Recently I posted a very positive review for Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Vegetable Cookbook. And I’m on a tear for making agua frescas.
Here a unique “blend” thanks to Michele. It’s a soup but it’s almost an agua fresca. Leave out the vinegar [and maybe salt and pepper] and you could happily drink away Michele’s combo of cucumber and water.
Cucumbers are perhaps the most versatile of our foods. We eat and drink them, even slice them and put them on our eyes. They are subtle, delicate, distinctive, versatile.
In making this soup/cream, you want to retain the power of the delicacy. This cream/soup should just ever so slightly drift across your palate letting the cucumber aroma and coolness embrace you like an autumn fog. So, go easy on the salt and pepper and vinegar. You want those ingredients to intensify the cucumber flavor, not overwhelm it.
You can serve this dish as the starter for any meal. For a long dinner with several courses, this can be a surprise intermediary, a break between two heavier dishes to lighten up the mouth and refresh your guests.
On a hot summer night, combining this dish with a salad will create an accomplished meal.
Cold Cucumber Cream with Tomato Salsa
Yield: serves 4
- 1 ¼ pounds cucumbers [3-4 large or 8-10 Kirbys]
- 2 scallions chopped
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoons white vinegar [more or less to your taste]
- Salta and freshly ground pepper
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Peel the cucumbers and cut lengthwise in half. With a small spoon, scoop out the seed and discard them.
Finely chop enough of the cucumbers to make ½ cup. Cover and refrigerate for the salsa.
Cut the remaining cumbers into 1-inch chunks. In a blender or food processor, combine the cucumber chunks, 1 of the scallions and the water. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour the soup into a covered container and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.
Just before serving, cut the tomato in half through the step end. Remove the core and squeeze the halves to extract some the seeds and juice; discard them. Cut the tomato in ½-inch dice and place in a small bowl. Finely chop the remaining scallion and add it to the bowl, along with the chopped cucumber and the basil. Toss with the oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Taste the soup for seasoning. Spoon it into chilled bowls, top each bowl with some of the salsa and serve.
Source: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/5.6, 1/50th second, ISO-3200
Cucumbers. Absolutely marvelous food. Or eye patches.
I often use cucumbers in dips where they are combined with yogurt or sour cream for a mellow treat. But, there are options. This recipe gives you fire on day one and a tumult of heat if you let it sit in the refrigerator.
I would normally say here to play with ingredients, but I suggest you follow this recipe meticulously. Get a sense of the heat and, if you have the courage, you can ramp it all up next time.
The flavors here layer. They do not clash. But like a spice symphony, they do come together for a grand finale.
[Oh, if you read the recipe, and compare the pictures, then you will see that, yes, I did peel the cucumbers.]
Nippy Cucumber Relish
Yield: 4 cups
- 4 large Kirby [pickling] cucumbers, each about 5 inches long [about 1 ¼ pounds]
- 1 medium carrot
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh red jalapeno, or other hot red pepper
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
Scrub the cucumbers and cut ½ inch off each end. Cut the cucumbers in large dice and place the diced pieces in a bowl.
Trim and peel the carrot. Grate it on the largest holes of your metal grater. Stir the carrots into the cucumbers.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 minutes and let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
Serve right away at room temperature or refrigerate until chilled. Keep chilled until almost ready to serve. The relish will last for 5 days in the refrigerator. However, do recall this: every day it sits there marinating, the relish gets hotter. Day 1 is fine. Day 5 requires a cold beer.
Source: Chutneys & Relishes by Lorraine Bodger