relishing cucumbers

i’ve recently noticed a phenomenon that occurs on summer evenings. as six o’clock rolls around and the sun is still bright and warm, no one wants to leave what they are doing, whether it’s gardening, playing outside, or reading by the pool, to prepare dinner. then at seven o’clock, everyone’s ravenous from a full day outside, and you have to scramble to get dinner ready!

however, last weekend i was experimenting with the food network’s summerfest ingredient, cucumbers, and i discovered a great solution to this problem. the answer is a quick cucumber relish that captures the crisp juiciness of summer cucumbers, adds a hint of spiciness to cut the summer heat, and packs lots of flavor into an easy-to-assemble condiment that can be used on a number of great summer dishes. you can make this relish in the morning, or when you pause for lunch, or even during a late-afternoon break, and it will be ready and waiting by the time dinner rolls around.

quick cucumber relish

makes 3 cups

2 medium cucumbers, cut into medium dice

2 fresh red chili peppers, finely chopped (more seeds = spicier relish)

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp whole peppercorns (any color)

4 tbsp basil, cut into chiffonade

1. place all ingredients except the basil in a medium saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. remove from the stove and allow to cool for 1o minutes.

2. once cool, add the basil and pour the mixture into a glass jar. seal the jar tightly and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. relish is ready to use once fully chilled and will keep for one week.

ready to serve!

i also had some fresh sardines on hand this weekend, and i felt they would be an excellent base for the relish, so i decided to give them a quick dip in some cornmeal and sear them in a frying pan. then i plated them up with the relish on top. it was a delicious contrast, the cool and crunchy cucumbers providing a perfect foil for the rich and oily fish under their crispy coating. but the relish would also be a great accompaniment to your standard grill items — burgers, hot dogs, and grilled chicken. i could also see it as a flavor accent on top of asian dishes such as fried rice or peanut-sesame noodles. however you choose to enjoy it, i’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

crisp cornmeal sardines

serves 4

12 fresh sardines, cleaned and left whole

1/4 cup olive oil

2 eggs

1 cup cornmeal

3 tsp garlic powder

3 tsp salt

3 tsp ground pepper

1. remove the heads of the sardines with a chef’s knife, then rinse and place them on a paper towel to dry.

2. beat the eggs in a shallow bowl and set aside. in another bowl, mix together the cornmeal, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

4. heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until it begins to ripple. one by one, dip the sardines into the eggs, then into the cornmeal until evenly coated, and place in the frying pan.

6. cook the sardines for about 6 minutes per side, or until golden brown. remove from the pan and place on a plate to strain (do not place on a paper towel or they will loose their crispness). then serve, 3 to a plate, with a healthy spoonful of relish on top.

note: many people find sardines difficult to eat because of the small bones, but the crispy cornmeal coating disguises these bones easily and you can simply swallow them up. however, don’t forget that you should remove the vertebrae; these bones are larger and will not be pleasant to eat. the best way to eat a cooked sardine is to lay it on its side and then, with your fork and knife, gently pull away pieces of the filet facing up. This will leave the vertebrae exposed, and the whole spine can be lifted off the remaining filet with a fork and knife and put aside. then you are free to enjoy the second filet.

if you crave more cucumbers, check out these great blogs:

Pinch My Salt: Chilled Cucumber, Kefir and Avocado Soup

What’s Gaby Cooking: Cucumber-Basil Gimlet

In Jennie’s Kitchen: Radish-Cucumber Crostini

Big Girl Small Kitchen: Spicy Cucumber Salad with Shallot, Ginger and Mint

Grecian Kitchen: Summer Cucumber Salad

And Love It Too: Cucumber, Mint and Watermelon Salad

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cucumbers Coolers with Agave Simple Syrup

Cooking With My Kid: Cucumber Limeade

FN Dish: Summer Fest: Cucumber Recipes

Healthy Eats: Cool Cucumber Soup

Food for 7 Stages of Life: Cucumber Cherry Salsa

Cooking With Elise: Green Tea Cucumber Pops

Glory Foods: Cucumber and Shrimp Boat

Virtually Vegan Mama: Fire-Roasted Tomato and Cucumber Gazpacho

Food2: When Life Gives You Cucumbers, Make a Cucumber Cocktail

Cooking Channel: Cucumbers Stuffed with Crab-Mango Salad

Recipe Girl: Bread and Butter Pickles

Taste With the Eyes: Spicy Pickled Cucumbers with Wakame and Garlic Blossoms

Virtually Homemade: Cold Thai Cucumber-Mint Soup

Add a Pinch: Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

The Cultural Dish: Ahi Tuna with Cucumber Sauce and Salad

Daily*Dishin: Cool n’ Zesty Cukes: 7 Minute Summer in a Jar

Daydreamer Desserts: Cubanita Margarita

Purple Cook: Cucumber Gazpacho with Indian Flavored Shrimp Relish

Indian Simmer: Cucumber at its Best with Chaat Masala

Big Apple Nosh: Quick and Easy Homemade Pickles

Sweet Life Bake: Agua de Pepino

The Sensitive Epicure: Tzatziki with Grilled Gluten-Free Pitas and Fresh Cucumbers and Peppers

Zaika Zabardast: Cucumber Gazpacho

A Way to Garden: Cucumber-Growing Q&A and the Best Pickles

Cooking with Books: Summer Fest: Cucumbers

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5 responses to “relishing cucumbers

  1. My toddler LOVES sardines, well something close. We live in Rome, Italy and a common stack are pickled Bluefish fillets. I’ll try this next. But in honor of cucumber week I’ll add this idea, which originally came from The Food Network itself:

    Chicken with Pickle Sauce

    http://foodlets.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/chicken-with-pickle-sauce/

    • pickled bluefish filets sound delicious – i will keep an eye out for them next time i get to rome! thanks so much for your comment and for the additional recipe suggestion.

  2. Pingback: Cucumber, Mint and Watermelon Salad « And Love it Too!

  3. Pingback: Cucumber Limeade | Cooking with My Kid

  4. Pingback: Summer Fest: Creamy Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup — Pinch My Salt

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