When summer is in full force, cucumbers follow suit in the most overwhelming fashion. They are piled high on the shelves of every grocery store, where they sell for a pittance. You’ll find them in all shapes and sizes at your local farmers’ market. And, if you happen to be growing a couple of plants in your backyard, by now your harvest is so abundant that you’re giving your cukes to anyone who will take them!
So what do you do with all these cukes?
The first cucumber sandwiches are exciting and delicious for sure, as well as the summer tossed salads with lots of cucumber in it, but if that’s all you do with your cucumbers, soon enough you’ll have lost your enthusiasm for this prolific veggie.
But cucumbers happen to be very versatile. And with a little creativity, they lend themselves to many wonderful dishes… like this recipe. Julienned into linguini size strips and tossed with fresh mint and a zingy vinaigrette, cucumbers here make for a very refreshing – not to mention stylish – appetizer. The fried capers that adorn this simple dish add an irresistible salty bite, a perfect contrast to the slightly sweet cukes.
By the way, the cucumbers you see in these photographs come from my own garden. I planted two Burpless seedless cucumber plants this spring and they now produce a dozen large cucumbers every week. I’m not giving mine away yet, though; because I’m experimenting like crazy… So you might see a few more cucumber recipes on this blog before summer is over!
Food & wine pairing: Rías Baixas, Albariño with cucumber linguini
With this appetizer I recommend serving a crisp, mineral-laden Albariño from Rías Baixas in northwestern Spain. The wine’s vibrant acidity is gorgeous with the cucumber and its inherent minerality pairs well with the briny capers.
Cucumber linguini with fresh mint and fried capers
active time: 15 min
For the vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground white pepper to taste
For the cucumber linguini
- 2 large seedless cucumbers (2 1/2 lbs) (1.1 kg) – peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 12 large mint leaves – cut en chiffonade
- 6 golden cherry tomatoes – halved
- 1/2 recipe fried capers
- freshly ground white pepper
- Step 1: For the vinaigrette – Place all the ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended and set aside.
- Step 2: Cut the cucumbers crosswise in 6″ sections. Using a mandoline, julienne the flesh of the cucumber but not the seedy centers. (You should end up with 4 cups of julienned pieces). Place the cucumber strips in a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt, mix well with your hands and let stand for 30 minutes.
- Step 3: Drain the cucumber in a medium sieve and press down with a wooden spoon to remove all excess juices. Place the cucumber in a medium bowl. Add the fresh mint and the vinaigrette. Toss until well mixed. Spoon into four appetizer bowls. Garnish each bowl with 3 cherry tomato halves and a spoonful of fried capers. Sprinkle with white pepper and serve immediately.
- When cutting the cucumber in julienne strips, slice only until you reach the seedy center. Then turn the cucumber around, and continue slicing until all the flesh has been cut and only the seeds are left.
- This is what it looks like when the job is done.
- Alternatively, if you do not have a mandoline, you can slice the cucumbers by hand, using a vegetable hand-peeler. It’ll take a few more minutes, but it’ll do a good job. Your dish will look more like cucumber fettuccine though!