Friday, June 23, 2006

Even More Cucumbers!

Cucumber Latkes With Cucumber Raita:
Cucumber Latkes were shredded and squeezed cucumbers and onions, spiced with salt, pepper, Chinese Five Spice (I lacked my first choice of Anise), Chili, and Tabasco, mixed into a batter with flour and eggwhite, and fried in Canola Oil in a cast iron skillet. I ate them with ketchup and some cucumber Raita.
Cucumber Raita was shredded and squeezed cucumbers and minced garlic, mixed with yoghurt and spiced with s&p, dill, and chili pepper.

I now have a jar of cucumber juice, and am contemplating cocktails. Although I read that cucumber juice mixed with lemon juice is a secret to clear skin...

More Cucumbers!

Egyptian Cucumber Salad:
This salad is everywhere in Egypt, and I ate tons of it there and since. It is best with fresh sweet summer cucumbers and ripe red tomatoes, and it is simply dressed in vinegar, lemon juice, salt and plenty of pepper. I have also had it with onions, garlic, green peppers, parsley, sprinkles of cumin or cayanne pepper...
This salad was just cucumber, tomato, garlic, lemon zest and the dressing.

When I told Adrastas of the cucumber bounty, he expressed his love of Egyptian salad and confided that his favorite part was removing the bitter from the cucumbers: Slicing off the end and rubbing the exposed parts together furiously. It seems I had heard something about this, and I must admit that it is fun, but does it work? How does it work? And how do you know it works unless you taste it first and compare? I speculated about the plants protecting themselves against decapitation or insect attack, and then I turned to the internet and found out the following facts (none of which answered my question):
* Cucumbers on the vine really are "cool as a cucumber": Their internal temperature will often be 20 degrees cooler than air temperature.
* Bitterness is prevalent in the dark green skins and the light green sections right under the skins. Bitterness is most often found in the stem end rather than the blossom end.
* Slicing the cucumber thin and soaking in salted ice water is supposed to remove bitterness. Perhaps through osmosis into the saline solution?
* Bitter comes from Cucurbitacin, a chemical that probably developed in the plant as a natural pesticide. So it does kind of make sense that the cucumber might rush this chemical to a bitten or otherwise exposed bit of flesh to deter insects. This chemical is supposedly beneficial and anti-cancer in small doses.
* Burping is supposedly caused by Cucurbitacin, although others claim it is from the seeds. If both are true, then is the bitterness also in the seeds?

To bring it back to the Egyptian Salad, I found this quote from Groser's Scripture Natural History:
We need not altogether wonder that the Israelites, wearily marching through the arid solitudes of the Sinaitic peninsula, thought more of the cucumbers and watermelons of which they had had no lack in Egypt, rather than of the cruel bondage which was the price of these luxuries.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

442 Cucumber Recipes?

Someone dropped off a huge box of cucumbers at work yesterday. We divvied up the bounty with dreams of namasu in our heads. J suggested a contest to see who came up with the best recipes. I suggested cucumber margaritas with Hawaiian Rock Salt rims. I gave some to my mom, who searched for her Japanese Pickle recipe she has used since she lived in Japan,where I was born. I love old family recipes!

I slivered some up and showed my BF how to roll sushi. The rolls got progressively worse as the Sake flowed and I neglected to take a photo.
Epicurious.Com lists 442 cucumber recipes...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I Told You We Were Dangerous!

And I thought knitting needles were bad:
Seems being a food writer could land you in Airport Security these days. This article from Yahoo Strange News tells of a Saveur writer who closed down the airport in Tallahassee with Honey:
The way that the honey, electronic gear and batteries were positioned looked like an improvised explosive device, he said.
Todd Coleman, food editor for New York-based Saveur magazine, was detained but later released after the bag was removed from the terminal and a robot opened it to disclose the contents.
"I was afraid they were going to blow my bag up," Coleman said. "It would have blown my story up."
Coleman said he was in Tallahassee to visit his parents, who live in the area, and to write about the food of nearby Apalachicola, Florida's oyster capital. The Apalachicola area also is famous for tupelo honey, which Coleman had in his bag.

I have had my bag opened in the airport to reveal 4 jars of Amarena Cherries...And there was that time in Tijuana when my bag was searched to reveal a quart of Vanilla...And the drug dogs were unusually interested in my bag containing smuggled un-pasteurized French cheese...Or that time when my brother and I smuggled eggs and milk into Chuuk...
But probably the best ever confiscation story:
My roommate's mother mailed a care package of Mexican and Italian foods and ingredients to her and her hungry college roommates. All arrived safely except one bag of Oregano. We figured there was an Egyptian customs official somewhere smoking our oregano and wondering why he wasn't feelin' it...