Go to one of the farmers markets around town and you might find yourself staring at something rather serpentine curving about itself. Those are striped Armenian cucumbers, one farmer told me, and they grow well here, gaining much more than a foot in length. The snake-like shape might also explain its other name: Painted Serpent.
I couldn’t wait to try one of them.
What I found was a cucumber with fewer seeds than an English cucumber; that meant it had much fewer seeds than one of those waxy things they sell in the supermarket. The skin was not too thick and did not need to be peeled. So, if you peel and seed your regular cucumbers to avoid making your burp, then these have a lot less waste.
You can use then in any dish you would use a regular cucumber, whether you’re making a salad or sautéing them with a little butter. Plus, the stripes added extra color to your recipes, such as this salad.
Cucumber-Radish Salad with Crème Fraîche, Dill and Mint
This recipe comes from Sarah Copeland, author of “The Newlywed Cookbook” and “Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite,” and was included in an article by the writer in the September 2013 issue of Food and Wine magazine.
“There is an unspoken Hungarian philosophy that if something tastes good, it probably tastes better with sour cream,” Copeland says in the magazine. But the article goes on to say that for this salad, she uses “sour cream’s more elegant cousin, crème fraîche.”
I prefer sour cream. You can use whichever you choose. I used striped Armenian cucumber, though an English cucumber or any other variety with few seeds would also work in case you don’t have any small ones on hand. I used dried dill since I didn’t have any fresh on hand; you probably do the same using a sprinkling of dried mint, if you don’t have any fresh.
1 1/2 pounds small cucumbers, peeled if the skin is thick, or striped Armenian cucumbers
Sea salt, to taste
3 large radishes, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
8 ounces crème fraîche or sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or 1 generous teaspoon dill weed
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Shredded mint leaves, for garnish
Slice most of the cucumbers 1/4 inch thick and cut a few of them into spears. In a colander, season the cucumbers with salt, top with a small plate and let stand for 1 hour. Press gently to remove some of the liquid, then rinse the cucumbers quickly in cold water. Pat dry and transfer to a bowl. Add the radishes, garlic, vinegar, crème fraîche and dill, and season with pepper. Refrigerate the salad for 30 minutes, until chilled. Garnish with mint leaves and serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Adapted from Sarah Copeland / Food and Wine magazine