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Archive for the category “cucumber”

Cucumber Salad

cucumbersaladAs spring springs around here I move away from warm, gooey comfort foods and head straight towards colder foods. My morning coffee is no longer a steaming hot cup from the French press, but cold brew poured over ice after chilling for a day. As I walk around in cropped pants instead of jeans and sweaters I love opening the fridge and grabbing a bowl of chilled salad for lunch, like this one!

In past years I have done themed posts leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, either by culture or color. This year all I can muster is the green from these cucumbers. This is not a bad thing, just with so much going on leading up to our move my priorities have been elsewhere, like making products for Grain Free Haven, ensuring the 40 year old Christmas ornaments are safely wrapped and packed, and the DVDs we barely ever watch anymore (but still keep the movies we love since Netflix and Amazon Prime are fickle).

If you want to explore traditional and not so traditional Irish dishes, here are a few like Colcannon, Corned Beef, Shepherd’s Pie     Dublin Coddle or a Traditional Irish Breakfast. Some green themed items can be found too, like Salsa Verde, Mushed Peas or Buttered Leeks. May the luck of the Irish be with you this week, and the wearing of the green reduce the number of pinches you get! Slainte!

Cucumber Salad

2 medium cucumbers (or one large English cucumber)
1/2 medium white or yellow onion
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons dried dill leaves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a small bowl whisk together all ingredients except for the cucumber and onion.

Slice cucumbers into thin discs, either by hand or with a mandolin. Place slices in a large bowl. Thinly julienne slice the onion and add to the bowl with cucumber slices.

Pour dressing over vegetables and toss until well coated. Cover and chill for at least one hour and toss again right before serving.


Smoked Salmon Spread Crudite

sss crudite celery smallsss crudite tomato smallsss crudite cheese small

With the holiday season upon us, I find there are three versions of being a guest. The first is the kind where you just show up with a host(ess) gift and enjoy the evening, offering to help, but getting the expected, “oh no, I got it, you just relax”. Sometimes I just relax, and other times I relax by helping. The second is when you are expected to arrive with a side dish or appetizer. There is always the wondering about who can and cannot eat the ingredients you use, much less whether or not it will come out right. You cannot even taste the results of say, a pie, because the pretty presentation would be ruined! Yes, you might have made two, but what if you didn’t? How dare you even think of cutting into the puffy, browned top of sweet potato casserole or lattice topped cherry pie! I have been pretty lucky in the past, but I have also been known to accidentally mix up salt and sugar – yowza! The third version is the grand American tradition of potluck. If it is laid back and you can bring anything, go crazy! Make what you want, cut it into portions and taste a bit to make sure it is perfect; bring it hot, bring it cold, whatever! I like all three versions because they all involve two things I love – cooking and enjoying the company of people I care about. This year has been busy with our family being in limbo, then moving, then having complications with moving, then a new job. Through it all we had a wonderful little girl who hung in there with us through all the changes. For all these reasons we are keeping our holidays simple this year, focusing on enjoying the company of our little family and of our new friends. We are planning cooking marathons, as usual, for the holidays, but they will be a little smaller, including simple appetizers. This simple recipe for crudité can be adjusted to accommodate all types of diets and give variety to a meal, either before or during – even make them a meal on their own. They can fit any version of being a guest, or as a host(ess). Change up the vegetables and cheeses – pretty much anything you can cut in half and fill or top (carrots, cucumbers, olives, pickles). Of course, crisped bread or crackers would work too! I hope you enjoy the holidays and spend more time with your loved ones than you do in the stores, because when it is all said and done, the people are what give you purpose.

Smoked Salmon Spread Crudité

1 cup cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
4 ounces smoked salmon, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fresh dill, chopped (and a bit more for optional garnish)
2 celery stalks
5 large cherry tomatoes
5 – 10 slices sharp white cheddar cheese

Whisk together cream cheese and sour cream. Add salmon and garlic, folding it into the cheese mixture until well combined. Chill for about an hour. While it chills prepare the serving bases. Clean celery stalks, peel off tough strings and cut into 1 – 2 inch sticks. Clean tomatoes and slice in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and meat and pat dry. Slice cheese into 1 – 2 inch squares, making them thick enough to pick up and take a few bites out of, but thin enough not to over cheese the bites – a bit thicker than sandwich slices. Spread the spread (heh) on all the bases, taking time to form it to compliment the shape of the base – round like a tomato, within the crevice of the celery, and a bit random to soften the edges of the cheese slices. Top with dill if you please. Serve immediately or chill until time to serve/leave for the party.

