Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sautéed Cucumbers

Sautéed Cucumbers on plate with dill garnish, overhead view

This easy, dill-enhanced side dish captures the taste of summer

Cucumbers are available year-round in the supermarket, but they come into their glory during the hot summer months.  That’s when we can get them fresh from our backyard gardens or farmers’ markets.  So here in the US, that means we’ll soon be seeing the best-tasting cukes of the year.

Most of us don’t give much thought to how we prepare cucumbers.  We tend to slice them and serve them raw, or toss them in a salad.  Sometimes we pickle them.  But cooking them?  Not so much.

Well, let me introduce sautéed cucumbers.  Cooking brings out flavor nuances that you might miss when eating cukes raw.  Combine with dill, and you have a dish that screams summer. It also pairs exceptionally well with some of our favorite summer treats — like grilled or poached fresh, wild salmon. And it’s a dish that takes only minutes to make!

Easy, seasonal, flavorful.  What’s not to like?
Sautéed Cucumbers on plate with dill garnish

Recipe:  Sautéed Cucumbers

In the US, most supermarkets carry two types of cucumbers this time of year:  slicing ones meant for table use, and the kind meant for pickling.  The slicing varieties include the fat, thick-skinned ones (with numerous seeds) and the longer, thinner-skinned “English” cukes (they have relatively few seeds, and often are sold in shrink wrap to protect their skins).  The pickling type (Kirbies) are usually shorter. 

Any of the slicing cukes meant for table use work in this recipe (avoid the pickling kind).  If in doubt, ask your friendly supermarket produce person — in my experience, they’re always happy to answer questions.

Although you can peel and slice the cucumbers ahead of time, I think this dish tastes best freshly made.  Fortunately, it’s easy to prepare (and almost cooks itself), so making it at the last minute isn’t a problem.

I found this recipe in Julia Child and More Company. I usually figure that one of the thick-skinned “fat” cucumbers will serve 2, while an English cucumber will serve 3 or 4 (depending on how big it is). So buy as many as you need, and adjust ingredients accordingly (as written, this recipe serves 2).

The recipe requires 5 minutes or so for prep time, plus 5 to 10 minutes of cooking. So figure on 15 minutes for the whole thing.

Ingredients
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or to taste)
  • salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or to taste; you can substitute a teaspoon of dried dill, or some minced fresh parsley)
Procedure
  1. Peel the cucumber (see Notes) and cut in half lengthwise.  With a dessert spoon, scoop out the seeds.
  2. Slice each half (across the width) into pieces 1/3 inch thick. 
  3. OR if you prefer, cut the two lengths in half lengthwise (you’ll end up with 4 long cucumber strips).  Slice these into triangles.
  4. If you’re not cooking the cucumbers right away, place the slices (or triangles) in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to proceed.  (You’ll get better results if you slice the cucumbers no more than 12 hours before you plan to cook them).
  5. When ready to cook, heat a skillet (nonstick or not — it doesn’t matter for this recipe) over medium heat until hot.  Add butter.  When the butter is melted, add the cucumber.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, tossing or stirring occasionally, until almost cooked through — cucumbers are better if they retain just a bit of crunch.  I usually start testing after 5 minutes (by tasting a piece) and cook until al dente.
  6. Adjust seasoning, add the dill (you can also add a bit more butter at this point if you want a more luscious dish), toss, and serve.
Sautéed Cucumbers on plate with dill garnish

