Thursday, June 10, 2010

In a Pickle

Or not. As the case may be. Or as the cuke may be, in this case. Or even a case of cukes, if you want to go really crazy!

I love a good cool cucumber, crisp and refreshing, light and bright in flavor. Give me a fresh cucumber cocktail, a pita filled with hummus and thin, crunchy slices, a zingy tzatziki threaded with shredded cukes, a cool and creamy cucumber salad with vinegar and sweet paprika, a Philly roll filled with toothsome cucumber bites next to salty salmon and soft, melt-away avocado and cream cheese… give me a raw, refreshing cucumber, even to drape across tired eyes, and I’ll be a happy girl.

Aside from pickling in a briny hot bath (which Mel does amazingly), I’ve never considered cooking cucumbers. That just seems so… wrong. Well, it used to seem that way, until now. I always imagined cooked cucumber as an awful, slimy, gooey, awkward mess. Sort of like when a cucumber goes bad in the bottom of your vegetable drawer, and you pull out a light green mushy disaster… like that but steamin’ hot and even more repulsive. Maybe everyone thinks this is what happens when you cook a cuke, and that’s why breaded, deep fried cucumber slices haven’t taken off the way deep fried Twinkies have.

The other night I was in a pickle, trying to come up with something totally new to do with cucumbers, and couldn’t think of anything different than the usual cold cucumber standbys. Of course there are also pickles, or the easily attainable quick pickle, but I wanted to break out of the jar on this one. Then it came to me. I love breaded fried (or baked) zucchini rounds, and breaded fried pickle slices. So, why not do the same thing with a thick, crunchy slice of fresh cucumber!?

The craziest part of the whole experiment was that I had never (I repeat, never) deep fried something. Crazy right? I mean, here I am, telling you how to cook, and I haven’t even gotten to the boiling oil stage. Aside from the obvious health reasons, I always thought that deep frying (stove top, not with a fry daddy, mind you) was super scary and difficult. Just like my preconceived notions about cooked cucumbers, I was totally wrong about deep frying. Actually, I was so wrong that I wish I still thought it was scary, because now I can’t wait to see what else I can drop into the skillet of golden fried deliciousness! Fish tacos here I come! This could be trouble…

Anyway, back to the fried cucumbers. They were golden, they were crunchy, they were fresh and bright and even more flavorful than when raw. Especially when I dipped them in a cool, creamy, zippy dill dip. As a cooked cuke and fried food convert, I send you forth into a whole new world of deep fried cucumber glory.

So...take those cucumber slices off your eyes, and for heaven’s sake, fry them already!

Cucumber Chips

1 large seedless English cucumber
1 cup flour (salt & peppered)
1.5 cups seasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs
Splash of milk
Oil for frying

Slice cucumber about 1/2 inch thick rounds. Whisk together eggs and milk. Put egg mix, flour, and bread crumbs in 3 separate shallow dishes (not mixed together). To bread: coat cucumber slice in flour, then dip in egg, then coat in bread crumbs. Repeat with all slices. Heat about 1/2 to 1 inch of oil in deep sided skillet over medium high heat. Add 5-6 slices at a time. Cook for a minute or two on each side, until crispy and golden. Soak on paper towels, and salt. Serve with dip!

Zippy Dill Dip

1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
3-4 tablespoons fresh dill-chopped (or more, to taste)
1 garlic clove- minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper
Juice of half a large lemon

Sprinkle garlic with salt, and smash to make a paste. Combine all ingredients, and whisk. Add salt and pepper to taste, and more dill if needed.
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