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When the temperature spikes, you want cool, crisp, light foods....and when they are water-packed veggies like cucumbers, so much the better because they help keep you hydrated in the heat. There's a reason they say "cool as a cucumber," right?
At this time of year, cukes are inexpensive and easy to find. I like the English variety since the skin is thin and easy to eat, but regular garden cucumbers are just fine too....just give them a good scrubbing to get off the bitter-tasting wax supermarkets coat them in.
Cukes make great, fresh-tasting, easy side dishes for many summer foods. Here are some of my favorites:
Cucumbers in vinegar: You can vary this a million ways...my husband grew up using just apple cider vinegar and black pepper, while I use a little onion with it and red wine or sherry vinegar. This beautiful Japanese cucumber salad from Eating Well uses rice wine vinegar with just a little sugar and salt.
You can even make a quick pickle by boiling vinegar with pickling spice, a little salt and perhaps a little sugar if you like your pickles sweet. Pour it over sliced cucumbers and maybe a sliced carrot or two and let soak, and in a couple hours you'll have quick pickles that retain snap and crunch but are infused with delicious spicy pickle flavor. They don't keep like regular pickles, but are a ton more delicious in my opinion!
Cucumbers in yogurt or sour cream: I'm Polish, and a classic side in my family is sliced cucumbers with dill mixed up with sour cream (use light sour cream to cut the calories and fat). Another thing I love with grilled meats is tzatiki, a Greek dish with fresh mint, garlic, and cucumbers mixed with yogurt. The refreshing mint balances out the garlic and it just tastes amazing. This is especially good with Greek yogurt, of course.
Cucumbers in water: I know it sounds weird, but work with me here. Infused waters are huge right now. Put cucumbers, mint, and anything else you think might go well with it in a large pitcher of water with ice and let steep in the fridge overnight. In the morning you have super-refreshing, flavorful water. And a spa classic is a glass of ice water with a cucumber slice floating in it.
How do you like to use cucumbers?