Editor's note: Staff writer Clint Cooper has a drawer full of unused recipes in his kitchen. Once a month in Tossed & Found, he's pulling some out and giving them a try.
One of my late father's favorite side dishes was sliced cucumbers in a bowl of vinegar.
As a child, I couldn't understand the appeal of such a dish. Yet I loved pickles which, more or less, are cucumbers soaked in vinegar. It didn't make sense at the time.
Cucumbers are low in calories (15 calories per 1,000 grams), contain no saturated fats or cholesterol, are a good source of dietary fiber (with the peel), a good source of potassium (147 milligrams per 100 grams), contain antioxidants in moderate ratios and have a mild diuretic property.
They're also cheap, for those who believe it's more expense to eat healthily.
And, according to NaturalNews.com, they can eliminate a foggy mirror (by rubbing a slice across the glass before showering), can be used instead of WD40 for a squeaky hinge, relieve bad breath (press a slice to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to kill bacteria) and are a hangover cure (eat a few slices before going to bed to replenish essential nutrients).
But as it says on the commercials, your results may vary.
Since my adult palate now enjoys cucumbers in a variety of dishes, this month's trip into the drawer for recipes produced refrigerator pickles, cucumber salsa, a cucumber salad and a cucumbers-and-tomatoes side dish.
I've always wanted to make pickles but don't have the time or proper tools to fool with canning. This recipe offered refrigerator or freezer pickles the next day, and I chose the refrigerator variety since we don't have much freezer room.
As for salsa, I'm a fan, so making it with cucumbers seemed like a good idea.
The cucumber salad was a different recipe than anything I'd tried before, while the cucumbers and tomatoes looked similar to dishes I've made.
So if you've just put in your home garden and can't wait until cucumbers are ready to harvest, here are some recipes to ponder during the growing season. Better yet, while they grow, go out and pick some up at the grocery and give these a try.
2 pounds cucumbers, sliced
1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dill seeds (or several dill leaves or flower heads)
2 cloves peeled garlic
Create a brine by combining vinegar, water and salt in saucepan; heat the mixture just enough for the sugar to dissolve. Pour over cucumbers in a large bowl; add dill and garlic. Don't worry if the liquid does not quite cover the cucumbers. Overnight, the cut pieces will release juices that will raise the level of the brine.
Cook's changes: I used dill seeds instead of the dill leaves/flower heads alternatives.
Result: Easy to make. A real pickle taste was evident less than 24 hours later.
- Barbara Pleasant, via Pinterest
2 cups finely chopped seeded, peeled cucumbers
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately with chips.
Cook's changes: I held back a little on the red onion, fearing it would make it too strong, but it didn't. I'd use the whole amount next time. Also, I didn't notice it called for reduced-fat sour cream, so I used regular because I had it.
Result: Time-consuming seeding and chopping, but easy to make. Delicious. Salsa is chunky and will stay on the chip. If you prefer less chunky salsa, you could probably put all the ingredients in a blender.
- Simple and Delicious magazine
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped cucumbers
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped, seeded jalapeno pepper
Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, sour cream and salt. Add the cucumbers, onion, tomato and jalapeno; stir until blended. Garnish with cilantro if desired.
Cook's changes: By misreading the recipe, I used an entire jalapeno pepper instead of 1 tablespoon. It did not seem to make a difference.
Result: Lots of seeding and chopping, but easy to make. Tasty but a little too creamy. The flavors might emerge more by slightly reducing the amounts of yogurt and sour cream.
- Jemima Madhavan, Lincoln, Neb., via Taste of Home
1 cucumber, rinsed
1 pint cherry tomatoes (rinsed)
1/2 cup pre-diced onions
1/2 cup Kraft Special Collection Greek Vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Remove ends and peel, if desired, from cucumber. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise; then slice thinly and place in medium bowl. Cut cherry tomatoes lengthwise into quarters; add to cucumbers. Stir in the remaining ingredients until evenly coated. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes to blend flavors. Stir and serve.
Cook's changes: I couldn't find Greek seasoning, but an Internet post listed a recipe for a substitute. I cut the cherry tomatoes into regular quarters, not all lengthwise for fear they'd fall apart during the slicing.
Result: This is similar to what I've made before, without a recipe, by combining chopped cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, chopped onions and Italian dressing. The Greek vinaigrette and homemade Greek seasoning didn't make much of a taste difference from the Italian dressing.