Monday, June 20, 2011


English cucumbers are the lazy man's cuke. Because unlike regular cucumbers, this extra long, thin variety doesn't need to be seeded or peeled before using. Do I really care if I shave two minutes off my horiatiki-making time? Let's just say you never know when you'll want an extra minute to ponder why a politician named after a, er, hotdog, wouldn't have foreseen his own demise. And then possibly a second minute to consider again how important names are, and how when naming my child I'm going to do a google search to see how many people with my child's potential name are epic failures or strippers or the like.

See? Two minutes goes fast.

A few facts about English cucumbers. First, English cucumbers don't need to be peeled because they're thinner and they aren't waxed. (How very European of them!) In fact English cucumbers come shrink-wrapped, which helps prevents water loss but also means you don't get the waxy film found on many garden variety cukes. Second, the label "seedless" is a misnomer, because they do indeed have seeds. They share a relationship similar to that of the Japanese eggplant to the Italian variety: their seeds are small and tasteless, not big and bitter, so you don't have to remove them before eating. Their other nickname is "burpless" cucumbers because people find them easier to digest, though honestly I never had a particularly difficult time with regular cucumbers so I can't explain the origins of this one.

Like their more stubby cousins, English cucumbers grow on vines on the ground. They're related to watermelon, zucchini, and pumpkins and have high levels of vitamin C, fiber, and water. Plus they're so long that you only have to grab one when shopping. Another thirty seconds saved. Another chance to wonder if the man at the deli gives me a straw with my drink but I know I'm not going to use it, should I accept it anyway and save it for a later date?

Cucumber Pea Salad with Yogurt Dressing
adapted from Food and Wine

I'm generally a hot food person, as in I like eating all my food above room temperature, even in the summer. There was indeed a time when I thought gazpacho was heresy, and I thought all those people who said, "Oh I'm not hungry, it's too hot out" were merely trying to look good in a bikini. But as I've grown, my tastes have changed, and now I look forward to cooling dishes on hot days.

This salad is a perfect summer dish; good on it's own with a side of crusty bread or even better accompanying some grilled fish. The cucumbers are juicy and crisp, while the peas add a touch of sweetness. The yogurt dressing is light yet creamy, and when combined with the cucumbers the dish gets an almost-tzatziki like essence. Best of all, I've found a use for the copious amount of basil which is growing outside my door, clamoring to touch the fourth floor (I live on the third.) Next up? Pesto...


1 cup plain whole-milk or 2 percent Greek yogurt
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

1 cup finely shredded basil leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 pound frozen baby peas, thawed

2 English cucumbers cut into 1/2 inch pieces


In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, lemon juice and olive oil. Stir in cucumbers and peas. Add parsley, basil and toss to coat.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I can never get enough lemon. If you find the dressing too citrusy, cut the lemon back to 3 tablespoons or increase the extra virgin olive oil by 3 tablespoons.

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