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Cottage Cooking Club: July 2015

Cucumber Salad

I can’t believe another month for Cottage Cooking Club has come and gone… This is the time of the month to share reviews of recipes I tried from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg in July. As in earlier months, I selected from the choices presented by our group’s leader, Andrea, The Kitchen Lioness, which always reflect ways to enjoy the most seasonal ingredients. The other members of the group (there are about a dozen of us) also choose from Andrea’s lineup and at the end of the month, we compare notes.

I didn’t expect how hot July would turn out to be. In New England, we usually have about two weeks of unbearably hot and humid weather, typically one in July and another in August. Hazy hot and humid summers are the weather pattern that caused me to move away from my hometown in Maryland and never look back, at least not during the summer. It seems that with climate change, my childhood weather is catching up with me. Unlike in Maryland, here outside Boston, in our 150+ year old house, we are not equipped with central air. We suffer through with constantly whirring ceiling fans and floor fans, cold drinks, cubes of watermelon, ice cream, frequent showers, and visits to air-conditioned malls and restaurants. I’ll admit to spending my share of afternoons hanging out the public library too.

Summer Stir Fry

Fortunately, I cooked my chosen recipe before July’s heat wave hit. The brilliantly-green Summer Stir-Fry with Fried Rice was beautiful to look at! I picked this recipe because I don’t typically stir fry, and I’m not sure why that is. Our backyard sugar snap peas petered out at the end of June, so I headed to the Wayland Farmers’ Market to stock up on ingredients. At the stand for Two Field Farm in Wayland, MA, my friend Charlie introduced me to golden snow peas. I bought a pint to add to sugar snaps, shelled English peas, arugula and scallions (I omitted the zucchini to accommodate Howard). Stir-fried rice with an egg scrambled into it forms the base for the verdant stir-fried vegetables.

Golden Snow Peas

Golden Snow Peas

As lovely as this dish was on the plate, we found it “just OK”. Perhaps it needed more spice or we didn’t season it exactly to our taste. In any case, it was a fast weeknight meal, but not necessarily something I will make again.

I’m growing a small backyard vegetable this summer. Usually we grow peas for early summer and then cherry tomatoes and basil, but not much else. With my volunteer work at the local community farm and a new seed library launched this spring, I’ve been more inspired this year. In addition to our usual (albeit minimal) crops, I’ve added scallions, zucchini, and pickling cucumbers. (I also grew some Romaine lettuce, arugula, collards, and radishes, but they have grown, been eaten, and are gone.)

IMG_2440

When the first of my cucumbers ripened, I decided to also make the Marinated Cucumber with Mint. No cooking required! Because my cukes were fresh off the vine, I did not peel or seed them. Other than that, I followed the instructions. The result was a light, bright cucumber salad. The fresh mint was a fresh touch. Like the stir-fry, this one was good, but not great.

To date, my experience with Hugh’s recipes had been delightful, so I’ll admit that I was a tad disappointed this month to be underwhelmed by my choices. I will be interested in seeing what other Cottage Cooking Club members thought of their recipe choices (which you can see here). And, I’ll look forward to trying out another round of recipes from the August selections.

Happy Summer! Stay Cool!

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Cool as a Cucumber

Gimlet

For the past few weeks, we’ve been getting 10 cucumbers each week as part of our CSA share. Sliced cucumbers sprinkled with spiced salt are a favorite, or of course, adding cucumbers to a salad, but I was looking for something new to do with cucumbers.

For the past year, I’ve been doing some experimenting with cocktails. Usually, I just drink wine or beer. My repertoire of cocktails was mostly limited to frozen margaritas and daiquiris, both based on limeade concentrate. Now that cocktails are trendy, it felt like time to branch out. It all started last summer when we discovered Vena’s Fizz House in Portland which sells different mixers, like the base for the Small Batch Gin & Tonics we like. I also get inspiration from my favorite on-line mixologist and blogging friend, Christy Majors.

When we were out in San Diego in June, we had a few cucumber cocktails. I didn’t pay close attention to what was in them, but, as we sat at the bar sipping our drinks, we did discuss how well they hit the spot on a hot afternoon. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the previously mentioned plethora of cucumbers reminded me to try this at home.

Cucumber juice turns out to be very easy to make — no juicer required. Wash one or two cucumbers, preferably organically grown. Chop them coarsely. Don’t bother to peel or seed them. The skin gives the juice a wonderful chartreuse color. I quartered the cucumber lengthwise, then sliced it into half-inch slices. Throw the cucumber pieces into the blender with a handful of ice cubes for each cucumber. Turn the blender onto a high speed, and puree until smooth. Now strain the puree through a fine sieve. Press on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. You should get about 1 cup of juice for each cucumber.

I’ve been playing around with the combination of cucumber juice, simple syrup, lime juice, and liquor. I’ve had success with both cucumber mojitos (rum) and cucumber gimlets (gin). The margaritas didn’t come out as well.

Mojitos start by muddling sprigs of mint in a tall glass before adding the other ingredients. For the gimlets, simply pour the ingredients over ice. Both are cool, refreshing, and delicious options for relaxing on a hot summer evening.

cucumber mojito

Cucumber Mojito
Makes one drink

6 sprigs of fresh mint
3 oz cucumber juice (made as described above)
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup (made from equal amounts sugar and water)
2 oz rum, preferably Bacardi Limon
Ice<
Slice of cucumber and sprig of mint to garnish

In a tall glass, muddle the mint until it's very fragrant. Leave the mint in the glass, and fill it with ice. In a separate container, combine the cucumber juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and rum. Pour over the ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice and mint sprig.

Cucumber Gimlet
Makes one drink

1 oz cucumber juice (made as described above)
1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
1 oz simple syrup (made from equal amounts sugar and water)
1 oz gin, preferably Hendricks
Ice
Slice of cucumber to garnish

Fill a short (old-fashioned) glass with ice. In a separate container, combine the cucumber juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and gin. Pour over the ice. Garnish with a cucumber slice. You can also double it and serve in a tall glass (as pictured!)

Cheers!