Warm cucumbers? A good idea, actually.

One of the benefits of being so beyond-excited about food is that people like to give me stuff. My sister-in-law periodically gives me her overstock, or things she’s bought but has no real use for. Rose, at work, has given me lovely fresh basil, a jar of her homemade pesto, and a selection of delightful jasmine teas from her personal collection. I’ve come by garden-grown zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. And on Friday, Nick came home with a bag of fresh goodies harvested from the garden of one of the ladies he works with. For me. For me! There was still damp soil on the squash, that’s how fresh it was.

Included in the bag of goodies was a rather round cucumber. Nick had thought it was a zucchini, but it was, in fact, a short, stubby cucumber, about two inches in diameter with no tapering. A fat little guy, with firm flesh … the kind that stands up to a bit of braising.

From here, this looks like a close-up on a pickle.
From here, this looks like a close-up on a pickle.

I’ll admit, I hadn’t really thought about this until Julie & Julia. I’ve read recipes for this dish before, but kind of skimmed over them, barely reading, having always considered cucumbers a raw-eating vegetable, a thing suited to salads, and generally a pleasant sort of bland. I see now the error of my ways. And given that this dish is low-risk, requiring little investment of either time or money, it’s something you really ought to try. And it’s summer, and you might even have cucumbers in your garden; if not, they’ll be all over your local market.

Braised Cucumber

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh mint (if you don’t like the sound of mint, you could use fresh dill, which would also be lovely, or a bit of fresh parsley … anything you like)

Peel cucumber. Cut in half, and scoop out the seeds. I find that scraping them out with a regular old spoon works great. Chop cucumber into one-inch pieces.

In a pan, melt the butter. Add the cucumber, make sure it’s coated in the butter, cover, and let cook covered for about five minutes over medium heat.

Remove lid, and add salt and lemon. Cover and cook for another minute. Remove lid, add cream to coat the cucumber, and cook for another minute.

Before serving, toss with mint. And then dive right in.

So fresh-smelling!
So fresh-smelling!

It’s an odd thing, and at first you may be a bit surprised – cucumbers are not all that notable, and they can often go without notice on your dinner plate. When turned into pickles, they are a thing to celebrate. And when they are freshly plucked from the garden and cooked in butter, they are a lip-smacking revelation, a buttery blend of flavours, with a satisfying touch of crunch. And the mint makes them even more lovely. I’ll be adding this to my list of staple side-dishes immediately.

No, really. Go make this right now.
No, really. Go make this right now.