Chef Salad

chef salad

I am avoiding a serious subject. A hot oven. I try to avoid it as much as possible in the Takoma Kitchen.  For one, it is an electric oven, which heats up very differently than gas, and regardless of electric or gas, it also makes our little place pretty warm. Here is one of the concoctions I do that does not take much stove or oven heat. The original chef salad is very American, originating in Pennsylvania or New York, depending on which claims you believe, first created in the 1930s or ’40s. Throw a few types of meat and cheese on a plate with a boiled egg and dressing and there you have it, a salad with a bunch of stuff on it so you don’t have to make a bunch of choices. I like the approach on a hot summer evening, and the reduced exposure to even more heat is a plus. Technically, the bacon and eggs require heat to prepare, but they are often left over and already in the fridge. That, or I send a heads up message to Big D and he takes a break from work and cooks up a pan of rashers while boiling some eggs ‘the way grandma did them’, with the shells practically falling off in the pan. Dinner can be custom made on each plate and put together pretty quickly – Little B gets eggs, bacon, cucumber and tomato, while Big D gets an extra pile of meat with ranch dressing, and I get a little bit of everything, especially the pepper jack cheese.

Chef Salad

6 ounces thin cut roast beef
6 ounces thin cut roast turkey
6 ounces thin cut virginia baked ham
4 ounces sliced swiss cheese
4 ounces sliced medium cheddar cheese
4 ounces sliced pepper jack cheese
8 ounces grape tomatoes
2 ounces baby portabello mushrooms, sliced
2 mini cucumbers, sliced into coins
2 – 4 medium boiled eggs, sliced in half
6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
8 ounces raw baby spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
4 – 6 ounces salad dressing (traditionally French or Thousand Islands)

On two large dinner plates divide the spinach and spread evenly. Slice cheese into ¼ inch wide strips. Roll each slice of meat individually. Alternate cheese strips and meat rolls in a circle on top of the spinach bed.  Arrange the mushrooms, tomatoes and cucumber coins between the cheese and meat. In the center of the salad place the egg halves. Sprinkle bacon over top of salad. Serve immediately after drizzling with preferred dressing.

Cucumber Cilantro Cooler

cucumber cilantro cooler

Cilantro is best when fresh leaves and stems are used. As usual, I bough a bunch of it for a Tex-Mex feast we made the other night, kind of like this one, and some was left over. Also as usual I dropped the extra cilantro in a jar with water to keep it fresh as long as possible. It was still staring at me, and it was the cocktail hour, so I looked for some beverage ideas. I enjoyed my Whiskey Watermelon from a few days ago, so why not?! Here is what I came up with. It came out fresh, tangy and perfect for a hot, humid July evening. I got the idea from here and tweaked to my taste. I also made a version with tequila for Big D and he very much enjoyed it, so if you are not a vodka drinker try it with your liquor of choice.

Cucumber Cilantro Cooler

½ cup chopped cucumber, seeds removed
Small handful of fresh cilantro
2 ounces vodka (I use Tito’s, made in Texas)
1 lime (or 2 key limes), juiced
1 tsp granulated sucralose
¼ to ½ cup Seltzer water (optional)

Add chopped cucumber to a cocktail shaker along with a large handful of cilantro leaves. Muddle well, and then add vodka, lime juice, sucralose and ice almost to fill the shaker. Shake well for twenty seconds and then strain into a lowball glass filled with ice. If you want to make the cocktail a little less powerful, strain it into a taller glass and top with a splash of seltzer, then stir quickly. Garnish with a wheel of cucumber and a sprig of cilantro. Sip sip sip!


20130609-080341.jpgLook at me diving into summery goodness! I am not a real big fan of summer heat, which is only kind of funny, considering I grew up in Texas, where hot and humid are the name of the game for half the year. Maryland has its share of hot and humid, but for only a fraction of the Texas time, thank goodness. After a particularly rainy week we landed ourselves in the RV for a mostly warm, sunny weekend. Such a weather change inspired me to make a nice, cold soup to go with our fire seared meaty dinner. I stocked up on some fresh vegetables, threw them in a blender and waited, not turning on an oven or firing up a single burner on the stove. The meat got cooked over the fire pit as the sun set, making for a beautiful summer meal at twilight and grand evening of simple, refreshing food.


