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Food Focus . . .

Tired of the usual and are looking for the unusual? Here you will find links to articles  focusing on seasonal food and inspiration on featured vegetables or ingredients.   Note:  this page grew far too long so articles now have their separate pages accessible through the below links.  Only the featured vegetable/ingredient will be presented on this page.  Please update your bookmarks!


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Seasonal Produce - scroll down for featured food

 

Don't know what to do with fennel or parsnips?  Turn your nose up at cabbage and think it boring?  Have a look at current and previous foods in focus for inspiration and great tips! (Recipes included here are listed in the Recipe Collection for easier printout!) 

 

Asparagus, Cabbages, Capsicum (Peppers), Chestnut, Chicory, Cucumber Fennel , Leek,

Onion, Parsnip, Pumpkin, Mushrooms, Ramson Strawberry, Tomato

 

Featured Food Focus of the Season :

Cucumber

 

(Fr.=French, Ge=German, It=Italian, Sp= Spanish)

Ginger, prunes, coconut, vanilla-  

What about them?

Read about food related health issues in 

The Epicurean Digest

 

 

Click here for oven temperature etc. conversions!

Cucumber - the cool one

  Fr: le concombre    Ge: die Gurke 

It: il cetriolo     Sp: el pepino

 

 

Some may like it hot, but if you don't, then the cool cucumber is for you.  Pardon my pun on the 'cool as a cucumber' but there is much truth in that saying.  In fact, the inside of a cucumber growing in the hot sun on the vine, is about 20 cooler than the air.

 

Cucumber is a member of the gourd family as is melon, courgette (zucchini) or squash such as pumpkin and originated in India where it spread to Asia.  Somehow the Romans brought it to Europe.  Records show the cucumber was known in 9th century France, 14th century in England and North America around the mid 16th century.

 

Other than some fibre, the cucumber is low in nutrients with negligible beta carotene in the skin.  Once peeled, then that is gone. One would have to eat large amounts to benefit from the Vit. C, potassium, and iron cucumber contains.  But no matter!  Nutrients aren't everything as cucumbers have other properties that are important - such as silicea and sulfur which stimulate the kidneys to release uric acid.  They also contain an enzyme that splits protein and helps clean the intestines.

 

The diuretic action helps rid the body of accumulated fluid within pockets of the body such as under the eyes, abdomen and extremities.  In short, though cucumbers have a lot of water, they help stimulate the lymphatic system release unwanted excess and detox the body as well as help alkalize the blood.

 

The cucumber is refreshing, gives crunch to a salad, is the perfect diet snack and what would that English classic, the cucumber sandwich be without them?

 

The long cucumbers are smooth and have fewer seeds and are considered the 'salad' variety with the shorter ones for pickling, or even cooking.  However, the shorter ones are also used for salad and in fact some people prefer them.  I do.

 

How to Choose:

 

Cucumbers are eaten 'green' or rather, 'under-ripe'.  Don't look for the longest as these may be bitter and may indicate a ripe cucumber.  Choose the medium or shorter ones that are firm and feel heavy for their size.  Of the shorter varieties, look for a bumpy but not coarsely so, surface, firm and dark green.  With these as well, pick out the medium to shorter cucumbers.

 

Once home, cut off the end and discard.  Cut another thin slice and taste it.  If it is bitter, discard the cucumber.  It is too old and there is no trick (that works) to remove the bitter taste.

 

Tip:

 

Cucumber salads should be prepared just before serving to retain the crispness, however, some people prefer them wilted as they release their water content quickly. 

 

If you don't want the cucumber to water down your salad, cut them as you will use them, sprinkle over salt and allow to sit for an hour refrigerated.  Drain and dry on paper towelling before continuing with your recipe.  This works especially well when mixed with other ingredients such as for a tzatziki dip and avoids the problem of a thinned product if it is not served immediately.

 

 

Suggestions: 

 

cooked - Often cooked in Asian dishes, the French like them also braised.  Don't be put off by this method.  Think courgette - cooked or raw, both ways are delicious.  Search online for 'cooked cucumbers' and you will be surprised at the suggestions.

 

herbs - Dill and mint are perfect matches and enhance the cooling effect of them. Chives, of course are also a good choice.

 

raw -  Yes, of course!  Isn't that how you know them best?  Grated for a Greek tzatziki dip with plenty of garlic and dill or sliced thinly for a sweet and sour salad...or just as they are - delicious!

 

stuffed - Cream, feta or blue cheese and sour cream with smoked salmon, crab or shrimps are just a few ways to serve them.  Slice in thick rings and using an apple corer, remove the centre and fill.  Alternatively, slice lengthways, core and stuff.

 

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All recipes are excerpts from "Welcome to My Kitchen" - The Epicurean Table and are copyright of the author.  Recipes are not to be 

added to any form of archive or other works of any kind.  Contact the author for further information.  

The Epicurean Table 1999-2005  Patricia Conant