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Garden Lifestyle

Celebrate Summer! Easy Cucumber Recipes

Today is officially the first day of summer--we celebrate the solstice and Father's Day both!

  • Cucumber on the vine. I grow a number of varieties and like pickling cukes because they are smaller.
    Photo/Illustration: Optional photo credits
  • This Asian-style mandolin, called a Benriner, is very inexpensive and is a great and fast way to thinly slice cukes, onions and more. They are very sharp, so be sure and use fingerguard.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Easy cucumber salad with fresh dill and onions is refreshing and light.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Moroccan-style tomato and cucumber salad--so simple and satisfying.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Benefits for the cook--lunch from the test kitchen. Both cucumber salads, few black olives and slices of feta with toasted bread for sopping up those juices!
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Kohlrabis from the farmers' market--they make a great crunchy addition to salad, use as a crudite, or slice and saute. Enjoy them now because they will get tough with the hot weather.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Tart cherries are in season--get enough of them to eat now and preserve!
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • These sour cherries make a killer preserve, syrup, cordial or shrub.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Today is officially the first day of summer–we celebrate the solstice and Father’s Day both! Summer Solstice (which is celebrated as MidSummer in many European countries) is the longest day of the year and the shortest night. Can you believe that days will now grow shorter?! “And the seasons, they go round and round…”

The garden is revving up as is the summer heat–the salad greens are bolting–however I’ve picked my first two cucumbers. I just sliced and ate them raw, however the next one will be used to make one of the salads below.

Last night I made calabacitas with baby squash from the farmers’ market, corn form the Carolinas and our homegrown onions and garlic. I also pitted 4 quarts of sour cherries for the freezer, salivating the entire time. Those tart cherries will make pie or preserves. The woman farmer from Lewis Orchard told me to put the cherries in a bowl of ice-cold water for an hour before pitting them and they would lose less juice. I did this and it was easy to just squeeze them and the pits just popped out the stem holes. I did this over a big bowl and saved the juice. Get your cherries while they are in season and put them up for winter–you’ll be so glad that you did!

We have had lots of rain here in Maryland–the veggies and weeds are growing madly–it is a hot, steaming jungle out there on this first day of summer. The earth is too wet to garden today, so it’s a good day to use garden produce to cook up some good things to eat. Try one of these cooling cucumber recipes to welcome the season–make one today for Dad!

Old-Fashioned Cucumbers with Dill

This old-fashioned side dish is always welcome on our summer tables. It is especially good with English or Japanese cucumbers, which have tender skins and seeds. Although dill is delicious here–if you don’t have any–make it anyway–or try substituting fresh tarragon. Although the traditional recipe calls for sugar, you can use maple syrup instead; the salad should not be sweet–just a tad to balance out the vinegar.

For a creamy version, if you like sour cream, use it instead of the oil, and add just enough vinegar to your taste. Or use Greek-style yogurt, or a combination of yogurt and sour cream.

Serves 6 to 8

3 cucumbers, or 2 English or Japanese cucumbers
1 small red onion
3/4 cup loosely packed dill leaves
About 1/4 cup olive oil or generous 1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tablespoons tarragon or white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1 teaspoon organic sugar, optional

Scrub the cucumbers and peel them if the skins are waxy or tough. If the skins are tasty, remove 4 or 5 strips lengthwise around the cucumbers. Trim the ends and slice the cucumbers about 1/8-inch thick.

Halve the onion lengthwise and cut it into thin rings. Chop the dill coarsely. Mix the oil (or sour cream) and vinegar together and season with salt, pepper, and the sugar if desired. Stir the dill into the vinaigrette. Toss the vinaigrette with the vegetables and cover and marinate for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator. Taste for seasoning and adjust with a little more oil, sour cream, vinegar, or salt and pepper.
 

Cucumber Salad with Tomatoes

This is a very basic salad–and a memorable event for me the first time that I ate it. It was at a cafe in a small fishing village, Martil, in Morocco. We were sitting outdoors looking at the Atlantic Ocean from North Africa and having a cold beer in the hot sun and needed just a little snack to go with it. So we ordered the cucumber salad with tomatoes. It came in a bowl with slices of crusty bread. There were three vegetables cut into bite-sized diced wedges: crisp cucumbers, dead-ripe tomatoes and crunchy onions. It was simply dressed with a small amount of olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and seasoned with salt and pepper.

It could have been the setting and that we were newly arrived in an exotic place–and eating by the sea always whets the appetite–however this salad, was so simple, yet sublime. How could a salad made from ingredients that I had eaten my whole life, taste so good? That peasant salad brought about a realization. Real food, fresh ingredients, grown locally and prepared simply need little or no adornment. (Well you could add a few leaves of torn basil… ) Make this salad when your tomatoes are ripe.

Happy Solstice and Happy Father’s Day!

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