Sunday, June 13, 2004

Cucumbers cool hot summer foods



By Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

In the heat, there is one cool customer we can always count on - cucumbers.

The reason for the cukes' "cool" persona is that they have an amazing ability to retain water and remain cool. In fact, the inside of a cuke can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature

Chefs in hot climates have long used cucumbers in cool raitas and salsas as a soothing antidote to spicy dishes and hot days.

And they can take the heat too. In her book Chez Panisse Vegetables (HarperCollins; $32.50), chef Alice Waters suggests peeling and seeding cucumbers, then dicing them and gently sauteing in butter with a little water, salt and pepper until just tender. Waters likes to serve the warmed cukes with some herbs - chives or chervil - and some diced tomatoes as a great sauce for poached or baked fish.

Look for cukes that are firm without any soft spots. They should have a solid green color with no yellowing. Also avoid cukes that appear shriveled from lack of moisture.

Cucumbers for pickling need only to be washed carefully for salads. Slicing cucumbers are generally thick-skinned with a wax coating so it is best to peel first. Overdeveloped and hard seeds are bitter and should be scraped out with a teaspoon after the cuke is halved lengthwise.




TEMPO
Opera hitting high notes
Fantasy & Tragedy
Cincinnati Opera's Festival season
Summer renews Opera's tradition

ENTERTAINMENT
Charles' music was 'America'
Oxford 'Idol' emerges as soap star
Electronic music, video add to 'King' premiere
Fall calendar raises profile
Theater vet nails Tonys
Numbers jump at music festival
Film contest dictates delivery in 48 hours

PEOPLE
Mixed Media: Channel 19's LaRosa heads home to Philly

PLANNING AHEAD
Going Out: Italianfest

FOOD
Cucumbers cool hot summer foods
Helpings: Fresh strawberries
Picnics for the lazy gourmet