Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cooking Cucumber

Most folks (American folks, specifically) would never think to cook cucumber. Cucumber is purely a salad or pickle ingredient in the US. But, there are food cultures who have embraced cooked cucumber. In China, cucumber is never eaten raw (pickled, yes, but not raw) and I have included 2 stirfries with cucumber below. China isn't the only country to enjoy cooked cucumbers though. France - yes, France - cooks cucumber. I can't say I've ever seen it on a menu in a restaurant or cooked it French-style myself, but Julia Child includes a number of cooked cucumber recipes in her Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I very much enjoy the Chinese treatment of cucumbers. Cooked cucumber is what zucchini wishes it could be. It retains its crunch. It doesn't get watery and Chinese spices accentuate the mild flavor. It's also a great way to use overgrown garden-grown cucumbers. And, are there any gardeners who haven't found a giant cucumber hiding among the leaves? Well, I'm here to tell you there is something you can do with it. If you do use oversized cucumbers, cut off about half an inch on either end. Bitter compounds accumulate there and these pieces will often be quite bitter.

Stir-Fried Cucumber (serves 3-4)

2 large Cucumbers
1 Tbsp Oil
½ Tbsp Garlic, minced
1 tsp Ginger, minced
1-2 tsp Chili Paste
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
¼ tsp Sugar
¼ tsp Salt

Peel cucumbers and cut each one in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut each half in two lengthwise again and cut each section crosswise into 1" pieces.

Set a wok or skillet over a high flame and add oil. When oil is hot, drop in garlic, ginger, and chile pepper or paste, and stir for a few seconds. Add cucumber and stir-fry  for 1 minute. Add soy sauce, sugar, and salt and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Serve hot.
 

Link to PDF of Stir-Fried Cucumbers 

Garlic Chicken with Cucumbers (serves 2-4)

¾ pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
½ large Cucumber
¼ tsp Salt
2 tsp Peanut Oil
2 tsp Minced Garlic
1 tbl Minced Scallion
2 tsp Soy Sauce
2 tsp Rice Wine Or Dry Sherry
¼ tsp Chili Paste


Cut chicken into 1" cubes and set aside.

Peel cucumber, halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Cut lengthwise again, into quarters. Cut quarters into cubes. Sprinkle cubes with salt and put into a colander to drain for 20 minutes. Rinse the cucumber under cold water and blot dry. Salting the cucumber removes excess moisture.

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. When it is hot, add chicken and stirfry for a few seconds. Add the garlic, scallion, soy sauce, rice wine/sherry, and chile paste. Stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add the cucumber and keep stirfrying another 3 minutes.


Link to PDF of Garlic Chicken with Cucumbers

Cucumber 

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