This year summer started bold&strong here in Spain: I am writing from Madrid right now, it’s early in the morning and the heat is already so “overwhelming” that I really wish to write this down and finally stay apart a while at least from the heat of my laptop! In moments like these even for me the thought of “cooking” just desappears from my mind. The only things my body tollerates during the day are refreshing salads, crudités, infused aromatic waters & fruity popsicles (obviously done by myself!). In my gastronomic journey through summer there are a few veggies can never stay without to bring a touch of freshness to any dish, one of for all: cucumbers! When I was a child I used to love them just where they were pickled in a jar (you know, the kind of stuff we all started to love to put inside a burger in the 80’s..) but here in Spain I learned to love them and use them in my summer kitchen. I will give you some tips, apart from putting in your everyday gazpacho or salmorejo (which I love!) or in tzaziki sauce;). Soo le’ts enjoy this month of beach weekends, everlasting barbecues nights and walks to the countryside to finally pick some veggies from the garden: let’s July!
Enjoy my refreshing tips with cucumber!
A few facts about cucumber, national spanish pride: like radish, is basically made out of…water! It’s a cocktail full of vitamins like C y E, best friend of our skin under the sun. (Actually I think absolutely any of us tried the classic cucumber mask on eyes and face at least once in life..But I just discovered that cucumbers are also great allies for hair care! Did you know that? This water can be used to cleanse hair after shampoo, I must try!). Also: its high fiber content helps the digestive process, gums problems and to mantain a good cholesterol level. Enough right?
But in the kitchen the great news about cucumbers is that they match basically with everything in season to compose great summer salads: any kind of melons, tomatoes, radish, fresh onions and garlic, avocados..Cucumbers are also great for pairing with herbs like mint, dill, fennel, anice, cumin & coriander. Ok, this is more or less common information but not everybody knows how good they match also with strawberries (try to pair them in a salad if you still find some strawberries in the markets!)and …shellfish! Excluding obvious gazpacho, pickles (I adore them) and the recipe I prepared last week, (the Panzanella salad, italian summer dish I prepare with cucumbers and radish in my version), here is my top list involving cucumbers, enjoy!
Infused water with mint and cucumber
I am a super duper fan of infusing water with pretty…everything. Maybe it’s because, I don’t drink naturally enough. (I mean I tend to forget to drink and I will confess that sometimes I put an alarm in my phone to just remind me to drink several times per day, crazy right?). That’s why I started to investigate how to make the “drink daily two liters of water thing” more appealing.. and I discovered soon that adding herbs and fruits..it helps!! One of the most efficient and easy way to add a twist to water instantaneously is add to a jar full of water the slices of one cucumber and a fresh bunch of mint. I usually prepare it in the night for the next day. After a night in the fridge, I just filter it (sometimes I add the juice of a lemon and..that’s it: guarantee on that day I won’t forget to drink!
Handmade popsicle with cucumber, mint, greek yogurt and honey
Refreshing handmade popsicles are the best thing on earth when the heat grows! This version is my favourite: just mix together in a blender a cucumber, a generous bunch of fresh mint and your honey with greek yogurt. Once it becomes a nice light green colour cream put it in the popsicle forms and to the fridge! After 3 or 4 hours they should be just fine to taste! I really love this version but I like sometimes a salty version: just substitute honey with salt and mint with dill and you’ll have a tzaziki popsicle to open a barbecue night!;).
Instantaneously cucumber maki
Instantaneously…more or less! I don’t think that preparing maki with this method will take less time than with the usual seaweed but it can be a great invention if you suddenly get a disturbing craving for maki&co and you run out of green nori but you have the fridge full of cucumbers (because it’s summer …and you should!) Or if you plan a sushi night and in the group of our friends someone dislike seaweeds (yes, this kind of people exist). Just cut your cucumbers (better the dutch variety, they’re longer) in 3,4 cm high cylinders (same high of a piece of maki, get the idea?), gently empty any of them with a tiny knife, and…full the emptiness with your fav diced crudités like carrots, sweet peppers slices, red cabbage, beet, avocado and some cooked rice (well steamed in the traditional way for sushi and dressed with rice vinegar). The sticky rice will help everything staying inside. Serve with soy sauce, obvioulsy! It’s actually harder to explain than to make…have fun dicing!
Gourmet sanwich with prawns, smoked bacon and cucumber sweet& sour pickles
Looking some inspiration about matching cucumbers in the kitchen the recipe of this lovely sandwich gourmet suddendly came to my mind. I found it in this book from food writer Niki Segnit (which is kind of a cult for me!) and I totally love it, it’s kind of a classic “after party, before bed” munchies with an oriental twist in my place! In summary: slice a cucumber and put the slices in a bowl marinating with rice vinegar, salt and brown sugar…and keep it in the fridge while your boil some prawns (right from the freezer to boiling water, voilá) and stir fry a couple of slices of smoked bacon. Blend together the cooked prawns and the bacon with soy sauce, sesam oil and a spoon of sesam seeds. This will turn quickly in a nice cream to spread all over your sandwich bread. In every sandwich just put the cream and a spoonful of cucumbers. If you want to toast them ( and you should;) just brush the bread outside with some oil and sesam seeds! Yummy right?
Pics © Picniquette
Coming soon: during my stay in Madrid I met my korean friend (and amazing potter) Ju-hyun,and we prepared a picnic together..full of delicious recipes from her land! Stay tuned and…Enjoy summer!