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Cucumbers star in stir fry, soup

Probably the most overlooked and underused produce in the fridge these days is the cucumber.

It’s nobody’s first choice of ingredient for anything so it’s only fitting that every once in a while someone (that being me) shines a light on that long green vegetable that is technically a fruit.

You can get cucumbers pretty much anytime during the year and most everyone just eats them raw, throws them in a salad or turns them into pickles. They have lots of water in them and few calories so obviously they make a wonderful addition to any diet. Sadly most people think you have to peel your cucumber but really, all you need to do is wash them thoroughly (get all that icky waxy stuff off, it’s not good for you, it just makes them look pretty and retain their moisture content). It’s the seeds in the cucumber that make it bitter so make sure the cucumber you’re buying is fresh, firm and green.

Hopefully the recipes blow your preconceived notions about cooking with a cucumber to smithereens.

Shrimp and Cucumber Stir Fry

3 tablespoons white wine or chicken broth

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar,

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon cornstarch (or flour)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons oil

2 large cucumbers, peeled, cut in half lengthwise and seeded

1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin

1 to 1 1/2 pound medium-sized shrimp, shelled and deveined

In a small saucepan combine the wine, vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until it thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut each cucumber half into 1/4 inch thick slices. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large saute pan. When the oil is hot, add the cucumbers, water chestnuts and 1 tablespoon of the ginger. Cook stirring constantly until the cucumber pieces are just cooked, about 3 minutes. Immediately remove them to the serving platter.

Add the last 2 tablespoons oil into wok and let it heat for about 45 seconds. Add the garlic, 1 tablespoon ginger, green onions and shrimp. Mix constantly while cooking and continue until the shrimp is cooked throughout, about 3 to 4 minutes. At this point pour the sauce over the mixture, mix to coat and let cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the sauce is hot and coated everything. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the cucumbers and serve. Serve 4 to 6.

Cucumber Sweet Pepper Soup

2 teaspoons minced garlic

6 pieces of white bread, torn into small pieces

2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups plain yogurt

1 1/2 cups packed watercress sprigs or parsley, rinsed and dried

1/2 teaspoon salt

Pepper to taste

2 large cucumbers, peeled if you like, seeded and chopped fine

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine

1 red bell pepper seeded and chopped fine

4 to 5 tablespoons minced green onions or chives

Tabasco to taste

Garlic croutons (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor or blender combine the garlic, bread, vinegar, oil, yogurt and watercress; process until smooth and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the cucumber, bell peppers, green onions and Tabasco. Mix to combine and then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Serve with croutons. Serves 4.

Pacific Rim Roll-Up with Cucumber Relish

This recipe requires a slow cooker and about 8 hours but it’s sooooo worth it.

5 pounds beef, ribs, roast or whatever you like, cut into pieces.

1 bottle (10 ounces) soy sauce

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup minced garlic

4 tablespoons minced ginger

6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup water (optional)

Relish:

2 seedless cucumbers, diced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 red onion, diced

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

8 large flour tortilla

Sour cream (optional)

For the relish: Place the cucumbers in a bowl and add the salt, red onions, rice vinegar, sugar, poppy seeds and red pepper flakes. Mix to combine, cover and refrigerate. Before serving taste to see if it needs more sugar or more vinegar to make it to your liking. This can be made in the morning and sit in the refrigerator until the beef is done later in the day.

Place beef in the slow cooker and pour the soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, vinegar, sesame oil, olive oil and water over the top. Mix to coat and then cover and cook on high for about 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, remove the meat from the liquid and shred it. You can boil down the left over liquid for a sauce if it’s too thin. Pile the meat on to the tortillas, top with the cucumber relish and sour cream if you’re using it and enjoy.

– Submitted by Sandi Soclafesh of Boston Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at ztlog@verizon.net or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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