Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Cucumber Cups. One of my favorite summer refreshers is cucumber juice. Fresh chilled pureed cucumber flesh over ice with fizzy soda in a tall glass, long straw and a round of cucumber garnish on the lip. Since I was making snow crab ravioli, and had a spare cucumber in the refrigerator, I was inspired to make a little non-alcoholic cucumber apéritif in a cucumber cup.
The main course was naturally the snow crab and dill ravioli with sweet tomato basil sauce, courtesy of The Monterey Pasta Company. I added a crisp minted salad as a garnish. The minted salad was made of Roma tomatoes, seeded Perisan cucumbers and sweet onions chopped to equal sized pieces and marinated a few hours in chopped mint, a squeeze of fresh lime and champagne vinegar.
This is my offering for Weekend Herb Blogging, which this week is being hosted on Kalyn's Kitchen.
Naturally, my herb of choice is cucumber, it being part of both the main course as well as the cucumber cup apéritif. Scientifically classified as a fruit, this popular vegetable is part of the gourd family. The cucumber is believed native to India, and has been cultivated in Western Asia for at least 3,000 years. The Roman Emperor Tiberius had these on his table every day of the year, using a greenhouse type method to insure a fresh supply. Peak season for cucumbers is May - July, so the timing is great!
Cucumbers are particularly good for the skin, containing both ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. The other main component is water, which gives a cooling sensation - hence "Cool as a cucumber".
To make cucumber cups, start by choosing a cucumber that is fairly uniform in shape, washing, and then cut in half, next slicing off the ends for a flat surface to rest on. You'll want the smaller end to be the base, and the cucumber vessel widening at the top slightly.
To insure a nice crisp edge at the top, use a small knife to make the first circular cut around the interior leaving a sharp, uniform edge. Then use a small melon-baller to scoop out the interior down to 3/4 the depth of the cucumber. Reserve the scooped cucumber flesh to make the apéritif.
As a variation, a slice of cucumber could be taken off the top, split in two and the halves secured on top to make baskets. The baskets could be used to serve dressing, or as a holder for shrimp cocktail.
However, we are making the apéritif, so the next step is adding a teaspoon of birch sugar to the flesh of the reserved cucumber, and whirring it in a blender until thoroughly juiced.
Now simply pour the juice into the cucumber cups, and serve! After we finished our refreshing shot of cucumber apéritif, we refilled the cucumber cups with chilled mugi-cha (barley tea) and it was also enjoyable in the cups, with a wee bit of the cucumber essence flavoring the tea as it sat.