Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Two Cucumber Side Dishes for Spring, plus a Pimm’s Cup Recipe

Cocktail Buzz’s Cookbook Challenge Continues . . . 

Our Cookbook Challenge has yielded tasty results, including Stuffed Cucumbers with Green Mayonnaise, above.

Last month we challenged you to pour through your cookbooks, both dog-eared and pristine, every time you needed inspiration for ingredients you had lying around. Throughout the month of April, we continued to be inspired by Culinary Artistry and The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book when we had some cucumbers that were in desperate need of a makeover. We present you the following results.

Stuffed Cucumbers with Green Mayonnaise
(adapted from The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book)
Serves 2–4

Cucumbers are low in calories, have a goodly amount of antioxidants, and are very high in vitamin K, which has been found to increase bone strength. They are also quite tasty in this side dish that celebrates the greenness of spring, incorporating peas, string beans, and a host of fresh greens and herbs. It takes a little time to make, but is well worth the effort, especially if you want to double up the recipe for a spring dinner party or brunch.

2 long cucumbers
4–6 ounces frozen or fresh peas
4–6 ounces (handful) string beans, stems removed
chives, minutely cut
large handful cress (any kind), stems removed
large handful spinach (not baby), stems removed
large handful fresh chervil, stems removed
large handful fresh tarragon, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6–8 ounces mayonnaise
juice 1/2 lemon

Cut unpeeled cucumbers in half lengthwise. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place cucumbers in an ice bath until cooled. Dry thoroughly and chill. With water still boiling, add string beans and cook until desired tenderness. Remove from heat and place beans in an ice bath until cooled. Dry and chill. In the same water, boil peas until desired tenderness. Remove from heat and place peas in an ice bath until cooled. Dry and chill. Boil cress, spinach, tarragon, and chervil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and place herbs in an ice bath until cooled. Drain using a colander, pressing as much liquid out as you can. Then wrap herbs in cheese cloth and squeeze out the remaining liquid. Chop finely and mix in mayonnaise with the juice of half a lemon. Set aside.

Remove vegetables from refrigerator. Take cucumbers and hollow out by removing seeds with a 1/2 teaspoon or other rounded spoon, within 1/4 inch of the skin. Set aside on a tray. Dice beans. Fill cucumbers with beans and peas. Dollop with green mayonnaise. Sprinkle with chives.

Sometimes fresh chervil, a lightly green-flavored and delicate herb, can be difficult to find (it’s notoriously difficult to grow, as well). You can use some curly parsley instead, or eliminate altogether.

Quick Pickled Cucumber Slices
(inspired by Culinary Artistry by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page)

Paul looked up “Cucumbers” in Culinary Artistry for some flavor-pairing inspiration for a quick pickle. The results will keep you stealing them from the jar. They are perfect as a sweet and tart side dish, or as a topper for sandwiches.

1 long cucumber, peeled and sliced thinly into circles (a mandoline at 1.5 or 2.0 makes this easy)
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried spearmint
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
1 teaspoon dried urfa pepper flakes, or some other smoky slightly hot dried pepper, such as aleppo
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large shallot, thinly sliced

Place cucumbers in a bowl. Meanwhile, dissolve sugar in both vinegars in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the remaining ingredients. Remove from heat. Allow to cool uncovered.  Pour over cucumber slices. Transfer to a sterile jar and refrigerate.

Pimm’s Cup
(adapted by Cocktail Buzz from the traditional recipe)

Nothing says “It’s warm enough to have a drink outdoors” like a Pimm’s Cup, a bittersweet elixir that originated in England as a gin-based, herbal-infused digestive aid, and is now a traditional seasonal drink for many American tipplers who enjoy yachting, horseshoes, and an excuse to have a cocktail before Happy Hour. We also use Pimm’s in our Zul Mule, another tasty concoction that lets the one-of-a-kind flavor of Pimm’s shine.

1 1/2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
3 ounces lemon-lime soda (you can substitute ginger ale)
cucumber and lemon slices, as garnish

Fill a highball or collins glass with ice. Add Pimm’s and top with soda. Stir until slightly chilled. Garnish with slices of cucumber and lemon.

Borage flowers
If you have some borage growing in your garden, do add a bloom to the glass as you would a mint spring. Borage was originally used, along with the leaves, as a Pimm’s Cup garnish. The blooms are edible and taste a little like cucumbers.

Our next Cookbook Challenge

Follow us as we channel creative vibes from our next three cookbooks, picked totally at random: Knives Cook Love from Sur la Table, Feast by Nigella Lawson, and Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson (yes, two Nigella books!).

photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz

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