“The cucumber is the only vegetable that has zero anything—calories, sugar, vitamins, whatever,” proclaimed Radha, my ex boss and my partner in crime at Dr. Vijaya Venkat’s health awareness centre (she doesn’t like calling it a dabba). “It’s just water. You can have as much as you want, nothing will ever add up,” he (yes!) assured. I later found out that it did have Vitamin C and was high on fibre, so it wasn’t that it was a mascot for the unbearable lightness of being.
As a chief contender for the daily salad, that sure is a point in its favour, although unlike say carrots or spinach, what will you tell your child when you have to feed him/her cucumber? May be you can try this, “Eat this and you will stay cool,” and see if it cuts any ice. I still remember, when the doctor put my mother on a strict diabetic-cum-pro thrombin control diet, the only item that had a tick against it was the cucumber. My mother was aghast. “What is the use of living if this is the only vegetable I can eat?” he demanded to know.
Its high water content is adequate reason the phrase ‘as cool as a cucumber’ came up. And even though it is relegated to nothingness in its contribution to nutrients, I must still add that it is hugely underestimated. Like its power to soothe a parched throat on a highway in the peak of summer. Or its absolute conduciveness to eye packs. Or its magical chemistry with dill. Or even yoghurt. Or its enormous power to yield to carving (at those gauche buffet tables, but what the heck).
Some like it pickled, and I must admit I have a weakness for brine. Have it indigenously pickled in vinegar (those ceramic bowls laden with the stuff at Indian-Chinese or Chinese-Chinese restaurants, or pay a premium for the miniature pickled gherkins, the choice is yours.
A lesser ventured into, but more wholesome option is a refreshing cold gazpacho soup that takes five minutes or less to make: all you have to do is simply purée cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers and onions, then add salt and pepper to taste. Voila! I had a really nice one years ago at Mezzo Mezzo.
For me the cucumber is a staple in my daily salad, where I allow it to freely date red and yellow peppers, sprouts, carrots, spring onions, grapefruit, pomegranates (I just have a thing for colour) and just about anything that will yield. On my not-so-lazy days, I grate them to make my mother’s trademark pachadi which is simply, out of this world.
Cucumber and dill salad
One small head of lettuce, shredded
Two cucumbers, cut into chunks
Dill, one small bunch
Salt to taste
Shred the lettuce, add the cucumber chunks, dill, and mix well.
Add one tbsp olive oil, juice of one lemon and salt to taste.
Mix well. Serve chilled.
One or two cucumbers, grated
One green chilli
A small piece of ginger, julienned
Oil, mustard, hing for tempering
Salt to taste
Grate one large or two small cucumbers, drain the juice and set aside.
Add 200 gm of yoghurt to the cucumber, salt to taste, and mix well.
Heat oil in a kadai and add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add hing, chopped green chilli, and ginger and sautee well.
When cool, por the tempering over the cucumber in dahi.
Serve cold with rotis or rice based dish as a raita, or even eat by itself