My friend Mat sent me a really interesting recipe a few weeks ago, for blistered cucumbers, and I just had to try it. It caught my attention because cucumbers are one of the vegetables that you rarely, if ever, see cooked. And this recipe involves cooking them in a really interesting way. Count me in!
Before I go further, two notes:
- The aforementioned Mat is the same friend that introduced me to all sorts of public steps on the UCLA campus, just days before I moved to Michigan. I miss Mat (and his family), and I miss those UCLA stairs!
- Sorry for being quiet for the past two weeks. There’s no good reason that I haven’t blogged. I even had three solid blog post ideas coming together in the ol’ noggin. I’ve just been busy with work, and life happens. I’m here now, and things are good in my life, so… cut me some slack!
We good? Good. Moving on!
Blistering cucumbers involves searing them in hot oil, but only on one or two sides, so blisters form on the edges, making them charred and crispy, while the centers remain tender and uncooked. It’s the best of both worlds.
I can’t take credit for this recipe, since I followed one from a website called The Takeout. I modified it a bit, which I’ll share as I go along, but The Takeout’s post shares the history of the dish (including its Michigan roots), and has a lot more information, so check it out by clicking here, if you so desire.
I started by heating a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. As it got hot, I chopped three pickling cucumbers into chucks.
I used pickling cucumbers because I had them on hand, and they were super fresh, as they had been harvested from a backyard garden just a few days prior. I don’t even know the name of the woman who grew them, but she gave a bunch to her son John – more than he could eat – so he gave me some of them when we were hanging out. Thank you, John’s mom!
Once the oil was hot, I poured it into a bowl, and quickly added a generous sprinkle of cumin and turmeric. The oil was still hot, so the spices sizzled when they went in. This isn’t a great picture, but believe me, there was sizzling!
I added another tablespoon or so of olive oil to the skillet, and returned it to the high heat. Then I started adding cucumber chunks, cut side down, but only a handful at a time, so they weren’t crowded.
Once they’re in the pan, don’t touch them. Let them sear – no stirring or moving the pan around. The oil will splatter a little bit, so wear an apron or clothes you don’t care about. After a few minutes on high heat, use tongs and check the bottoms. When they’re appealingly brown and crispy, turn them to the other cut side, or remove them if it’s an end piece or smaller piece. Finished pieces should look like this:
I had to cook them in about four batches. In between checking on them, I’d work on the sauce, which starts with that spiced oil concoction. To the now-cooled spiced oil, I added 4 or 5 green onions, finely chopped, and about 2/3 cup of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, and stirred it all together. It ended up a lovely shade of pale yellow, thanks to the turmeric and cumin.
I also prepped a few final pieces of garnish, by rough chopping a handful of fresh, flat-leaf parsley (which was easy), and opening a store-bought bag of crispy fried garlic slices (which was even easier).
I artfully composed three plates – one for me, and two for my parents. Pieces of cucumbers, spread around the plate, and then little globs of the sauce in between, and a sprinkling of the parsley and garlic slices. It turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself.
Let’s see a close-up photo!
Cucumbers are lovely, but aren’t always the most flavorful thing you can pick up. This preparation, though, makes them really shine – soft and juicy on the outside, and caramelized on the outside. I found those garlic slices, by the way, in the same part of the store where I find other salad toppings, like croutons, fried wonton strips, and stuff like that. (Usually adjacent to the salad ingredients in the produce section.)
Give this recipe a whirl – and let me know of other ways you like to cook cucumbers in the comments section below!
Keep it up, David!
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