Stay Cool with Cucumbers

How’s the weather where you are? Here in Seattle, we finally got summer this week after months of whining and praying for it! And now that it’s here, we’re whining about how hot it is!

With summer comes BBQ season, cold soups and salads, and lots of Indian food too. Yes that’s right! Indian food in summer. Here in the US, spicy curries don’t come to mind when it’s hot outside. In India while the curries still remain spicy even in summer, different vegetables are featured. Various kinds of gourds and squashes are in season in summer.

The ‘Malnad’  (literally translating to land of rain) region of the south Indian state of Karnataka grows some of the juiciest, crispest and sweetest cucumbers around the area. This is where my mother’s family is from and we would visit every summer. Some of my best childhood memories are from summers spent at my grandparents, playing with my cousins, climbing trees, chasing away monkeys from the guava trees and of course devouring grandma’s savory and sweet treats. And yes eating lots of cucumbers.

Moroccan cucumber salad

Cucumbers contain a chemical called cucurbitacin that sometimes makes them taste bitter. My mom taught me to slice the ends off and then holding the cut end against the exposed part of the cucumber, rub it around it a circular fashion. This removes the white ‘poison’ as my mother called it. And supposedly the cucumber tastes less bitter. I say supposedly as I never use cucumbers without removing the ‘poison’. So if you think cucumbers have a bitter edge to them, try out this trick!

While cucumbers are perhaps not quite as tasty here as in the Malnad region, I’m so glad they are available. There are a couple of salads that are super easy to make that I’d love to share with you. The first one is an Indian style cucumber salad and  the second a Moroccan style salad. When you look for cucumbers, look for ones that are tender and don’t have any yellow on them. English cucumbers are nice as they are practically seedless and are crispier but they’re also more expensive.

Indian cucumber salad – Serves 2

  • 1 regular or English cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut  into spears
  • ~ 3 sprigs cilantro (1-2 tablespoons), roughly chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 green chili, ends cut and slit lengthwise (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Toss all the ingredients together (I use a tupperware box) just before serving. The cucumbers also make a great appetizer. You can prepare the salad ahead of time. But add the lime and salt, and toss again,  just before serving. This is a very flexible recipe – use more or less of the ingredients as you like.

Indian cucumber spears

Moroccan cucumber salad – Serves 2-3

adapted from Kitty Morse’s Cooking at the Kasbah

  • 1 english or regular cucumber, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, finely diced (Kitty Morse uses 2 green onions, finely chopped. I didn’t have any on hand)
  • ~ 3 sprigs fresh mint (about 1 tablespoon), leaves separated and chopped finely
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together. Again, you can prepare the ingredients ahead of time and mix everything leaving out the lemon and salt till just before serving. This same salad with cilantro instead of mint is another version of the Indian cucumber salad. Make sure to use fresh mint. If the mint is not fresh, it can impart a bitter taste to the salad.

An easy summer salad

Now things just don’t get any simpler!

Happy Summer 🙂

-Veena

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8 Comments

Filed under India, Morocco

8 responses to “Stay Cool with Cucumbers

  1. Thanks for mentioning my cucumber salad on your blog. It’ll keep you cool in summer, and is especially good as an accompaniment to lamb kabobs.

    Kitty Morse, author
    Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from my Moroccan Kitchen

    • It’s my pleasure! Cooking at the Kasbah is one of my bibles. Thanks for the tip on the lamb kabobs – perfect for summer grilling.

  2. I had a vegetarian friend over and tried the second recipe: Instant success! In summer, it apparently pays to keep it simple, and fresh 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Glad you liked the Moroccan cucumber salad Florian. What did you make with it? Simple and fresh is definitely a good mantra for cooking in summer or anytime.

      • I decided to keep it really simple and served just the salad for refreshment, accompanied by lemonade (with fresh mint leaves), followed by one of my favorites, freshly made sour cream ice cream with varied fruits (I used mangos).

        600g sour cream, 80g powdered sugar, 1 real vanilla, half a lemon, juice and peel, 200ml cream and 1 teaspoon starch. (I hope I don’t come across as metrist 😉 ) Shortly cook starch and cream. Cool. Mix with everything else.

        I know you don’t like single use machines, but an (at least passive) ice cream maker is recommended. Set it to soft ice for full effect and swooning women 🙂 Add mangos as decoration.

      • Ice cream and mango is a heavenly combination and is sure to induce swooning!

  3. Something tells me you’ve not yet experienced sour cream ice cream! True? 🙂

  4. I’m captivated. Sour cream ice cream? Being a sour cream lover, I think I’d be swooning too!

    The first recipe is an old favorite of mine at all your parties, Veena. I plan on making your dosas tonight…this may be a nice and cooling addition, especially now that the weather’s decided to warm up. (About time! Geeeze).

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