Friday, May 29, 2009

Cooking the Books: Tangy Cucumbers

Some things in life seem so basic, so natural that to discover them writen down can come as a shock. "Wait, there's a recipe for that?" I cried, when I came across the basic natural it's-always-that-way cucumber dish in the Spratt/Bachman & Mellberg/McKenzie Family Cookbook 2008:
Tangy Cucumbers
Betty Mellberg McKenzie

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Slice cucumbers into a bowl. Add above and then put enough water to just cover the cucumbers. Keep in fridge. They get better the longer they sit.
"Seriously, a recipe?"

But then, if this isn't the only way you were ever served cucumbers as a child, this is just the sort of thing you need. (No hyperbole there; it seems we always had a jar of these in the fridge, which is a neat trick, because I could eat all the cukes in one sitting without trying.) It is, indeed, tangy, as the title (and the vinegar) suggest. You could fancy it up by adding dried hot pepper flakes, or thinly sliced onions. I do not. You could use a food processor or mandoline to ensure uniform, nearly-transparent thin slices. I do not. And yesterday, Washington's Green Grocer brought me two cucumbers...

I scrubbed them, and realized they were still very waxy. Out came my trusty Oxo vegetable peeler, and in a trice, off came the waxy peel. A bit of casual knife work, and I had a bowl full of uneven but beautiful slices. I ground a good healthy amount of black pepper on top, and sprinkled a hefty pinch of salt over. Then, I poured 3/4 a cup of vinegar over, slowly, to wash the spices into solution. Yes, 3/4 cup. I love vinegar. And, yes, white vinegar. Other than Easter egg dying, this is the only food application for white vinegar in my life; otherwise, I use it mostly for cleaning. I topped off the cukes with one scant cup of cold water...

...and then I ate the top layer, with my fingers. Yes, it tastes better after it sits. But, yes, I could eat it right away. It took all my willpower to not tuck in with a fork, but... there's always tomorrow.


  1. Obviously, some people do need a recipe for this. And some people need to make sure they're grabing vinegar instead of grabbing Mexican vanilla stored in a vinegar bottle.

    Dad's food-related mistakes have become legend.

  2. In Daddy's defense, he's never had a good nose for scents, and the bottle DID say "vinegar."

    Such a waste of vanilla...

  3. I am really craving this right now, especially since you keep posting about eating it.

  4. Karyn: get yourself a cucumber or two and go for it! Great summer eating; cold, crisp, and refreshing.

  5. Growing up, my friend Kathy's family served a bowl of these with just about every meal. When the meal was over, instead of dessert, Kathy would grab the serving bowl and the fork and go to town.

    Being a food wuss at the time, I'd never touch them. Silly me.

    A recipe is sensible as proportion advice to the uninitiated or otherwise cooking averse.

  6. Also handy as a reminder to do things like, say, add salt. I never put salt in stuff when I was younger; I think this was my first time putting salt in this dish. Tasted GREAT.

  7. (linked from Karyn)

    I'm glad there is a recipe for this - I've never even heard of cukes being eaten this way, and they sound delicious! :)

  8. So easy, so tasty, and perfect when it's hot out and you want something cold.

  9. For some reason, I never remember to use water in this. All vinegar for me, baby!