Notes
  • Most “fat” cucumbers we buy in stores are waxed, so I always peel them.  Who wants to eat wax?  Besides, the skins are too thick for this recipe — which is why I peel homegrown cukes too.  If your cucumbers have thin skins (like English cucumbers), peeling may not be necessary — it’s up to you.
  • Dill and cucumbers make a wonderful combo.  I suppose there are other herbs or spices you could add or substitute (a pinch of cayenne is kinda nice), but this recipe works so well as-is that I haven’t felt the need to play with different flavor combinations.
  • Fresh dill is far tastier (and prettier) than dried dill.  The dried variety does work in this recipe, but the dish isn’t quite as good IMO.
  • Although we consider cucumbers vegetables, they are actually fruits (just like tomatoes).
  • Cucumbers probably originated in western Asia (most likely India) or perhaps the Middle East at least 3000 years ago.  Their cultivation spread to Europe (perhaps introduced by the Greeks or Romans) and eventually spread to North America in the 16th century. 
  • Cucumbers are listed as being among the whfoods.org World’s Healthiest Foods. They contain some of the lignans that make cruciferous veggies (like broccoli or cabbage) and allium vegetables (like onion or garlic) so beneficial. Plus they have loads of other antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and quite possibly anti-cancer benefits too. 
  • Cucumbers are sensitive to heat. So once you pick them from your garden (or bring them home from the supermarket), you should refrigerate them immediately.
Sautéed Cucumbers in ramekin with dill garnish, overhead view

Dill-icious

“Excellent cucumber dish!” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs.  “And it goes so well with fresh Poached Salmon. Love the dill flavor in both.”

“The two dishes really complement each other,” I agreed. “Dill on dill! Though another good side for the salmon might be that Hungarian Cucumber Salad we made last summer.”

“Yes, you need to make that again soon,” said Mrs K R.

“It’s perfect for this time of year,” I said. “In addition to salmon, it’s super with barbecue.”

“Speaking of which, have you started working on the menu for our big July 4th blowout?” she asked.

“Not yet,” I admitted. “Though we’ll have some kind of potato salad for sure. Since I’ve been smitten with dill for the last couple of weeks, maybe I should use some dill in the potato salad?”

“Sure,” said Mrs K R. “How about that horseradish potato salad with dill that you made a few weeks ago?”

“Funny you should mention that,” I said. “I’ll be posting about it next Sunday.”

“Good!” said Mrs K R, picking up her drink. “And of course before that, we’ll do another installment in the Summer Sippin’ Series. My favorite feature on the blog! What’s on tap?”

“What you’re sipping on right now,” I said.

Mrs K R drained her glass. “Terrific idea — I love these! They’re kind of a cross between a Mojito and a Classic Daiquiri.”

“Maybe even better,” I said.

“Should we tell people what it is?” she asked.

“I think I’ll wait till Wednesday,” I said.

“Don’t know if I can stand all this suspense,” said Mrs K R. “I’ll probably need a second drink — just to calm my nerves, you know.”

I mixed us another round. For medicinal purposes only, of course.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Hungarian Cucumber Salad Poached Salmon
Jalapeño Coleslaw with Pimentón
Garlic Coleslaw
Creamy Cole Slaw
Mustard Potato Salad
French Potato Salad
American (Mayonnaise) Potato Salad
Potato Salad Basics
Mojito
Classic Daiquiri

90 comments:

  1. Cucumbers and dills are great companion to each other. Although I have eaten Chinese style stir-fried cucumbers several times, I haven't tried the cucumbers cooked in butter yet. It sounds like another great way to enjoy those abundant summer cucumbers. Thanks for the great recipe!

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    1. Hi Holly, Chinese style stir-fried cukes are wonderful! As is cooking them in butter and seasoning with dill. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I don't recall ever sautéing cucumbers but it sounds delicious and very summery. I agree, if you can use fresh dill it's so much better. Nice recipe and simple - perfect!

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    1. Hi Vicki, this recipe is a really fun change of pace! Worth trying, at least once. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Well I never...have ever considered cooking cucumbers for anything but pickles! Why? Who knows but now I'm dying to try this. I love butter and dill...how could it be anything but good?

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    1. Hi Barb, I think you'll enjoy this - wonderful flavor. And cooked cukes have a really fun flavor. Good stuff! Thanks for the comment.

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  4. I never think to cook cucumbers, either. But this will definitely make me give it a whirl.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, this is an easy recipe that has more flavor than you might think - I'll bet you'll enjoy it. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. The Hubs loves cucumbers. He will chomp into one right from the garden. I will see how he likes these. D you think ou could use olive oil?

