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It's not unusual this time of year for even the most attentive care and pampering to unsuccessfully combat the effects of high temperatures and a decrease in rainfall. After witnessing the stress of some of the plants during visits to 3 local nurseries this week, I left feeling a bit less frustrated with my own gardening skills. Even the experts are being challenged.
There are a few plants, however, that manage to thrive in these conditions. One of the most impressive warriors against the summer elements is the cucumber. It's almost humorous that such a cool, watery treat is derived from conditions that are at complete odds with its characteristics. Yet as the weather continues to grow hotter and drier, the plants only increase their yield. Yesterday I picked 20 of them from my 3 plants and added them to the 10 that were already sitting on the table. There will certainly be plenty of cucumbers on our dinner plates over the next few weeks!
Cucumbers are perfectly refreshing simply sliced and lightly salted, added to a tossed salad, or served with a side of ranch dressing for dipping. With a few added ingredients and a few more minutes of preparation, you can take them beyond refreshing and help them make a bold statement to your tastebuds.
This first recipe may bring to mind a popular recipe used by many people. However, the replacement of white vinegar with apple cider vinegar gives them a smoother flavor than the traditional recipe. While I'm normally a bargain shopper, I suggest using the good brand of apple cider vinegar!
3 cucumbers peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Combine the water, apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Continuously stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved, turning from a cloudy to a clear liquid. Add the cucumber slices. Store covered in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours.
The dressing in this next recipe is similar in flavor to the Cucumber Salad recipe, but the addition of pasta and other vegetables makes it heartier and more filling.
Cucumber Pasta Salad
1 box mostaccioli pasta
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 container grape tomatoes
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon Accent
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or parsley flakes
Boil the pasta the minimum amount of time suggested on the box to prevent the pasta from becoming too soft. Drain the pasta and cool it under cold running water.
Combine the cooked and cooled pasta, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and grape tomatoes in a large serving bowl.
Combine the oil, vinegar, and sugar in a large bowl and stirring to mix. Stir in the spices. Pour the mixture over the pasta and vegetables and stir to coat them.
Refrigerate the pasta salad several hours or overnight.
I hope you enjoy these cool, refreshing, conveniently make-ahead recipes!