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Category Archives: Cucumbers

Super Sneaky Zucchini Apple Pie

Forgot to take a picture of the whole pie, but managed to get a pic of a slice before we devoured it all!

Many people have a mental block when it comes to zucchini. Take my dog sitter, for example. I had baked up a batch of perfectly delicious zucchini muffins and offered her one. She declined, stating that she hated zucchini. Now, hate is a pretty strong emotion for such an unassuming vegetable, and both my husband and I sensed that she had never experienced the yummy versatility that zucchini can offer. My husband started his persuasion technique with the tried and true, “But you can’t even taste the zucchini!” She looked at him dubiously. I followed up by asking her if she liked banana bread and carrot cake. When she said that she loved both of those, I explained that the muffin was similar. After a bit more coaxing, she took a bite, and was a very happy zucchini convert. In the future I may just refer to them as Cinnamon Muffins when sharing them with zucchini-phobes.

If you don’t have twenty minutes to talk your guests into trying baked zucchini products, but you have zucchini covering your countertops and must sneak them into food at every opportunity, then I have discovered an ideal recipe for you: Zucchini Apple Pie. Faced with a freshly picked monster zucchini last week, I found this recipe that would use a large quantity of zucchini and give me an easy dessert to top off a barbecue with friends.

However, I was not sure how well the pie would go over if I explained what was in it. So I didn’t. I made coy comments, such as “Bill made pickles today, and I did some baking. Now the kitchen smells like a weird combination of pickles and apple pie.” Then, when I brought out the pie, everyone assumed it was apple pie and eagerly dug in, giving it rave reviews, including, “This is the best apple pie I’ve ever had!” At that point, my husband gleefully broke the news that there was not a single apple in the pie, just zucchini. Nobody believed him. At all. So I had to fess up and show them the recipe.

Don’t they look like apple slices???

It was truly fabulous! Actually, it was a combination of two recipes. I followed this Zucchini Apple Pie recipe, but since I only had one deep-dish frozen pie crust on hand, I didn’t put a top crust on it. Instead, I made the crumb topping from this Cinnamon Crumble Apple Pie recipe. The final result tasted very similar to my husband’s favorite brand-name Dutch apple pie, which he will no longer allow himself to eat because it contains trans-fats. So, now we have a tasty alternative!

At the same barbecue, I tried out this Cucumber Zucchini Salad recipe as well.  It was also a winner, crisp and refreshing, and I was asked to bring it to another event the following weekend.

A nice summer side dish!

And, after trying several pickle recipes over the years that we haven’t much cared for, we like this one: Homemade Zesty Dill Pickers and Peppers, and so did our guests. It makes a flavorful, crunchy refrigerator pickle.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Time to get busy with those zukes and cukes!

Cold Cucumber Mint Soup–What a Cool First Course!

This past spring, Bill and I went on our first cruise ever–to the Bahamas.  Besides being on a cruise ship, other things that we experienced for the first time on that vacation included:

  • A 19 hour trip from Detroit to Miami.  No, we did not drive.  We flew.
  • A Miami bar tab totaling $47.86.  For two mojitos.
  • Sleeping in a room the size of a cigar box.  At least it had a balcony!
  • Huddling inside a covered pavilion at a “resort” that had seen its heyday in the 1960s, while a violent tropical storm raged outside and blasted open several sets of French doors.
  • The extremely fun water park at the gorgeously impressive Atlantis Resort
  • Drambuie liqueur–particularly liked by Bill
  • Salsa dance lessons–not so much liked by Bill
  • Towels folded into animal shapes
  • Chilled soups served as appetizers

Each evening in the ship’s main dining rooms, a different chilled soup was featured.  How summer-y and refreshing!  I tried one every day and was hooked.  Although I cannot remember the exact names, I know that at least one of them was cucumber based.  So, when I plucked the cucumber equivalent of a monster zucchini from our garden, I decided to look online and see if I could find a tasty sounding recipe for a chilled cucumber soup.

The recipe that I chose also contains fresh mint leaves–which we grow–and dry mustard.  Based on some of the reviews, I substituted Dijon mustard for the dry stuff because it’s what I had on hand.  I love that it uses Greek yogurt, so it has a decent amount of protein.  It also called for five cucumbers, but since mine was the size of a 3-year-old child’s arm, I just used the one.   The soup was very pretty and delicious, but Bill and I found that the chopped mint leaf added in at the end created an unappealing texture.  So, I put the leftovers back in the blender and pureed it all together–much better!  I did not add the additional finely diced cucumber either, since I wanted a smooth soup.  (I forgot to snap a picture of it until it was almost gone, which is why the bowl looks barely filled in the photo.)

Here’s the link to the recipe:

COLD CUCUMBER MINT SOUP

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Cold-Cucumber-Mint-Soup-12490

A Cucumber-iffic Meal with Special Guest Appearances by Zucchini, Cherry Tomatoes, Purple Pepper & Basil

Giant cucumbers picked recently:  10.   Cucumbers left at the end of the day yesterday: 0.  Whew!  Lucky for us, our cleaning lady likes cucumbers and took a few off of our hands.  We delivered a couple more–along with a monster zucchini–to some friends.  (Bonus:  Got some homemade blackberry jam in return that we can’t wait to break into!)  Bill made some experimental pickles with a couple more, and finally, we finished them off by using making some cucumber-based recipes for dinner with Bill’s parents.