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    1. Hi Debra, I would think olive oil would work fine - certainly worth a try! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. I never would have thought to cook cucumbers :)
    Yum!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, you'll definitely like these - really interesting flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Looking forward to the big reveal of the drink - I'll be off antibiotics by then so I'll be able to enjoy a medicinal drink or two. I always score the skin of a cucumber with the tines of a fork. It makes the cucumber slices look quite pretty and also removes the bitter juices from the skin. I have never had cucumber served like this! As you say, cucumber is usually just thrown into a salad. I'll have to try this with the dill xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, glad you'll finally be off the antibiotics! I sometimes score the skin of cukes, too - it really helps, plus it looks pretty. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Like all the others, this is a new idea for me. But I do love cukes...so why not???

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    1. Hi Liz, it's a fun dish - really great with salmon or other seafood. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. I've never had a sauteed cucumber. Holy cow those look really wonderful. I'm trying it today.

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    1. Hi Maureen, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I admit it. I'm guilty of being one that slices the cucumber and eats it raw. But apparently that is the boring way to eat cucumbers. First I saw fried cukes over at With a Glass and now you are doing a simple saute'. Looks quite delicious but you know what I'm thinking don't you? A little sprinkle of chile powder on top? :)

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    1. Hi MJ, a sprinkle of chile pepper would be most excellent! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  11. I have never thought about cooking a cucumber, very interesting. I agree cucumbers and dill pair very well together. I am going to have try this one, it sounds like it would be wonderful for the summer months.

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    1. Hi Dawn, I usually serve my cukes raw, but cooking makes a really nice change of pace. And it's a great dish in the summer. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. I have never heard of this before...what a great recipe and one I'm eager to try! This would be so refreshing on a warm summer day. Thank you for sharing this unique dish with us!

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    1. Hi Monet, it's a fun and tasty dish - well worth trying! Thanks for the comment.

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  13. Am smiling at all the Down Under comments: yes, I also always score them lengthwise with a fork; never peel them, but sauteing has been second nature for a few decades since when 'I can't believe you cook a salad vegetable' seemed par for the course :) ! I don't know what our buyers reach at the Farmers' Markets, but in the supermarkets here it is usually a choice twixt a 'Telegraph cucumber' [long and usually wrapped in plastic] and the short, slim Lebanese kind I do prefer. This salad I would and do make with the long ones - yummy!

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    1. Hi Eha, one of my favorite things about blogging is all the great new info I learn! Everyone has such different takes on things. I believe the "Telegraph" and "English" cucumbers are one and the same (or maybe not!). I'd peel them anyway, even though I usually served them unpeeled - I just don't like the peels in this dish (and I've made it both ways). But that's me, not you, so of course you'd do it the way you prefer! Thanks for the comment.

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    2. Am certain you are correct! Well, I like the colour and the extra fibre so I just scrub like mad ere slicing :) ! Actually I too love foodie blogs for the same reason: sometimes others do not understand I am not refuting THEIR beliefs, just stating 'how we have it here' - which, to me, is interesting :) !

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    3. Hi Eha, I absolutely understand where you're coming from! Well, not in the physical sense because I've never been Down Under, but you know what I mean. ;-)

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  14. I definitely want to give this a try! I like the idea of cooking of cucumber...and the dill I'm sure tastes awesome with the cucumber flavor!! Hope you had a wonderful weekend, John!

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    1. Hi Ashley, it's a really interesting dish - a bit different from what most of us think of when it comes to cucumbers. My weekend was great, and I hope yours was too! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. A great idea! It is very rare to come across cooked/sautéed cucumbers.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, it's an interesting dish, isn't it? I see cooked cukes in some Asian dishes, but not so much in Western ones. And well worth trying! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. In India, we cook cucumbers too, although it is not very common. I loved your recipe. So easy and sounds so tasty! :)

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    1. Hi Purabi, I'm pretty sure I've had cooked cukes at an Indian restaurant before - nice and spicy! This recipe isn't spicy at all, although the dill gives it a wonderful aroma. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. John, I have tasted sauteed cucumbers and they are exquisite... thank you so much for sharing the recipe... I will spread the word on this post via Twitter and FB ; )

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    1. Hi Lizzy, gosh, that be so kind to share on FB, etc! Don't you love sauteed cukes? Such great flavor! Thanks for the comment.

