My refrigerator crisper is full of cucumbers.
The vegetables are growing much more plentiful this year than in years past at The Green Thumb community garden. Some of the vegetables are thin and bumpy. Others are smooth and fat.
My current diet is heavy on pickles as well as cucumber sandwiches. The secret to a good sandwich is spreading both the top and bottom slices of bread with the right amount of mayonnaise so the cucumber slices will stick instead of fall out when the sandwich is lifted off the plate.
I peel my cucumbers and add salt and pepper to the rows of green circles arranged on a piece of white bread before gently pressing a second slice of bread on top. Sometimes I sprinkle the cucumber slices with oregano, too, but I didn’t grow up fixing the sandwiches that way. My sons add crumbles of feta cheese. My daddy used to eat cucumber and tomato sandwiches.
My favorite appetizers at wedding receptions and graduation parties are the open-faced cucumber sandwiches presented on bread spread with a dab of cream cheese to secure the cucumber slice, which is usually topped with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of paprika. I love the way the sandwiches are elegantly cut in round cookie-cutter shapes or squares with the crusts removed so you can eat them in one bite. One of my co-workers occasionally brought a refrigerator container full of these sandwiches to share in the office. She never went home with leftovers.
Despite all of the cucumber sandwiches we have been eating at home, my crisper remains full of the green vegetables from our garden. I’m adding diced cucumbers to pasta salads and to green salads. I’m serving peeled cucumbers with a side of ranch dressing for snacks. And I’m making continuous batches of refrigerator pickles and serving the kids afternoon appetizers of cheese and pickles on toothpicks.
I’m beginning to understand why almost every summertime meal that my family ate while I was growing up included a bowl of sliced cucumbers covered in apple cider vinegar with a touch of salt and pepper and why so many people brought their family version of Cucumbers and Onions in Sour Cream to the covered-dish family reunions and church picnics in June and July.
The vegetables are so plentiful that I’m thinking about eating Chilled Cucumber Soup for breakfast.
Biting into a cucumber this time of year brings back childhood memories. I can’t remember a summer when we didn’t have fresh cucumbers from the garden.
Sadly, my sons aren’t big cucumber fans, but I’m hoping to change their minds one family recipe at a time this summer – at least until my refrigerator crisper is empty.
Sliced onions and cucumbers
Sliced carrots and green bell peppers (if desired)
4 cups sugar
¼ cup salt
1 1/3 Tablespoons celery seed
4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 Tablespoons turmeric
1 1/3 Tablespoons ground mustard
Put sliced onions in bottom of jar. Fill with sliced cucumbers, carrots and green bell peppers. Heat remaining ingredients to melt or dissolve sugar. Cool. Pour over cucumbers. Eat after 4 or 5 days.
CUCUMBERS AND ONIONS IN SOUR CREAM
½ cup sour cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vinegar
2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 small onions, thinly sliced
Combine sour cream, sugar, vinegar and salt; add cucumber and onion, tossing gently. Cover and chill 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Yield: 4 servings.
CHILLED CUCUMBER SOUP
4 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 3 pounds)
3 cups buttermilk
1 (8-ounce) carton plain yogurt
2 green onions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Process all ingredients, in batches, in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Transfer to a serving bowl; cover and chill 2 hours.
Makes about 8 cups.