Let’s face it — it’s hot outside in August. When the temperature rises, I like to keep the cooking time to a minimum and keep the kitchen cool with no-cook summer recipes.
Few foods are as refreshing as cucumbers on a sweltering summer day. Their delicate flavor, crunch, and high-water content make them a welcome addition to a variety of dishes, including summery salads, cold soups, creamy dips, sandwiches, pickles, and cocktails.
When purchasing cucumbers, look for ones that are firm, dark green, and without blemishes or soft spots. Although they can be refrigerated for three to five days, recent research at the University of California, Davis suggests that cucumbers will actually last longer if kept in a cool dark spot at room temperature.
There are three varieties commonly sold in supermarkets — common or pole cucumbers, which are plump and about eight inches long; European cucumbers, often called “gourmet” or “hothouse” cucumbers, which are longer (about 14 inches) and contain fewer seeds; Kirbys, or pickling cucumbers, which are firm and short (about four inches long) and can be used for most dishes, not just pickles.
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Common cucumbers may come coated in edible wax to prolong their shelf life; scrub or peel before using. The European cukes are usually sold wrapped in plastic to protect their thin skin; peel if desired. I like to leave the skin on because I like the flavor and color.
Removing the seeds reduces the amount of liquid in cucumber preparations. To remove seeds, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
A delicious way to beat the heat is with a cold cucumber soup: Place 2 large-seeded European cucumbers, 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 small chopped shallot, 1 garlic clove, 1/3 cup loosely packed dill, and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil in the blender bowl, whiz until smooth, and season with salt and pepper.
Cool your palate with Indian raita condiment: In a medium bowl, mix together 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup chopped seeded European cucumber, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 teaspoons chopped scallions, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and season with salt.
For a quick pickled cucumber: Combine 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add 1 very thinly sliced Kirby cucumber, 1/4 thinly sliced sweet onion, and toss to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for at least 15 minutes.
GRILLED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH WATERMELON-CUCUMBER SALSA AND FETA DRESSING
Adapted from “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101,” Oxmoor House ($35.00)
I enjoy pairing wines with pork because it goes so well with so many varieties. One of the best choices with this dish would be a 2015 BV Chardonnay Carneros ($25.00) because of its bright notes of lemon, and apple that harmonize with the flavors in the salsa.
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled, divided
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup Homemade Mayonnaise or store-bought mayonnaise (low-fat if you prefer)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pork
Freshly ground black pepper
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 1/2 cups 1/4-inch cubed and seeded watermelon
3/4 cup 1/4-inch cubed and seeded cucumber
3/4 cup fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
3/4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Preheat the grill to medium. Set the sliced red onion to soak in ice water for 20 minutes (this will remove their “bite”). Drain and pat dry; set aside. Combine half of the feta, the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Season with pepper and stir in the remaining feta. Set the dressing aside.
Brush the pork lightly all over with some oil, season it lightly with salt and pepper, and grill it directly over the heat, giving it a quarter turn at a time, until a thermometer inserted at the thickest part registers 140°F for medium, about 2 minutes per side for a total of 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate, cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Toss together the onion, watermelon, cucumber, mint, cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
Place a mound of the salsa on each of 4 plates. Add the pork juices from the resting pork to the feta dressing, whisking to incorporate. Slice the pork crosswise into rounds 1/2-inch thick and arrange a quarter of the slices on top of each serving. Spoon the dressing on top of the pork.
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