There are many reasons why I love summer, but cucumbers are definitely very near the top of my list. You can get cucumbers any time of year, of course, but I am not talking about just any old cucumbers.
The cucumbers that have me longing for summer are grown just a few steps from my front door, in a garden with more square footage than our house. They are fresh and crisp and juicy. And, when they are in season, we eat them every single day.
I realize that not everyone is blessed with a nice big garden like we are, but this time of year, you have plenty of options for getting ones nearly as fresh as ours. Skip the grocery store, and head for a local farm stand. We have them all over around here – sometimes just a table set at the end of a driveway, with an “honor system” coffee can holding the money. Others are bigger, but the main thing is that usually you are buying the food from the person who grew it.
You have two other main choices for finding really fresh, local produce. Most easily found are Farmer’s Markets, which are cropping everywhere. Not all Farmer’s Markets are created equal of course – some have few rules about who can sell, or where the food has been before it shows up at the market. Others are much more strict about the provenance of that cucumber you just picked up, requiring things like a set distance it has traveled before it got to you, how it was grown, or that it was grown directly by the person selling it.
Farmer’s Markets have been around forever, of course, but a newer idea is a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture. With a CSA, you usually pay a set amount of money – for the season, or by the week or month, and the grower promises to supply you with a certain amount of product on a regular basis. The payment you make ahead of time allows the grower to have some operating funds up front, and you are generally guaranteed to get super fresh, local produce. If you are in a big urban setting, you might have to look a bit to find a CSA in your area, but that might suit you better than fighting crowds at a Farmer’s Market. Really fresh produce is worth looking for in my opinion.
Of course by the end of the summer, I will be waking from nightmares wherein I am being chased by large crowds of vegetables needing preservation of one kind or another, but for now, I am going to bask in the glow of a civilized number of them showing up each day. When it comes to cucumbers, I have a couple of tried and true family favorite recipes, but I’m also always looking for new ways to make our love affair with cucumbers even more intense, and this recipe definitely does that.
There is a little heat in here, but you can control that pretty easily but using less jalapenos – or more of course if that is the way you roll. This is pretty additive stuff, so you better make sure that you make plenty of it, lest fights over the last spoonful break out at the dinner table.
- 4 or 5 pickling cucumbers, or 2 larger ones
- 1 medium jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
- 1 large garlic clove, finely minced
- Juice of one medium lime
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 5-6 grind of fresh pepper - 5 peppercorn blend is nice, but black will work too
- about ¼ cup olive oil
- Wash cucumbers well and slice thinly - a mandolin slicer is handy for getting this done quickly and evenly, but a good sharp knife will do the trick - set aside.
- In a bowl big enough to hold everything, whisk together the jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, and salt and pepper.
- Whisk the oil into the mixture in a thin stream, until blended and emulsified.
- Stir in the cucumbers, being sure to get them well coated.
- Make at least 1 hour ahead of time to blend the flavors - it is best eaten the day you make it, but if needed, leftovers should be stored in the fridge.
Doesn’t that look like summer in a bowl?
The longer this sits, the more chance the jalapenos have to infuse the cucumbers – we like it best made in the morning, and then marinated in the fridge all day. Take it back out about a half hour before serving.A little cilantro sprinkled over the top would be really good, but alas my cilantro is not enjoying our recent monsoon rains, and is looking quite pitiful. I might have to head for the farmer’s market myself!