playing with my food
|Garden gone wild!|
I’ve been experimenting with cucumbers and zucchini all day, trying to figure out how to preserve the bounty of these tasty veggies — well, they’re really fruit — in different ways. Why? Because we eat only seasonal, locally grown produce. So when there are no cucumbers in my backyard and none at the farmers’ market, there are none on the table. So that means at least six months a year without cucumbers.
I love cucumbers. Cool, neither sweet nor sour, they are one of the most refreshing things I can think of to eat raw, out of hand like an apple, in a salad, with dip. Love them with rice wine vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame oil. Just a sprinkle of lemon-pepper is lovely. Or chile-lemon salt (look in the Mexican section at the grocery store — tasty stuff). Sour cream and dill make a creamy little cukey salad (learned that one from my mom). Or I can lay a few slices on my eyelids for a mini-spa treatment. One of my favorite salad dressings is cucumber dressing — no longer made commercially, but I used to buy it all the time and used it on everything from sandwiches to fish, as well as salads. Cucumbers rock da house. But (and this is a big but) — the fam doesn’t really like pickles. Only so many jars of pickles can I make. We still have last year’s stock, unfinished. And probably some from the year before. Disheartening, to say the least.
Zucchini I also enjoy, though with less enthusiasm than the crackin’ cuke. I have discovered how to freeze zucchini in many forms and thus it is not as big a challenge for me. Zucchini and other summer squashes are pretty easy to chop, blanch and freeze — grated, for baking, or sliced, for dinner veggies. And yet…what else can I do with these things?
Onward: I made pickles last week and started wondering how the cucumbers would taste if there were no spices in the mix — that is, dill pickles without the dill? Wouldn’t they just be vinegar pickles? Cucumbers with a little vinegar taste? Could I use those in a salad? Especially if I’m just going to put salad dressing on them anyway? I don’t know. Maybe. So I gave it a whirl today — sliced up a batch of cucumbers and poured plain brine over them — no spices except for the salt. I made just one jar because a bunch of the cucumbers turned out to be spoiled — argh! The refrigerator got too cold and froze everything, then warmed up. Love the crappy old refrigerator that came with the rental…So the extra cukes for my experiments turned into chicken food, all mushy on the inside. Oh well.
Exhibit A. Here are one jar of “preserved cucumbers” and a partial jar of dehydrated cucumber flakes. I’d like to show you the zucchini chips but there are none left. Somebody Ate Them All Up.
Julia Park Tracey is an award-winning journalist, author, and blogger. She is the author of six books: three novels, one poetry collection, and two women's history. She was the Poet Laureate of Alameda, California, in 2014-17. She's also the conservatrix of The Doris Diaries, the diaries of her great-aunt Doris Bailey Murphy. She has a BA in journalism from San Francisco State University, and MA in Early 20th C. British Literature from Cal State Hayward. Julia's articles have appeared on Salon, Thrillist, Paste, Scary Mommy, Narratively, Yahoo News, Your Tango, and Sweatpants & Coffee. Her articles have also run in Redbook, Woman's Day, Country Living, House Beautiful, Town & Country, the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Magazine, Quill, and MadeLocal. She was the founding editor of weekly Alameda Sun and literary zine Red Hills Review. Her poetry has been in The East Bay Literary review, Postcard Poems, Americus Review, Cicada, Tiferet Review, and many others. Julia has been recognized several times by the San Francisco, East Bay and Peninsula Press Clubs as well as the California Newspaper Association for her blogging since 2003.