Photo: Mutato #23, © Uli Westphal
Since I have been cooking with Taste Before You Waste, I am not so fond of the perfect equally straight cucumbers from the supermarket any more. As it turns out, cucumbers come in all sizes and shapes. Surprise!
Apparently, the Dutch want their cucumbers to be long, straight and smooth. When I was traveling in Eastern Europe this summer, however, the only cucumbers I could find were short and fat, and had little bumps on their skin. A Dutch tourist would hardly recognize that it was a cucumber at all, if it wasn’t for the color. Once while I was grocery shopping, a Moroccan woman told me that I should buy the mini cucumbers, because they are crispier than the bigger ones. As it turns out, opinions seem to differ about what a cucumber should look like across borders and cultures. Our opinion about cucumbers might just be a social construct.
It has been estimated that five to ten percent of all vegetables and fruits in The Netherlands are wasted because of their looks. Kromkommer, a Dutch initiative against food waste, even named itself after the weirdly shaped vegetables you sometimes find in the trash or at a friendly food shop.
In the TBYW kitchen, we have often had to deal with large amounts of straight and less perfect cucumbers. One of our favorite cucumber recipes is a creamy cucumber soup with dill that I have learned from Hanneke. It basically comes down to frying some onion, garlic and lots of peeled cucumber pieces in a pan, to which you add vegetable stock, and, after or before you blend it, some cream and lots of fresh or dried dill. Easy and surprisingly good!
Here is another cucumber soup recipe for the last sunny days of this year:
Cold cucumber soup with avocado and olive oil, adapted from Volkskrant´s Volkskeuken.
For 4 to 6 portions
2 garlic cloves, sliced
20g fresh coriander leaves
400 mL cold vegetable stock
400 g Greek yoghurt
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
Good quality olive oil
Black pepper and sea salt
Peel the cucumbers. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Cut the cucumber into pieces and blend these with garlic and coriander leaves to a soft mush in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Pour in cold vegetable stock and blend again. Pour the cucumber mix in a large bowl and mix in the Greek yoghurt. Season with pepper and salt and store in the fridge until use. Serve the soup in bowls and sprinkle with avocado pieces and a splash of olive oil. For a spicier soup, add more black pepper or tabasco. Enjoy!
I think the salad on the picture was about 90% cucumber combined with apple, carrot leaves, nigella seeds, and a vinaigrette with white wine vinegar.
By the way, did you know that you can add cucumber to your stir-fry? My fellow TBYW cooks were surprised that a cucumber curry does not end up as a green puddle after you fry the cucumber slices at a hot temperature. We did it in gastronomy class too, so it must be culinary accepted.
Last but not least:
Tips for preserving cucumbers
Don’t keep cucumbers in the fridge, but keep them in a dark, cool place
Keep them in the plastic foil you bought it in. Cucumbers will stay good for up to 14 days in the foil, outside the fridge.
Another familiar way to preserve cucumbers is to pickle them. I’ll write more about pickling and fermentation soon!