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  18. This could be a side dish to a burger! Yummy!

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    1. Hi Peachy, these would go great with burgers! Pretty nice with grilled chicken, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. We cook cucumber chunks with lentil soup. But your idea of sauteing sounds fabulous ! Dill makes it super glamorous to look at :)

    I'm tired of liking your gorgeous, crisp photos !

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    1. Hi Suborna, sorry about the photos. :D I love the idea of adding cukes to lentil soup - something I'll try. Great idea! Thanks for the comment.

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  20. Come to think of it, I don't believe I've ever cooked cucumber. Brings new meaning to one of my favorite fresh, crunchy ingredients! I bet these would be amazing tossed in a cold salad. Lovely idea, John!

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    1. Hi Georgia, they're really interesting when cooked. A different and fun take on an ingredient everyone thinks they know so well. Thanks for the comment.

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  21. Wow,
    This recipe sounds wonderful!

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    1. Hi Asmita, it's really a nice dish! Definitely worth trying. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I love cucumbers and eat them all the time, but I've never had them cooked. I can't wait to give this a try. I'm also glad to hear cucumbers are so healthy - I didn't know that.

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    1. Hi Laura, not only are cukes pretty healthy, but they're really low in calories. ;-) Always a good thing. This is a fun recipe - I think you'll like it. Thanks for the comment.

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  23. Was just looking at an old Martha Stewart cookbook and saw a similar recipe. I should try this because it seems I always have a cuke that needs a home! Thanks for trying it for us!

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    1. Hi Abbe, my impression is this recipe has been around for ages, just not much made anymore. It's good stuff - you'll like. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. To be honest, I've never had cooked cucumbers before and this is a different idea that I must try. I love how you prep these refreshing plate of cucumbers. Have a good week, John! :)

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    1. Hi Ray, it's a nice dish, and different. I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Well, once again you've taught me something, John. I never would have thought to sauté a cucumber and, when I think of it, that makes no sense at all. Literally everything else in a salad can be cooked, or at least wilted, so why not a cucumber? I do wish I had seen this post earlier, before I headed to the grocery. My neighbor just gave me a big handful of fresh dill. It grows wild in her yard and for years now I've never bought it. I just ask her for a few stems whenever I need some throughout Summer. Now I need to convince her to grow cucumbers. :)
    Thanks, John, for another interesting post and recipe.

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    1. Hi John, you definitely need to persuade your neighbor to grow cucumbers! I hope you have a chance to try this sometime - really nice stuff. Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Years ago, as a teenager, I spent some time in Italy. I loved the food and when I returned home I told me mom how they served sautéed cucumbers and how delicious they were. My mom thought I was crazy and later I found out it was zucchini! Now you're telling me you really can saute cucumbers, I wish I could tell my mom about this :)

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    1. Hi Chris, yup, you really can saute cucumber! Well worth doing, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. I love cucumbers but have never eaten them cooked. This sounds like a great new way of eating them. Thanks so much for sharing!:)

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    1. Hi Nancy, it's a fun way to try cucumbers! Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Sauteed cucs are soooo good with fresh dill! Yum :)

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    1. Hi Kiran, isn't this a wonderful dish? So flavorful! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. I never eat cucumbers cooked - this is so intriguing!

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    1. Hi Alyssa, definitely something worth trying - tons of flavor, and so healthy. Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Cucumbers are one of my favorite summer veggies. They are so light and fresh, just perfect for a summer treat.
    Gorgeous recipe, thank you John!

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    1. Hi Daniela, I'm a big fan of summer cucumbers, too. Can't wait for our cucumber plants to start producing! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. Wow, I think I often overlook the humble cucumber because I only think of it raw in salads. This has changed my whole view of them.. I can't wait to try!

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    1. Hi Barb, I think you'll really like cukes cooked - there's a whole different dimension to the veggie. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I have never tried preparing cucumbers this way, but my husband and I both love them so much. Thanks for the great recipe for us to try!

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    1. Hi Kristi, it's a really fun change of pace! Tasty, too. ;-) Hope you enjoy, and thanks for the comment.

