Bread Bowls Beware
I have a lot of brainstorms, many of which happen in (and wreck havoc on) my kitchen. I tend to eyeball an object and contemplate how to transform it into something else, even if it’s perfect just the way it is. By the way, I blame this trait on my mother, who can never just buy something at the store when she can “make that better and for less!”. The dear woman collects an amazing assortment of bric-a-brac to that end, and somehow it’s always useful instead of just adding clutter to an overflowing “junk” drawer. She’s got an eagle eye for creative reuses.
With such genes in my pool, I stared long and hard at the lemon cucumber. They’re just so odd. And round. As one gleeful customer at our Headhouse Farmers Market table on Sunday declared – “Looks like a lemon; tastes like a cucumber!” I couldn’t just chop them up and make yet another tzatziki dip. These funky spin-offs of the traditional variety are proving to be a top seller this season, and for good reasons. Allow me to count the ways lemon cucumbers surpass the standard:
1) They’re cute.
2) They have a really crisp texture and last longer in the fridge.
3) They add extra color to the typically green salad.
4) They are a perfect serving size so you don’t have to put that half a
cucumber wrapped in cellophane back into the crisper drawer.
5) They make great bowls for soup!
Yep, you read that right. My most recent culinary-related brainstorm (I’ll refrain from telling you about my most recent non-culinary one…) was to turn lemon cucumbers into hor’dourve-sized soup bowls. And I have to say, I was quite tickled with the results.
Once the “innards” are scooped out of the cucumbers, they hold about three tablespoons of soup and can stay in the fridge for up to a day. My favorite part was that after I’d slurped (oh so lady-like am I) the soup out of the “bowl”, I got to eat down the sides that had soaked up the flavors of the soup. If you’re not into the idea of eating your dishware, you can make the soup with just four lemon cucumbers, processing three and dicing one to add after the soup is smooth.
As a second “Oh my goodness, I’m a freakin’ genius!” moment, last night I spooned the leftover soup onto some just-drained pesto parmesan gnocchi and tossed in some fresh diced tomatoes. Words can’t even begin to describe how delicious a combination this was. So, um, yeah – soup or sauce, cucumber or china bowl, this is one heck of a wicked good brainstorm!
CUCUMBER ALMOND SOUP
Adapted from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Soups
6 larger lemon cucumbers
1 smaller lemon cucumber
4 garlic cloves
1/2 t. sea salt
3/4 c. toasted almond slivers
2 slices of stale bread, cut into rough pieces
2 T. grape seed oil (or other mild oil)
1 1/2 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. cold water
2 t. lemon juice
pinch of white pepper
1 large basil leaf (for garnish)
1 t. lemon zest (for garnish)
Thoroughly wash and dry cucumbers. Slice a 1/4 inch off the top (stem side) of the 6 larger cucumbers. Using a spoon and knife as needed, scour and scoop out the insides of cucumbers and put the insides in a blender and set the “bowls” aside. Dice the smaller cucumber and set aside.
Mince the garlic and sprinkle with salt. Using the back of a wide knife blade, work the salt and garlic together until it forms a smooth paste. Scrap up the garlic and add to blender.
If walnuts aren’t already toasted, do so by spreading on a baking sheet and placing in 200 F oven for about 15 minutes, until golden. Add toasted almonds to blender, reserving a couple for garnish. Pulse blender to start processing the ingredients. Add the bread and continue to process.
When the mixture is fairly smooth, slowly add the grape seed oil and combine well. Next add the plain yogurt and process again until well combined. Finally add the cold water and lemon juice. Taste and season a needed with white pepper.
Stir (not blend!) the diced cucumber into the soup. Carefully spoon the soup into the cucumber “bowls”. Put tops on and chill for at least an hour. Before serving, remove tops and garnish soup with ribbons of basil, a pinch of lemon zest, and an almond sliver. Serve immediately.
(makes 6 hor’dourve servings)