The Conscious Cook: Keeping cool as a cucumber
“Some people change their ways when they see the light, others when they feel the heat.” — Caroline Schroeder
The joyous days of July often arrive hand in hand with drenching humidity and extreme temperatures. When the thermometer hits 90 and above, it is imperative to cool the body and mind with refreshing, rehydrating foods and liquids.
What could be more invigorating for the system than crisp, freshly harvested cucumbers? With a 95% water content, farm fresh cucumbers will hydrate and supply rejuvenating benefits to the body, both inside and out.
One of the earliest crops to be offered at local farm markets, crunchy, sweet, cooling cucumbers can be used for a bevy of beauty treatments, as well as supplying nourishing nutrients to the inner workings of the body. Cucumbers can bring welcome relief to tired, swollen eyes. Lie down for 5-10 minutes, close your eyes and place a slice of unpeeled cucumber on each eye. Breathe deeply and relax, letting the cooling sensation and naturally healing properties in the cucumber slices refresh and restore your overworked and irritated eyes, while greatly diminishing any puffiness and dryness.
Consuming cucumbers may significantly improve your complexion and give you glowing, luminous skin, due to both their naturally high water content and silica content. Cucumbers are also rich in ascorbic acid and caffeic acid, both of which may be useful in easing the searing discomfort of sunburns, the itchy fire of dermatitis, and eliminating excess water retention. Cucumbers can apparently help prevent gum disease, repair or prevent splitting fingernails and toenails, and may even be helpful with hair growth, particularly when juiced and combined with carrot and spinach juice.
A good source of potassium, adding more cucumbers to your diet may improve muscular flexibility, while the magnesium content in cucumbers can help relax nerves and muscles, and encourage smoothly circulating blood flow. Filled with fiber, cucumbers may help regulate blood pressure and bowel regularity.
When selecting cucumbers at the market, choose bright green, smooth skinned cucumbers that are quite firm to the touch. Store in the refrigerator, unpeeled and unwashed until ready to use.
Cucumbers are wonderfully versatile and can be enjoyed in a myriad of preparations. Their fresh, bright flavor will lend seasonal pleasure to any crudité platter. Or, take some good dark bread, such as pumpernickel, add thinly sliced cucumbers and a slight smear of cream cheese or butter, and include a smattering of salt and a good grind of black pepper for a stellar summer sandwich. For a super quick summer meal, chunk up cucumbers and combine with summer tomatoes, feta cheese, chopped parsley and dill, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
Cold cucumber soup will bring relief to summer’s steamy evenings, or combine with watermelon, prosciutto and olives for a salty sweet sensation. Cucumbers are spectacular in Asian dishes, including Vietnamese summer rolls, cold sesame noodles and cool as a cucumber salad!
Keep cool with cucumbers as you prepare your delicious summer life!
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
I minced, seeded hot pepper (optional)
2 minced garlic cloves
5 medium cucumbers, well scrubbed (peel if you wish) and sliced
½ cup thinly sliced red onion
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4-5 tablespoons roughly chopped roasted peanuts
Freshly ground black pepper
Mix together first 6 ingredients to make a dressing. Place cucumbers, red onion slices and herbs in a large bowl. Combine with the dressing until well coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with peanuts and serve immediately.