To serve with our appetizers, we prepared Tzatziki sauce for the first time.  We followed the recipe on that one exactly, except that our cucumbers are not English cucumbers.  I wrangled as much water as I could out of the shredded cuke by salting it and mashing it between paper towels and then using centrifugal force in the salad spinner.  We were glad that we chose to add the optional dill, since that really enhanced the taste.  The sauce turned out nice and thick, and we paired it with both mini pita breads and Fried Zucchini “Crab” Cakes.  Just a tip:  Unless you are actively trying to repel vampires, it is not advisable to use Garlic Cloves of Unusual Size, like we did.  Regular sized cloves would be quite sufficient.  Although, we did sit outside all evening and I didn’t get a single mosquito bite, so perhaps the pungent garlic scent emanating from my every pore kept those blood-sucking demons at bay.

The Fried Zucchini “Crab” Cakes were a spur-of-the-moment decision by Bill, who wisely began preparing them without my knowledge while I was on the computer blogging.  By the time his parents arrived and I saw that he had a pan of EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE oil on the barbecue with fire licking up around it, there was not much I could do except for whimper softly and internally berate myself for always forgetting to buy a fire extinguisher.  Fortunately, all turned out well.  The cakes were crispy and delicious, and we did not have to bother the nice men at the fire department.  When making the cakes, Bill used Panko breadcrumbs and seasoned them with paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, salt and pepper–rather than Old Bay.

For our dinner, Bill grilled up some steaks and I put together a Quinoa Greek Salad.  Quinoa (keen-wa) is such an intriguing little grain.  It has a good deal of protein, which I love, since I am prone to getting dizzy and shaky between meals if I eat too many carbs.  So, I actively seek out sources of protein such as Greek yogurt (used in the Tzatziki), nuts, and soy-enhanced cereal and meal replacement bars.  This salad was lemony and refreshing, and I definitely will be adding it to our regular rotation.  I stuck to the recipe fairly closely, except that rather than red and green bell peppers, I used a purple pepper from the garden.  I also added some of our cherry tomatoes, but served the feta cheese on the side, since Bill’s parents are not big on it.  Also, I lightly browned the quinoa in a bit of butter before adding the chicken stock in order give it a bit of a toasted flavor.

TZATZIKI: http://www.food.com/recipe/tzatziki-59336

FRIED ZUCCHINI “CRAB” CAKES: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/connies-zucchini-crab-cakes/detail.aspx

QUINOA GREEK SALAD:  http://www.food.com/recipe/quinoa-greek-salad-97764

Cheater, Cheater, Greek Orzo Salad Eater

Greek Orzo Salad

One of the reasons for my starting this blog was to share recipes using ingredients from my own garden. The downside of using seasonal ingredients is that sometimes my desire to make a certain dish is not in sync with my garden’s production schedule. This necessitates cheating and using store-bought veggies instead, which was the case with the Greek Orzo Salad that I made for the Fourth of July shindig that we had last night. I was looking for something that could feed an undetermined number of people, go well with burgers and hot dogs, and be okay sitting out for a while. So, despite its ethnic name and ingredients, I found this to be the perfect side dish to help celebrate our country’s birthday. A trip to Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace took care of the produce this time around. I plan to make this again when our own cukes and tomatoes are ready, but I’m posting the recipe now, because people asked about it and eagerly took home almost all the leftovers –I made a bit much!

There are several variations on this recipe out there, so modify it however you see fit. I began with one that I found on AllRecipes.com a couple of years back and put my own little spin on it. Here is the link to the original, and below is how I tweaked it to my own taste in an attempt to feed possibly 15-20 people: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/greek-orzo-salad/detail.aspx

GREEK ORZO SALAD

Ingredients:

• 2 cups uncooked orzo

• 3 tbsp butter or margarine

• 29 oz water

• 2 (6.5 oz) jars marinated artichoke hearts

• 1 tomato, seeded and chopped

• 2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped

• ½ large red onion, chopped

• 1 ½ cups feta cheese

• 1 (2 oz) can black olives, drained

• ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

• Juice of ½ lemon

• ½ tsp dried oregano

• Approx. 3 oz Italian or Greek salad dressing (I had some left over from lunch at a local pizzeria and decided to toss it in)

Directions:

1. Melt butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and sauté until lightly browned.

2. Stir in water and bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Take off heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside until mostly cooled.

3. Drain and chop artichoke hearts, reserving marinade.

4. In a large bowl, combine artichokes, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, olives, parsley and lemon juice. When orzo has cooled, add it to the mixture and toss everything together.

5. Chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

6. Just before serving, drizzle about 3 oz of artichoke marinade and the Italian or Greek dressing over salad and toss again.