Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pity Me With Recipes

This post is for Patrick, at Bifurcated Carrots.

Cucumbers don't always grow so well in hot climates, at least not cucumbers that fit into our traditional view of cucumbers, the Cucumis sativus view. They tend to get bitter and angry in the dry weather and often give up even trying. Nevertheless, us warm-climate dwellers are lucky, because we have something that matches or maybe even surpasses cucumbers: Armenian cucumbers (aka serpent melon or snake melon and I'm sure many other names). Armenian cucumbers are not cucumbers, although they taste, look, and crunch similarly. Instead, these cukes are melons, Cucumis melo. Eaten at an immature stage (they don't taste good as they ripen, just watery and bland), they're denser and a bit sweeter, and to me, better than a regular cucumber. They're also productive. When I say productive, I mean rabbits on ecstasy productive; they reproduce like fruitflies, like weeds, like bad jokes. Unlike those things, however, I happily embrace the plentitudes of Armenian cucumbers.


Slender and very long, ranging between 10 and 20 inches in my experience, the pale green fruits have beautiful frilly edges that make the sliced fruit look like flowers.



Sometimes the fruits curl into funny shapes as they grow. I've seen Armenian cucumbers raising python heads, hunching like slugs, and curling pig tails.


Despite my gratitude for a plentiful crop, and as much as I love them, I'm running out of inspiration about how to prepare them. I've made the Thai Cucumber Salad that I shared last August several times over, and nearly every day, I've had the simplest, easiest of cucumber salads, slices tossed with onion, white wine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar.


Unfortunately, when I put this salad together on Tuesday for a friend, I added an extra ingredient, the tip of my thumb. (This leads me to an extended side note, please bear with me. I love my little mandoline. It was cheap, it works well, and it is darned sharp. But that is just it, it is darned sharp, sharp enough to take off a sizable chunk of thumb. When my thumb refused to stop bleeding after several hours—remember, hands bleed a lot—I had to visit my doctor so she could cauterize my finger with silver nitrate. Cutting one's thumb hurts like a bitch. Cauterizing one's cut thumb with silver nitrate hurts like a giant bitch with medusa curls and glowing red eyes. It really isn't fun. So, here is the moral of the story. Remember that plastic tool that comes with a mandoline that a cook can use to awkwardly hold whatever it is the cook is slicing? Remember how clumsy it is to use? Get over it. Use it, because if you are anything like me, keeping your fingers is at least a minor priority.)

Having my thumb bandaged up and sensitive to even the most minor bump is quite frustrating, but I think you can help me feel a little better. Take my mind off my throbbing thumb by helping me figure out what to do with my cukes. When it comes to cucumber bounty, what are your favorite solutions? Come on folks, send the inspiration my way.

My thumb thanks you.

15 comments:

Wendy said...

"Rabbits on ecstasy" - Just laughed so hard wine came out my nose.

Wendy said...

P.S. Hope your thumb is healing nicely and my cucumber suggestion is tzatziki. I always need an entire cucumber grated, salted and drained for a pot of yogurt. Yum yum.

Lucy said...

Did the same thing with the tip of my right index finger a few months ago. Bloody hand guard was sitting there in the drawer but I, thinking I wouldn't hurt myself, felt I didn't need it...your poor thumb. I second that call to always use hand-saving devices!

Seeded, grated, salted and squeezed dry, then stirred into yoghurt is good. Delicious chopped up and tossed through cooked, cooled basmati rice with more yoghurt and handfuls of dill and mint. Made a pickle a few weeks ago - Indonesian in flavour (on the blog...can't work that HTML stuff to create a link, sorry...).

Love the curly-whirly cukes. Must track down that variety - would grow well here, I think.

Another Outspoken Female said...

Ouch!!

The Italian side of my partner's family lives on a basic salad with cucumber, tomato and red onion (with balsamic and olive oil and salt).

Patrick said...

Sorry about your thumb!

The cucumber looks really interesting. Maybe next year I'll give it a try.

I think the achocha cucumber I just posted about might be okay if you can't grow any other cucumber, but it's not really a cucumber substitute.

nikkipolani said...

I'm so sorry about your thumb. It sounds quite painful and inconvenient. But your "cucumbers" are fantastic looking. I wonder if Persian cukes do well here. I can eat bushels of that. I came across David Lebovitz's recipe - or, rather, Joanne Weir's recipe for cucumber and feta. Sounds terrific.

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/08/joanne_weirs_cucumber_and_feta_s.html

Deborah Dowd said...

So sorry to hear about your thumb. I know it sounds sill for a foodie, but I have always been afraid of buying an mandoline for exactly that reason. But the cukes do look great!

Maggie said...

As I read your article and gazed at that beautiful slice of cucumber, I thought I bet you used a mandolin, I must get mine out. Read more, that's why yours is in the back of the cupboard Maggie!
Remember not to rub salt with that thumb for awhile.

Christina said...

Hey everybody: Thanks for the ideas and the well-wishes. Sorry I've been so slow to respond to comments--lots of goings-on are in the works. I'll hopefully be able to dedicate some time to each of you and your sites in a couple weeks. Have a wonderful day!

miriam said...

i can relate to the mandaline--i have a professional one that i've never used for that reason. i have an oxo one that i sometimes use but i'm scared the whole time.i try to wear gloves so if i nick myself the glove takes the worst of it. i'm interested in the armenian cukes. i am in the palm springs area---very hot. i have cukes but the pollen doesn't survive the high temp. what about the armenian cukes?
thanks--home your finger heals fast,
miriam

Laura said...

Hi Christina
Hope your thumb is healing. Those Armenian cucs look fantastic - you don't have any seeds i could swap you for do you? I'd love to give them a go. I've found that the very thin Burpless Tasty Green Cucumbers will grow well without getting bitter here in the south of France but maybe we are not as you are there. I've got a cucumber glut myself so i've been cooking them up and posting recipes such as Cucumber & Yogurt Soup, Hot Cucumber Relish, Prawn, Cucumber and Noddle salad and Cucumber & Coriander Salad if you are interested.

Christina said...

Miriam: If melons will grow where you are and set fruit, these Armenian cukes will too. They might be a good solution for the desert. Thanks for the well-wishes on my thumb.

Laura: I can't promise what I do not yet have, as I haven't let my Armenian cucumbers get near seed-collection stage yet, but I'll set out to mark a couple for seeds, let them grow to maturity, and save the seed. Then, I'd love to swap. Thanks for the recipe suggestions--I'll definitely check them out!

chaiselongue said...

I was going to suggest tzatziki, but I see that wendy has already done this. I would leave the cucumber in chunks rather than grating it for this dish, though. Garnish it with chopped mint or paprika. Chunkss easier on the thumbs, too! Hope yours is better now. I like your blog, which I've only just discovered. I'll be back!

chaiselongue said...

I forgot to say that here in the south of France we have a variety of cucumber which grows very well in the heat. I'm not sure what it's called, I buy my plants from a local farmer. The cucumbers are short and chunky and I think they taste better than the 'English' long variety. I'll try to find out what they're called.

Jay said...

There are many kinds of cucumber-melon out there that produce very prolifically. Many of them are from Italy, where they call them Carosellos. Over time I have grown many different varieties. I love cucumber-melons like the Armenian cucumber. They are bitter-free, don't cause indigestion, and they taste delicious.