COOL AS A CUCUMBER
If you live in the States, you’ve probably heard a calm acquaintance or loved one described as being “cool as a cucumber.” It’s no accident that cucumbers are associated with calm personalities. This cooling, calming food is used in many traditional food systems used to remedy excess heat—making them a natural summer food.
Cucumbers boast powerful detoxifying abilities, which is why every green drink I make contains cucumber. I love the light, fresh flavor. I also love the nutritional profile: One cucumber provides about 19% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin K and just about 12% of molybdenum.
Cucumber also contains a few incredibly powerful phytonutrients from three antioxidant families: cucurbitacins, lignans, and flavonoids. These three types of phytonutrients provide us with valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits. In animal studies, fresh extracts from cucumber have been shown to provide specific antioxidant benefits, including increased scavenging of free radicals and increased overall antioxidant capacity. Fresh cucumber extracts have also been shown to reduce unwanted inflammation and prevent and treat cancer in animal studies.
But how to enjoy this powerful, cooling food? The easiest way is to chop cucumbers into salads or eat raw spears with hummus. In Australia, we put sliced cucumbers on burgers and sandwiches of all kinds. My Danish family also ate them on (open-faced) sandwiches or, even more often, soaked in a dill-spiked brine and kept in a container in the fridge. This container would be hauled out at each meal so people could enjoy the slices as a cooling side dish for literally anything my mother made for lunch or dinner. I loved these cucumber slices so much that when my mother wasn’t around, I’d sneak to the fridge and filch a few slices. Here’s a recipe so you can enjoy these delicious cucumbers yourself!
Makes about 1.5 cups
1 English (hothouse) cucumber
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar (coconut or regular)
Optional: A few very thin slices of red onion
Optional: ¼ teaspoon dill seed
Optional: 1 or 2 teaspoons snipped fresh dill
- Slice the cucumber as thin as possible (use a mandoline or other vegetable slicer if you would like). Put the slices in a colander, toss them with the salt, and let stand for about 30 minutes. This helps drain excess moisture which could dilute the brine you are about to make.
- Meanwhile, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and optional dill seed in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Rinse the salt off the cucumbers, and squeeze or press out as much moisture as possible.
- Put the cucumbers in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the optional fresh snipped dill. Add the pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine.
- Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours before serving. The pickled cucumbers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.