Fresh From the Farm – Katie Malich

Fresh cucumbers are an under sung and often unappreciated vegetable. You may find some sliced cucumbers in a tossed salad, but they rarely rise to the status of the featured vegetable. They are practically ubiquitous in their pickled and sweet relish form: on hamburgers, hot dogs, paired with potato chips or fries next to a sandwich, the list goes on and on.

Now that fresh, unwaxed cucumbers are available at our farmers markets, I rarely buy cucumbers at supermarkets. There’s just something about the waxed, heavy, dark green exterior which I find unappetizing. Of course, you can wash and pare away the skin, and I will do so if I buy commercial cukes. But I do like the visual contrast of the deep green and white interior, and enjoy the extra crunch of biting through the skin when eating organic cukes. Commercially grown cucumbers are at risk of loosing a significant amount of their water content if they are not waxed or, in the case of English or hothouse cucumbers, encased in tight form-fitting plastic before transit. I understand what motivates producers and suppliers to take these precautions against wilting and spoilage. Luckily for us, though, our Culver City farmers markets cut out the long time and distances commercially grown cukes travel before they reach or salads or relish trays.

Lark Farms at the Tuesday market is a year-round provider of hydroponically grown cucumbers. Small, curved and slighly knobbly pickling cucumbers are also for sale year round at our markets.
Summer brings us a number of other cucumber choices. There’s the short, round, pale yellow lemon cucumber; the long, light green and elegantly curved Armenian cucumber; the seedless Japanese cucumbers with their delicate thin skins; and, on occasion, other Asian varieties.

Lemon cucumbers are a fun change from standard cucumbers. While they do contain seeds, they are picked for market before the seeds become too large and too hard. I’ve found that I can just slice lemon cukes without worrying about removing their seeds. A light, chilled salad of sliced lemon cucumbers with dill is a perfect way to showcase their delicate flavor. Unlike the more traditional versions of sliced cucumber salads, this recipe omits sliced onions and sugar so that the subtle taste of the lemon cukes shines.

Lemon Cucumber Salad with Dill
(serves 4)

8 lemon cucumbers
1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 – 1 t. white wine, sherry, rice, or white vinegar
pinch of salt
3 T. snipped fresh dill
4 large lettuce leaves (curly red or oak leaf lettuce will make an attractive contrast)
(optional) dill sprigs to garnish

Wash the cucumbers. Slice the ends off. Do not peel. Cut in half lengthwise, and then cut into 1/4 inch slices. Place in bowl. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar over slices. Add pinch of salt. Stir gently to distribute oil, vinegar and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add snipped dill, and stir gently. Chill for at least an hour before serving. To serve, wash lettuce leaves, dry them, and place one leaf on each of four plates. Place 1/4 of the salad on each lettuce leaf. Garnish with dill sprig if desired.

The Tuesday Culver City Farmers Market is held from 2 to 7 pm on Tuesdays on Main Street, between Venice and Culver Boulevards. The Culver South Farmers Market is held on Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. In the northeast corner of the Westfield Culver City parking lot between Hannum and Slauson Aves.

Katie Malich is enjoying all the fresh veggies of summer, old friends and new experiences.

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