Add Springtime Crunch With Cucumbers

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Cucumbers are slowly showing up in Farmers Market and nothing says spring is on the way like the crunch of a fresh cucumbers. Most of us Southerners enjoy a plain cucumber in about any kind of salad, or in a bowl of vinegar and pepper, or made into a tiny sandwich, but here are some other ways to add the unique flavor to other tasty treats as well. Enjoy!

Cucumber Feta Toasts

This recipe will make a great appetizer

Ingredients

  • ½ baguette
  • 2 teaspoons plus 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces feta
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced crosswise

Directions

  1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450° F. Split baguette lengthwise and lightly brush cut sides with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Bake until golden around edges, 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mash together feta, 4 teaspoons oil, and lemon juice with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Spread feta mixture evenly over toasted baguette and top with cucumber. Season with salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a drizzle of oil.
  3. Cut into pieces to serve.

Serves 4.

Cucumber Gazpacho with Shrimp Relish

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¾ pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 cups quartered grape tomatoes
  • ⅓ cup fresh cilantro
  • 2½ cups chopped English cucumber
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole-milk plain Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, cumin, and paprika. Add shrimp to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until done. Stir in tomatoes; remove from heat. Add cilantro.
  2. Place remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, cucumber, and remaining ingredients in a blender; process until smooth. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls; top with ¾ cup relish.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 225, Fat 9.6 g, Protein 22.7g, Carbohydrate 11.5 g, Fiber 2.2 g, Cholesterol 139 mg, Sodium 557 mg.

Sesame Miso Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 1½ tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (soybean paste) or lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced seeded cucumber

Directions

  • Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add cucumber; toss to coat.

Serves 6. Each serving contains Calories 60, Fat 2.7 g, Sodium 182 mg.

Sautéed Miso Version: Omit seeds, honey, and red pepper; decrease miso to 1½ tablespoons. Combine miso, water, vinegar, 1 tablespoon sliced green onions, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cucumber to pan; sauté 4 minutes. Toss cucumber with juice mixture.

Serves 6. Each serving contains Calories 38, Fat 2.4g, Sodium 186 mg.

Spicy Pasta Version: Increase seeds to 3 tablespoons; add 1 cup thinly sliced green onions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Combine seeds and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Cut 1 (9-ounce) package fresh linguine into thirds; cook according to directions. Drain; rinse with cold water. Toss pasta with cucumber mixture.

Serves 6. Each serving contains Calories 207, Fat 5.2 g, Sodium 294 mg.

Greek Version: Omit first 7 ingredients; decrease cucumber to 2 cups. Combine 1½ tablespoons minced red onion, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, ¾ teaspoon chopped oregano, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1½ teaspoons olive oil, and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Toss with cucumber, 1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes, and ½ cup orange bell pepper strips.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 40, Fat 1.9 g, Sodium 86 mg.

Greek Yogurt Tzatziki Sauce

Making this with Greek yogurt cuts the calories, and adds valuable protein to this popular sauce.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Greek yogurt, drain any excess liquid
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice of one lemon)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 1 tablespoon salt (for salting cucumbers)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill (or both, depending on preference) or 1 tablespoon of fresh mint, chopped (or both, depending on preference)
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Peel cucumbers and dice. Put them in a colander and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt (draws water out). Cover with a plate and sit something heavy on top. Let sit for 30 minute Drain well and wipe dry with a paper towel.
  2. In food processor or blender, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill and/or mint, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir into yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend.
  3. This will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, but you will need to drain off any water and stir each time you use it.

Yields 12 servings.

Cucumber Herb Vinaigrette

Pureeing vegetables into a salad dressing is a great way to give it body – and sneak in more nutrients. Experiment with adding tomatoes, arugula and/or roasted garlic.

Ingredients

  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt 

Directions

  • Purée cucumber, oil, vinegar, chives, parsley, yogurt, mustard, horseradish, sugar and salt in blender until smooth.

Serves 20. Each tablespoon serving contains Calories 28, Fat 3g, Carbohydrates 1g.