2 pounds ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup fresh cilantro, loosely packed
1/2 cup parsley, loosely packed
1/2 sweet Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 – 1/4 cup sherry

Combine all ingredients except sherry into a blender or food processor. Pulse until combined and all pieces uniform size. Add 1/8 cup sherry and pulse again to combine. If you like chunkier soup like me don’t pulse further. For smoother soup, continue pulsing to desired texture. Depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes and onion you may need more sherry and/or salt. If you are not sure, chill soup for about an hour and taste before deciding to add more. Chill at least two hours or overnight before serving. Garnish individual servings with any combination of tomato/cucumber/bell pepper/herbs you wish.

Cucumber Goat Cheese Bites

cucumber goat cheese bites

I always love goat cheese, but somehow missed eating it lately. I recently tried to remember the first time I had it – the tart, smooth experience flirting with my tongue. I think it was in Golden, Colorado, while lunching in a little cafe in the historic downtown area. For the life of me I cannot remember the name. I would know it if I saw it again, but since I am Maryland at the moment, such an ability is not very helpful. It was spread on a chicken sandwich, in lieu of mustard or other condiments. I remember leaning on the table with my eyes closed, staring at it, wondering where the cheese had been all my life. Granted, I was only 25 or so, but it seemed such a long time to have been without goat cheese! I may have eaten it before, but passed it off as some other ingredient. Since that chicken sandwich I scour menus for it and grab packages now and then from the store. I get unreasonably excited when a restaurant offers a dollop on top of an otherwise basic green salad, or includes it in a cheesy dippy appetizer. My friend over at What’s For Dinner started on a goat cheese kick recently and, inspired, I now eagerly follow suit. On top of the goat cheesiness hankering, the warmer weather is upon us and I am looking to make some cold dishes. Here is a simple cold appetizer, or green salad substitute, that combines flavors my family and I love. The black olives are especially for Little B, who has adored them ever since Great Aunt Debby stuck them on her chubby little one-year-old fingertips.

Cucumber Goat Cheese Bites

1 English cucumber, washed with peel on
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1 tsp dried parsley leaves
½ tsp dried basil leaves
½ tsp garlic powder
5 – 8 extra large black olives, drained and patted dry
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut cucumber on the perpendicular, to create 1/3 to ½ inch thick slices. Scoop out an indentation about ¼ inch deep on one side of each slice, allowing for the cheese filling to anchor itself. You can use a small melon baller or 1/2 teaspoon scoop. Stir together cheese, parsley, basil and garlic. Sprinkle indentation and top of cucumber slices with salt and pepper. Using a spoon place some goat cheese mixture on top of each slice, filling the indentation and creating a smooth mound on top. Slice olives in half lengthwise, then place a half on top of each cucumber slice. Chill until served.



I could just eat this stuff straight from a bowl, with a big spoon, as in “would you like some lamb with your tzatziki”? Forget daintily dipping or drizzling it on food. Sometimes I get a Greek salad just to be able to mix tzatziki in with it. I used to love dipping pita bread into tzatziki and hummus – oh, what a bite exploding with flavor! These days, since I don’t eat pita anymore, I rely on roasted meats and veggies as my tzatziki conduits. Beyond the lovely, tangy creaminess of the sauce, I just like saying the word – tzatziki, tzatziki, tzatziki. I eat salsa with Mexican food, I eat wasabi with sushi, I slather steaks with chimichurri, I put mustard on hotdogs and I top Greek food with tzatziki. So there.


2 cups plain Greek yogurt, or half sour cream and half yogurt
1 medium cucumber
2 large garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste

Peel, halve and remove seeds from the cucumber, then finely dice. Sprinkle salt on the diced cucumber and let sit for about five minutes. Place diced cucumber it between two towels and press gently to remove any excess water. You may need to repeat with more dry towels to get all the water. In a medium bowl combine yogurt/sour cream, garlic, mint, dill, olive oil and lemon juice. Stir until combined. Fold in cucumber and mix until it is evenly distributed. Add salt to taste. Chill overnight before serving.

