Last summer, I had such a windfall of homegrown cucumbers that I began shoving them in the mailbox as a gift for the letter carrier.
This year’s planting hasn’t been nearly as prolific, so I’ve been a bit more mindful about how best to prepare them. Gazpacho, pickles and cucumber salad are easy and tasty, but I wanted to do something unexpected with this limited crop of cukes.
Culinarian Elizabeth Heiskell offers a cooling cucumber dip in her latest cookbook, “Come On Over! Southern Delicious for Every Day and Every Occasion” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30). The recipe is a simple mix of cucumber pulp; dairy staples sour cream, Greek yogurt and mayonnaise; dill, garlic, salt and pepper for seasoning; and hits of vinegar and lemon juice for acid. But simple can be sublime.
“I beg you to try this knockout,” she writes in the headnote. Besides serving the chilled dip with crudites and crostini (or just grab a bag of tortilla chips as I did), she suggests pairing it with lamb, cold-poached salmon, or even hamburgers and hot dogs.
Heiskell calls for the cucumbers to be peeled before processing them, but if you’ve got unwaxed organic cucumbers, you don’t have to discard those long green strips. Mads Refslund, who co-founded famed NOMA restaurant in Denmark with Rene Redzepi, proposes giving peels a second life in his ode to trash cooking, “Scraps, Wilt & Weeds: Turning Wasted Food Into Plenty” (Grand Central Publishing, 2017). Brine and time (3 to 5 days) are all it takes for cucumber peels to become sour enough to add to a banh mi, burger or Reuben.
COLD CUCUMBER DIP
1 1/2 pounds cucumbers, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped dill
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar
Using a food processor, puree the cucumbers. Line a colander with a cheesecloth and set it in the sink. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons salt with the cucumber puree and transfer it to the colander. Let sit and drain for 1 hour.
Gather the cheesecloth together and give the cucumber one more good squeeze to ensure it’s as dry as possible.
Place the cucumber pulp in a bowl and add the sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, dill, lemon juice, garlic, vinegar and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Mix well.
Add more salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled thoroughly, at least 2 hours or up to 4 days, before serving.
BRINED CUCUMBER PEEL
Peels from 3 unwaxed organic cucumbers
4 cups water
0.7 ounces (3 teaspoons) kosher salt (exact proportion is critical for brining)
Pack the cucumber peels into a sterilized large ceramic pot or gallon Mason jar (not metal).
Pour the water into the container and add the salt. Put with a lid that fits inside the crock (a drop lid) on the solution and a weight so that the peels do not rise above the salt solution.
Leave the container covered at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, checking it from time to time, until it starts to bubble. If a white bubbly foam appears, skim it off. If a dark scum or mold appears, this means that the jar or some other element was not sterile and you will need to throw it out in the compost.
Taste for sourness and if it is sour enough, lightly rinse the cucumbers, transfer to a jar, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Makes 11/2 cups.