Cucumbers are believed to have originated in India and have been cultivated for about 3,000 years. While they are especially popular in Greek and Arab cuisine, there is no evidence that the species known as Persian cucumber originated in that part of the world.
Cucumbers have an amazing capacity to retain water and to remain cool. Its interior may be up to 20 degrees cooler than its exterior — a fact that explains the expression “cool as a cucumber.”
Similar to a common green-skinned cucumber, the Persian cucumber measures about four to five inches long. The crunchy, watery texture offers a sweet flavor.
The sweet-tasting Persian cucumber makes an excellent addition to salads and sandwiches, and is even ideal for making crisp pickles. Slice thinly; sprinkle with salt; let stand about a half hour; drain; add white vinegar and slivered onions or lemon juice and dill or a splash of white vinegar, chopped dill and a generous spoonful of sour cream; mix well and serve.
To store, refrigerate cucumbers in a crisper drawer.
Having practically no fat, cucumbers are low in calories and offer a small measure of fiber. Peeling Persian cucumbers is not necessary, but washing is recommended as they are waxed to retain moisture for markets.
Eating five daily servings of fruits and vegetables lowers the chances of cancer. A recent study found that eating nine or 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables effectively lowered blood pressure. So start by adding vegetables to your diet today!
Persian Cucumber and Tomato Salad
3 cups diced unpeeled Persian cucumbers
1 1/2 cups assorted cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
3 tablespoons checked fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon checked fresh mint, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons minced preserved lemon or 1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
For the preserved lemons:
[Preserved lemon is a staple in Sephardic cuisine. If you are unfamiliar with it or do not want to prepare it, use the lemon zest for excellent results.]
Put a kettle of water to boil.
Use a large, clean jar with a tight-fitting lid for preserving the lemons. See how many lemons will fit into the jar. You’ll need those lemons plus the juice from about 1 1/2 times that amount.
Leaving one end intact, cut each lemon you’re preserving into quarters lengthwise. Fill each lemon “blossom” with about a tablespoon of salt and place in the jar.
Squeeze the juice from the extra lemons and pour the lemon juice over the salted lemons. Fill the rest of the jar with boiling water. Screw the lid on tightly.
Let the jar sit on your counter for about 10 days, shaking it up once a day to redistribute juices and salt. Then refrigerate for up to six months.
To use: Rinse the preserved lemons before using. You can use the yellow rind and/or the flesh, but discard the bitter white pith.
Combine cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint, preserved lemon (or zest), lemon juice and salt in a medium bowl. Let stand for at least 10 minutes (and up to two hours) for the flavors to meld.
Add oil and toss to coat. Season with pepper.
Persian Cucumber Salad With Feta
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
- 2 cups sliced unpeeled Persian cucumbers
- A few sprigs fresh dill
- 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
Combine vinegar, water, red pepper, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Place cucumbers in a shallow bowl or glass dish along with dill sprigs. Carefully pour on the hot liquid. Refrigerate, stirring once or twice, for 20 minutes. Strain off most of the liquid.
Transfer 2 tablespoons of the liquid to a large bowl. Whisk in yogurt, oil, pepper and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the cucumber mixture, feta, radishes and scallions; gently toss to combine.
Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.
Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.