I used to think of myself as an equal-opportunity vegetable lover; there really wasn't a vegetable I wouldn't eat. But then last year, like a dark cloud on a sunny day, a creeping distaste for cucumber rolled in and rained all over my "I eat all the vegetables" parade. I chalk it up to too many sad cucumbers tucked into ho-hum salads. When the cucumber fatigue left me eating around cucumbers in nearly every salad or recipe, I knew there had to be a better way to handle this crunchy veggie.
1. Go globe-trotting for cucumber inspiration.
Many cuisines know how to handle a cucumber, but nothing wakes up my palate like the tart and tangy treatments found in Middle Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean cuisine. I began using herbs like mint and parsley in salads with cucumbers, splashing in lemon juice with abandon, and sprinkling over cumin and sumac to help wake things up. I'd forgotten that cucumber can handle big flavor. It's so often relegated to the gentle flavors of the spa, but now I go big with cucumber because I know it can take it.
2. Juice them, and then make a cocktail.
If there ever was a poster child for spa food, cucumber water is it. And while I find its subtle flavor refreshing in water, I much prefer it as the base of a juice. I pair cucumber with lime and green apple for a super-chill, super-refreshing sipper and rarely hesitate to tip in a splash of tequila when 6 o'clock rolls around on a summer Friday. The big takeaway here? You don't always have to chew your cucumbers; you can drink them too!
5 Cocktails for a Cool Cucumber Happy Hour
3. Use them as a baguette.
Ha! A baguette? Lies. But cucumbers are perfectly lovely vehicles for numerous sandwich fillings. Hollow out the center a bit and add a swipe of Dijon and load up on turkey and some cheese; try your favorite tuna, egg, or chicken salad; or spread on some hummus and chopped roasted peppers. The cucumber is no baguette, but I don't mind using it like one from time to time.
More About This Tip: Why Cucumber Is the New Baguette
4. Stir-fry them.
Hot cucumbers you say? I had the same question, but the cucumber lends itself to stir-frying like a pro. When done correctly, you get the perfect contrast in flavor — silky and glossy on the outside, firm on the inside. Sometimes, a bit of oil, garlic, and rice wine vinegar is all I use.
Get a Recipe: Stir-Fried Cucumbers with Spicy Ground Pork
5. Make Cucumber Noodles
I'm Team Spiralizer all the way. It was just zucchini for me for a while, but then I stuck a cucumber on there and it's been my favorite veggie to transform into noodles ever since. I use the cucumber noodles as a base for all sorts of vinegary dressings, but a bit of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar is my absolute favorite. Turns sometimes all a cucumber needs is some shape-shifting.
Get the Recipe: Chilled Cucumber Noodles with Sesame Dressing