Another End of Summer Salad

Okay, so I had a little of this and a little of that in the fridge (some of which was left over from making pizza (add link)) and thought they would make a wonderful end of summer salad. Again. It is a bit different from my other End of Summer Salad (add link), but I am really trying to squeeze in the summer produce, so I decided to post it. I know it was recently, like, right below, but this one has a totally different taste. I have to say right now that I absolutely adore my daughter and love how her fine motor skills are improving exponentially while helping me in the kitchen. Now I must also say that I really enjoyed making this salad all by myself – not having to lean over a footstool, without a helper who is learning to use a knife, or a munchkin putting a little too much parsley in the bowl or an imp who insists on measuring and pouring the olive oil from the huge bottle on her own and spilling about half a cup on the counter. While she watched the last bit of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 version, thank you very much) I snuck in the kitchen and whipped up the salad. I liked doing it by myself as much as I will like the next time she helps break a dozen eggs for a frittata – its just a different way of cooking. Here she comes!

Another End of Summer Salad

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt*
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried parsley leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
Dash of dried red pepper flakes
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, rough chopped
½ large cucumber, rough chopped
1 cup artichoke hearts, rough chopped
½ cup chopped black olives
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack, Feta or Parmesan cheese

Add first seven ingredients in small bowl. While whisking the vinegar mixture gradually add olive oil until well combined. In medium bowl add tomatoes, cucumber, artichoke hearts, olives and cheese. Drizzle dressing over vegetables and stir until evenly distributed. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Toss again before serving.

*If you use Feta or Parmesan cheese you may need less than 1 tsp of sea salt, since they tend to be stronger flavored cheeses.

End of Summer Salad

As the temperatures gently creep lower I tend to linger over the fresh, seasonal summer produce at the markets. I know some of it, although sadder looking, will be around pretty much year round. Some will have faded colors or less flavor. Others will just get more expensive. I look forward to the squash and root vegetables that are already becoming more prevalent, but I currently plan on cherishing the last of the bright tomatoes, abundant cucumber and perfect avocados that have become a habit over the past few months. Here is a wonderful, simple, soft salad that fully appreciates some of the summer fruits that we often call vegetables. Enjoy!

End of Summer Salad

4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 small bunch basil leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ lime, juiced with pulp
2 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 roma tomatoes, cut into about 20 pieces each
½ large cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped

In a small bowl combine the first six ingredients. Set aside. In a large bowl combine the avocado, tomato and cucumber. Add dressing and stir gently, trying not to smash tomatoes or avocado too much. Chill covered for about an hour before serving.

Refrigerator Pickles

When I was a kid we had a garden in the back yard. We always grew tomatoes, sunflowers, usually included zucchini and often did cucumbers. Needless to say, we ate a lot of fresh vegetables during the summer. Sometimes I looked forward to the gardening – finding fruit and veggies ready to pick or grabbing some of the more elusive weeds while the plants matured. Other times I was not so eager to be a gardener – breaking up all the clods of dirt after they clumped over the winter, or clearing out all the dead plants when autumn came. I remember getting mad at my dad a few times, too. Me, my brother and mom did a lot of the work, but when he talked about the garden it was ‘his’. Ooooh, that got me irked! We would slave away in the heat and he would come out, point to a few things we missed, then head back in to the air conditioned house. I laugh about it now, because we learned so much about plants and self-sufficiency and responsibility, but the perspective was a bit different at the tender age of eight or nine. One thing my mom always did with some of our cucumber crop was make refrigerator pickles. For months there would be at least one jar of pickles in the fridge door – we would come in from playing outside (or gardening) and pinch a few cold, tart slices as a snack. They never lasted very long, which was good, since the simple preparation did not include any heating or effort to sterilize or pasteurize in the process. Since we currently have no garden, or yard for that matter, this batch of pickles was made with store bought cukes. They were big and perfect – the slices were nice and floppy after sitting in the jar for a day or two. Little B enjoyed watching them flop around before pretending to be a tiger and taking a bite. I never knew tigers liked pickles.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

1 large cucumber, peeled
1 – 2 cups white vinegar (substitute with some water if you want less tang)
½ white onion, julienne sliced
2 tsp sea salt
5 sprigs fresh dill
4 – 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
clean glass jar with tight fitting lid

Slice cucumbers into thick coins (1/8 to ¼ inch). Set aside. In a glass jar with tight fitting lid combine vinegar and spices. Put lid on jar and shake. Add cucumber to jar, making sure the slices are not sticking together. Secure lid on jar again and shake vigorously, encouraging the spices to spread out among the slices. Chill for at least 24 hours before eating. I make no promises about pickle viability beyond one week.

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