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About Cucumbers

 

Cucumbers are a favorite food all around the world. Indians mix them with yogurt for a palate cleansing raita. Southeast Asians serve them in fish sauce, vinegar and chiles. Mexicans squeeze lime juice on them and top with a sprinkle of ground red chiles. The French sauté them with butter, some cream and a dash of white pepper.

They are also the iconic vegetable of summer—when we all aspire to be "cool as a cucumber." It seems odd that sweating sliced cucumbers would make them crisper, but it does. Salting and weighting them down removes some of the ample cucumber water, leaving the cell walls to offer more crunch. It also allows the cucumber slices to absorb more flavors, rather than giving off liquid which dilutes the intensity of your favorite dressing.

Here's what you do: Peel the cucumbers if waxed. Cut them in half lengthwise, then use a spoon or melon baller to scrape the seeds away. Slice them very thin. Place them in a colander in the sink and salt them, mixing them around with your hands to make sure they are evenly salted. Be careful not to add too much, add just enough to make them pleasantly salty. You can leave them this way for as little as 20 minutes, squeezing them in paper towels before use, or take them to the next step of weighting them down to remove even more water.

To press out more liquid, I have been known to use a pot filled with water, but a zip locking plastic bag filled with water works far better. It's more flexible and fits snugly in the colander on top of them. The longer you leave them, the more water the cucumbers lose. If you are in a hurry, a half-hour is fine, but you can also leave them for several hours, then chill, dress and serve.

 

Who's Eating What? Food Trends

garlic

According to a recent survey, ethnic foods are "in"—so says the National Pork Producers Council. The NPPC has a hefty PR budget and is always looking for ways to inspire food writers to use their materials. Personally, I think they do a bang-up job of providing great recipes and useful information to us, so we can pass them on to readers like you. See if you agree with what the food professionals said in this survey on food trends.

Results from the "Taste What's Next" Poll showed:

Ethnic Eating Out

26% of food professionals polled think Asian cuisine is the hottest food on the restaurant scene. Others are:

  • Thai (19%)
  • Mediterranean (18%)
  • Caribbean (17%)

On the horizon of popular foods in restaurants are Tex-Mex (11%) and fusion foods/ethnic combinations (10%)

After Work

When food professionals want an easy meal at home after work, 56% prepare a pasta/spaghetti dish. Others choose:

  • stir-fry (27%)
  • soups & stews (16%)
  • salads (16%)
Meaty Appeal

In terms of versatility, nutritional value and flavor, food professionals ranked the overall appeal of these meats as:

  • chicken (84%)
  • pork (64%)
  • fish (63%)
  • beef (62%)

Pantry Expansion

Gourmet tastes are becoming more mainstream, with these items establishing themselves comfortably in the home kitchen:

  • balsamic vinegar (42%)
  • olive oil (38%)
  • rosemary (17%)
  • infused oils (15%)
  • cilantro (14%)
  • basil (13%)

Can't Do Without

Food professionals recommend that every home kitchen stock these tasty flavors:

  • basil (36%)
  • thyme (34%)
  • garlic (33%)
  • cinnamon (32%)
  • oregano (28%)
  • olive oil (28%
  • rosemary (23%)
  • balsamic vinegar (22%)
  • nutmeg (21%)

Final Notes

Data was acquired through a telephone survey of 100 food experts in December 1996. The margin of error is plus or minus 15—which may explain why some of these results seem a bit off-base. Personally, I can't imagine only 33% of foodies recommending garlic as a pantry necessity! I don't know of a single food pro that wouldn't put it in their top ten list, and most, I believe, would rank it number 1. It certainly is in my house!—Kate Heyhoe

 

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

Modified August 2007


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