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  33. Sauteed cucumbers is a new idea for me, but it sounds like it works! Yours do look lovely with the fresh dill arranged around them. As always, I loved the food facts - who knew that cucumber is actually a fruit?

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    1. Hi Beth, I was surprised too to learn that cukes are fruits! Hmm, I wonder if anyone has ever thought to make a cucumber pie? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Oh John, you must reminded me that I can sautee cucumber...my mom used to cook cucumber this way and I totally forgot about it. I like the butter and dill, and I will for sure give this a try.
    Thanks for the recipe and have a great week :D

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    1. Hi Juliana, they're really great when cooked this way, aren't they? I'm glad I've reminded you of them! Thanks for the comment.

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  35. In my house, cucumbers are usually just sliced and tossed into salads. I think this will be a welcome addition to the menu.
    I have a friend who cooks cucmbers in a tamarind sauce, it is a totally new experience and you are right, cooking transforms cucmbers

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    1. Hi Sawsan, actually cukes usually serve the same role in our house! But it's nice to change things from time to time, and this is a dish we like a lot. Love the idea of cucumbers cooked in tamarind - that must be delish. Thanks for the comment.

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  36. Oh this sounds fun and delicious, easy for me to try even tonight! I always have a ton of cucs in my fridge!

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    1. Hi Natalie, I'll bet I know what you're having for dinner! Thanks for the comment.

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  37. My mother's old English cookbooks always had recipes for cooked cucumbers but I never made them. I never think to do it and just always end up putting them in salads which is the very Middle Eastern or Asian way of using cucumbers.

    Nazneen

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    1. Hi Nazneen, I usually use cucumbers in salads, too. But cooking is a nice change of pace, and really good! Thanks for the comment.

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  38. Just the other day I saw a recipe with cooked cucumber (I don't remember where again! -_-) and I was surprised already back then seeing a recipe with cooked cucumber. I am not sure if I could do that here with the cucumbers. We are in the cucumber season but the ones here I think are different because we have to peel them, otherwise they are bitter. We eat cucumbers with the skin in europe. I was thinking of trying that out a few years back but my husband said I was mad for even getting the idea. lol

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    1. Hi Helene, the skin on cukes can be pretty good. My understanding is the skin on many European cucumbers is rather thin, so it's pretty flavorful. A lot of the cukes sold in the US have thick skin that sounds a lot like the ones you describe having in India. I'll eat the skin when the cuke comes from my garden, and I can pick it while it's still fairly young - it hasn't gotten bitter. Thanks for the comment.

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  39. We eat lots of cucumbers in salad and other dishes but never cooked it before. I love this and have to give it a try as ingredients are so simple and we occasionally have fresh dill!

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    1. Hi Nami, cooked cukes are really interesting - definitely worth trying. If nothing else, an interesting change. Thanks for the comment.

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  40. I eat tones of cucumbers in many different variations but a cooked ones are new for me. Need to try.

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    1. Hi Marta, these have really nice flavor and a different texture from raw cucumber. I like them! Definitely worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  41. The best and only way to celebrate cucumbers--I never liked them before 2 years ago, but now I love them! Bet we'll love these, too. Thanks, John!

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    1. Hi Ala, it's a great dish - I'm sure you'll enjoy. Thanks for the comment.

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  42. This recipe is going to be perfect come spring time. I was hanging out for it. Thanks John

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    1. Hi Lizzie, this really is a perfect warm weather dish. Which of course for you means you need to wait - as you said. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  43. Hi John, your this cucumber dish look awesome. Very refreshing appetizer. We Asian eat consume lots of cucumber, raw, spicy pickles or cooking. Whatever style, cucumber is my favorite.

    Best regards.

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    1. Hi Amelia, there are some amazing Asian cucumber dishes! I've had several that are outstanding. Thanks for the comment.

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  44. What a wonderfully, simple dish for summer. I have never cooked a cucumber but I will definitely be giving this recipe a try. Maybe with a nice piece of grilled fish.

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    1. Hi Karen, isn't this nice? Simple and tasty - and something a bit different. Fish is quite nice with this dish. Thanks for the comment.

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