Colonists often pickled cucumbers since this preparation method would preserve them for months. Then in the nineteenth century, recipes cropped up for fried, creamed or even stuffed cucumbers. Cucumbers were also eaten raw in salads - they are so versatile, any number of simple, yet delicious salads can be made using them as a base. They partner well with many herbs - dill, cilantro, basil or mint, and dressings both vinegary and creamy.
So when we finally had a bit of warm weather this week, I decided to make my Grandmother's recipe for Dutch Cucumbers - a tangy, vinegar-based salad with a hint of sweetness - not unlike bread and butter pickles. My Grandmother did have Dutch in her background, but I'm not sure if this recipe was really of Dutch origin. Poking around the Internet and in Google books, I found some similar recipes for Dutch Cucumbers, but I also saw many others with the name that had a sour cream dressing. I am wondering if the "Dutch" refers to the "type" of cucumber - the longer, skinnier seedless variety that are often called English cucumbers.
In any case, this recipe is so easy and delicious.
Dutch Cucumbers (from my Grandmother Catherine Ellsworth):
2 cups thin cucumber slices (I like to peel them a bit first - gives a pretty, striped look)
1 cup thin onion slices
1/2 cup vinegar (apple cider is nice, but white will do - just not balsamic)
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
Place cucumbers and onions in a deep bowl. Make marinade of remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Cover and chill several hours or overnight. Drain to serve.
To serve this dish, my grandmother liked to put the cucumbers in the center of a shallow bowl or plate and surround with another garden-fresh salad - herbed tomatoes.
Herbed Tomatoes (from my Grandmother Catherine Ellsworth):
6 ripe tomatoes
2/3 cup salad oil (vegetable, canola or olive)
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
2 tsp snipped fresh thyme, tarragon, or basil leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
Peel tomatoes and cut in wedges. Place in a deep bowl. Combine oil, vinegar and seasonings. Shake well and chill several hours or overnight. To serve, transfer tomatoes to shallow bowl or plate surrounding Dutch Cucumbers.
My other "go-to" cucumber salad is also very simple, and I often have all the ingredients on hand. Creamy and rich-tasting, it swaps plain yogurt for sour cream. Healthy and delicious, the recipe is from a Betty Crocker cookbook and is one of the first recipes I made after moving out on my own.
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp snipped fresh dill weed or 1/4 tsp dried
Fresh ground pepper
2 cups thinly sliced cucumbers (about 2 medium)
1 cup onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
Mix together first four ingredients to make a dressing, then gently fold into cucumbers and onion. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours.
Source: Betty Crocker's Eat and Lose Weight