You Can’t Beat the Freshness of a Cucumber!

— Written By and last updated by Adrian Gaskins

Light and refreshing yet filling and satisfying, cucumber dishes are easy-to-prepare, quick-fixing side dishes that complement any spring menu. The key to crafting a cucumber salad is to start with fresh, firm cucumbers! In the south we are often most happy with sliced cucumbers in vinegar and little dash of pepper, but there are lots of ways you can add the crunchy, simple clean freshness to your meal plans.

Asparagus and Cucumber Vinaigrette

1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1 cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2-inch strips

1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar

2 teaspoons olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

Place a steamer basket in a saucepan filled with 1 inch water. Bring to a boil. Add asparagus, cover, and cook until crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. In a bowl, combine asparagus, cucumber, vinegar, and oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Tomatoes, Cucumber and Feta Salad

2 tomatoes, cored and sliced
1 1/2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
In medium bowl combine tomatoes and cucumber. Season with salt and pepper. Add vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat. Sprinkle on feta and serve. Serves 2.

Shrimp and Cucumber Spring Fresh Rolls

1-2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced into matchsticks

20 medium shrimp, boiled, deveined, and peeled

Handful of mint, chopped

Handful of green onions, thinly sliced

Handful basil, chopped

10 rice paper rolls

For the sauce:

3 tablespoons peanut butter

2 tablespoons hot water

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ tablespoon minced ginger

In a small bowl combine hot water, peanut butter, oil, garlic and ginger. Mix until smooth. Add more water if necessary until the consistency is that of a sauce.

Place the rice paper in a bowl of warm water and remove once the rice paper has softened.

Place rice paper roll in front of you and to the center of the roll add the cucumber, 2 shrimp per roll, a pinch of green onions, mint and basil. Fold in the two sides and then start to roll the rice paper roll tightly, kind of like a burrito.

Set aside and continue with remaining rice paper rolls.
Snap Pea and Cucumber Salad

Salad
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed
2 small Persian cucumbers, unpeeled, thinly sliced
1 cup (about 1/2 pint) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
Dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 large lemon)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad: Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the snap peas and cook until vibrant green, about 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of iced water to cool, about 2 minutes. Drain and add to a salad bowl. Stir in the cucumbers, tomatoes and dill.

For the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and lemon zest until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until coated. Serves 4.

Cornbread Panzanella Salad

8 ounces cornbread, cut into cubes (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup cubed fontina cheese
1/2 cup cubed cucumber
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Toss gently to combine. Place in a serving bowl and serve. Serves 2-3.
Japanese Cucumber Salad

2 medium cucumbers, or 1 large English cucumber

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Peel cucumbers to leave alternating green stripes. Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise; scrape the seeds out with a spoon. Using a food processor or sharp knife, cut into very thin slices. Place in a double layer of paper towel and squeeze gently to remove any excess moisture.

Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a medium bowl, stirring to dissolve. Add the cucumbers and sesame seeds; toss well to combine. Serve immediately.

 

To toast sesame seeds, heat a small dry skillet over low heat. Add sesame seeds and stir constantly until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

Serves 4, each serving contains: Calories 46, Fat 2 g, Carbohydrates 4 g, Protein 1 g, Fiber 1 g, Sodium 147 mg, Potassium 137 mg.

Cucumber and Black-Eyed Pea Salad

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 cups peeled and diced cucumbers

1 14-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed

2/3 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup slivered red onion

2 tablespoons chopped black olives

Whisk oil, lemon juice, oregano and pepper in a large bowl until combined. Add cucumber, black-eyed peas, bell pepper, feta, onion and olives; toss to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves 6, each serving contains:  Calories 160, Fat 10 g, Cholesterol 11 mg, Carbohydrates 12 g, Protein 5 g, Fiber 3 g, Sodium 270 mg, Potassium 273 mg.

Creamy Cucumber Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

4 cups peeled, seeded and thinly sliced cucumbers, divided

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, or reduced-sodium chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 avocado, diced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 1 to 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and cook for 1 minute. Add 3 3/4 cups cucumber slices, broth, salt, pepper and cayenne; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer until the cucumbers are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the soup to a blender. Add avocado and parsley; blend on low speed until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Pour into a serving bowl and stir in yogurt. Chop the remaining 1/4 cup cucumber slices. Serve the soup warm or refrigerate and serve it chilled. Just before serving, garnish with the chopped cucumber and more chopped parsley, if desired.

Serves 4, each serving contains:  Calories 173, Fat 12 g, Cholesterol 2 mg, Carbohydrates 15 g, Protein 4 g, Fiber 5 g, Sodium 494 mg, Potassium 544 mg.