An Overabundance of Cucumbers

I don’t know what all the other CSAs have been sending people (well I do know, within my small group of friends with CSAs and the one who actually works at a farm), but here in Chicago-land we haven’t seen many hearty greens.  We only got two garlic scapes, and a handful of collard leaves.  There were heads of nappa cabbage, and more lettuce than we cared to have really, but what has put us to the veritable edge of our cooking creativity has been the wealth of cukes.

We have had 4 different types of cucumbers show up in our house this summer.  The classic green English cucumber, some spiky, skinny Japanese ones, from our neighbor next door, fat stumpy white ones,  and ball shaped lemon cucumbers.  Who even knew growing this many types of cucumbers was possible!? Farmers, probably.  At any rate, I am jealous of Tracy’s greens.  I know what to do with greens, I know how to eat them, cooked or raw, weeks at a time.  Cucumbers, however, are not as versatile.  We threw them on salads for a while.  Then my mom made creamy cucumber salad, with sour cream, vinegar, sugar and onions.  That was lovely, for a couple weeks.  It’s August, and we’re still getting 6+ cucumbers in our small size CSA box.    I decided there had to be a pleasant way to eat cucumbers en masse.

What I came up with was green gazpacho.   I did a little searching and fell upon this recipe:

Chilled cucumber soup with yogurt and fresh mint

serves 6 as an appetizer or 12 as an hors d’oeuvre

1 3/4 lbs seedless cucumbers – peeled and cut in 3” pieces (or 2lbs regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut in 3″ pieces)
1/4 medium red onion – skinned
1 garlic clove – skinned
1 jalapeño – stem removed, halved and seeded
8 large mint leaves
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon sea salt
1–6oz non-fat plain yogurt
1/2 to 3/4 cup spring water to taste

1 medium yellow tomato – seeded and cut in 1/8” cubes (or 8 yellow grape tomatoes quartered)
tiny mint leaves as garnish
lemon oil as garnish

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor with 1/2 cup of the spring water. Pulse a few times so the ingredients are coarsely chopped, then process until soup is very smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. If necessary, thin with the remaining water to the desired consistency.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight, until well chilled. Place the soup in the freezer for 30 minutes before serving.
Ladle soup in chilled soup bowls or cocktail glasses. Drizzle a little lemon oil in the center of each bowl. Garnish with a few tomato cubes, a mint leaf and serve immediately.

I followed this recipe mostly faithfully.  I did not buy lemon oil for the presentation/serving.  I did chill it overnight.  I think this improves the flavor for almost any cold soup or salad.  It tends to take some time for all the flavors to meld together.  Don’t be afraid of the jalapeno; the spiciest part of this soup is the garlic.  Raw garlic is a bit much for even the most jaded raw foodist.  If you don’t want your mouth to be vaguely garlicky for the rest of the day, don’t put as much in.  I think I almost would have added more mint. As it was, I didn’t have very large mint leaves to work with.

All in all, this was a fabulous way to use up cukes.  I used 4 medium – large green cucumbers and that seemed to be the right amount.  Instead of yellow tomato, I just sliced some roma tomatoes over the top. Pretty isn’t it? And it just takes a bit out of that summer heat.  We finished the whole batch I made in one sitting, but the recipe notes that you can refrigerate it for two days after making it.

I am going to go out on a limb here and say that I probably like it more than tomato gazpachos I have made.  I think it’s because a lot of tomatoes will start to be too acidic, albeit some tomatoes (yellow and orange varieties especially) are naturally less acidic.  However, sans tomatoes, this gazpacho was light, minty, spicy, and soothing.

I would recommend it to anyone who is tired of chewing through salad.  It was also make a nice side to a heavier summer meal, like paninis or stromboli.  There are lots of other things to do with cucumbers, but this was a fresh new preparation that didn’t take much time.

Happy cooking!

Note: In the first picture, please notice that the gazpacho is already finished, but there is still an enormous cucumber around for the photo op.  When will they stop coming?!  Oh, cucumbers.

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