber juice and shake up some cocktails.  Puree one or two coarsely chopped cucumbers (unpeeled) and a handful of ice cubes in your blender and pour through a fine-meshed strainer, pressing to extract all the liquid (discard the solids).  Use as a base for mojitos, gimlets, or margaritas.

For a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage, mix up a Mexican agua fresca.

Classic is a simple cucumber salad with dill.  This one is sweet and sour, and this one creamy.

If you're not into dill, try this one

For an Asian twist, try the Japanese cucumber salad called sunomono or a version with seaweed flakes or miso.

Cucumbers along with more fresh vegetables add crunch to a farro salad or Israeli couscous salad.

Add peanuts and coconut for an Indian-inspired cucumber salad.

For something unusual, try this one with browned tofu, pine nuts, and avocado over rice or noodles or this one with poppy seeds and cilantro.

Add tomatoes for a Middle Eastern tomato and cucumber salad.  Add more vegetables and feta for a Turkish Shepherd's Salad.

Fattoush is another Middle Eastern salad made with stale (or toasted) pita bread in addition to the fresh vegetables.  Here's a Lebanese version with a dressing made sumac and pomegranate molasses (available at the Middle Eastern markets in Watertown).   Here's a version from the cookbook Jerusalem, made with a homemade sort of buttermilk.  And if you're short on time, you can always cheat and use pita chips from a bag.

Make a cold silky cucumber soup. Creaminess can come from yogurt, avocado, or, in this vegan version, silken tofu.

Cucumbers are the base for white gazpacho.

Add cucumbers to a tomato-based gazpacho or a cold borscht.

Make pickles: What about garlic dill pickles or sweet bread-and-butter pickles or Asian-flavored spicy quick cucumber pickles?

Roll in rice paper wrappers with carrots, avocado, and lettuce for summer rolls.

Tzatziki is a refreshing cucumber-yogurt sauce served with grilled meats like souvlaki or kebabs.

You can even have cucumbers for dessert, as popsicles. Start simple with cucumber lime mint popsicles. You also combine with watermelon or add some spicy chile.

Here are even more ideas from The Huffington Post, Martha Stewart, and Saveur.

Compiled by Jackie Starr & Betsy Pollack