Fresh CSA cucumbers
I was a bit late jumping into the world of blogs, in terms of both reading and writing. When I first discovered food blogs, I did hear about the Julie/Julia Project, which was going to be turned into a movie. I went back and read the archives of that site and was surprised to find that I could indeed enjoy reading posts that had no pictures.
When Julie & Julia the book came out, I read that as well, but must admit that while I liked the Julia parts, the Julie side wasn’t as compelling as the original blog. I liked that Julie’s blog was like a stream of consciousness, a narrative of her thoughts on paper. Although her blog didn’t really post any recipes, just the names of dishes she made, her reaction to baked cucumbers really stuck in my mind.
As a person who doesn’t really love cucumbers, to read that baking them was a “revelation” kind of shocked me. My mom used to cook cucumbers in soup and I absolutely hated warm cucumbers. I couldn’t imagine that baking them would be better but then I read testimonials from other blogs that baked cucumbers really were amazing.
So when our CSA share included a veritable bounty of cucumbers, I knew that I wanted to try baking them. Not owning a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I did a google search and turned up this article, which included a recipe for baked cucumbers, which I’ve copied below. Although this recipe is titled Concombres Au Beurre, it sounds like the Concombres Persilles recipe that Julie describes in her blog. I’ve inserted pictures from my own attempt at this recipe for reference.
Concombres Au Beurre
6 (8-inch long) cucumbers
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teapsoon sugar
3 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon dill OR basil
3 to 4 tablespoons minced green onion
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Peel cucumbers. Cut in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Cut into lengthwise strips about 3/8-in wide. Cut strips into 2-inch pieces.
Peeled and seeded cucumbers
Toss cucumbers in a 2 1/2-quart porcelain or stainless steel bowl with vinegar, salt and sugar. Let stand at least 30 minutes or for several hours. Drain. Pat dry in a towel.
Cucumber strips tossed with vinegar, salt, and sugar
In a 12-inch diameter baking dish that is 1 1/2 inches deep, toss cucumbers with butter, dill, green onions and pepper.
Cucumber strips tossed in a baking dish with butter, scallions, basil, and pepper
Bake, uncovered, in center of a preheated 375-degree oven about 1 hour, tossing 2 or 3 times, until cucumbers are tender but still have a suggestion of crispness and texture. They will barely color during cooking.
Serve with roast, broiled or sauteed chicken, scallops or veal chops. Can also serve sprinkled with 2 tablespoons minced parsley. Makes 6 servings.
From “Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume One,” by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck (Knopf, 1961)
Baked cucumbers up close
So my verdict? Not a revelation for me, unfortunately. The cucumbers did retain a nice crispiness but the flavors were off for me. Perhaps it was because I used red wine vinegar instead of white vinegar (the recipe did not specify, but re-reading the blog post, Julie used white). I also used basil instead of dill, mainly because I only had basil on hand. I love dill pickles, so perhaps I might have enjoyed the dish better had I used dill. And I also didn’t have parsley to sprinkle on at the end, but then again, I don’t really like parsley.
The cucumbers just had a weird sour flavor to me, and the butter on them felt a bit greasy in my mouth. Also, when the dish cooled down, the butter kind of congealed unpleasantly. I was disappointed, as I really wanted to like this dish. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime using white vinegar/dill/parsley, but I’m not convinced those were the missing links. Maybe I just don’t like cucumbers, except in pickle form? Oh well, at least I gave it a shot!