Monday, May 27, 2013


There's something about hot weather that rouses my cucumber craving. Maybe it is because until this time of year, the varieties we get in the South are lack-luster in flavor and a little mushy.. but whatever the reason, I find ways to use them in almost everything once good ones arrive. They're fantastic when sliced thick and used in place of chips for dipping into hummus (no carbs and better -no crumbling or guilt!), and for keeping ice-cold in the fridge for a little eye-depuffing the morning after a late night. Just love the diversity! 

My score this weekend from local vendors...
So, I've been scouring the fresh produce vendors for the best I can find; Luckily, cukes are already abundant this year. My primary use is always filling a big pitcher full of filtered water and slicing a  cucumber along with a lemon and tossing this in with a few leaves of mint and/or basil. It's a detox water that I cannot get enough of. It totally prevents water retention and tastes delicious. I keep this filled in my fridge throughout summer and drink 2-3 big glasses every day. But, I've also found a new way to use them for my 'water intake' that's even more fun. And, of course... there's a cocktail option!

My summer staples... water and lemonade fueled and lightly flavored with cucumber.


2 quarts prepared lemonade ( I use Crystal Light to avoid the calories/sugar)
1 medium cucumber, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds (peel on)
1 lemon sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

Steep the cucumber and lemon slices in lemonade in a tightly sealed pitcher in the refrigerator overnight. It will keep well for up to 10 days. Enjoy it as a no-calorie refresher, or when friends visit, mix 4oz with 1oz of gin (I like Tanqueray or Hendrick's) over ice and garnish with a mint sprig and/or cucumber round. It's such a refreshing cocktail, and a true crowd pleaser.
*You can also make a natural lemonade with lemon juice, water and agave nectar/sugar in place of the Crystal Light, or use your own favorite recipe.

Aside from liquid uses, I'm all about incorporating this light veggie into recipes whenever possible, and I have a couple of go-to options. It's a natural fit into the dip that my friends always ask for, and also a star in one of my husband's favorite side-dishes. The dip works for veggies or crackers and the salad is perfect with fish, chicken or anything spicy that needs a cooling compliment.

Cucumber and yogurt dip is perfect on a sampler appetizer tray,
and usually the top choice above other sauces or dips 


 8oz light greek yogurt
 1/4 cup light sour cream
 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced into small squares
1/4 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp finely chopped dill (optional)
 Fresh cracked pepper and kosher salt to taste (I'm generous with the pepper)

Stir all ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 2 hours prior to serving. Play with the portions and feel free to add other herbs. This is just my current version, but I change it up, adding/changing spices depending on my mood. Keeps well for 5-7 days.  

Our staple side dish/salad. Also delicious with red onions if you want more of a kick.


3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (I always use Lucini)
Juice from 1/4 ripe lemon
2 Tbsp white wine 
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Truvia sweeter (stevia, or 1/4 tsp sugar)
1.5 tsp apple cider or sherry vinegar (use what you have/like)
1/2 shallot, finely sliced
1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced in rounds
1 large or 2 small cucumbers sliced 1/4" thick
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Mix all ingredients with a whisk in a bowl, add cucumber, red bell peppr and parsley. Lightly toss. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours. Serve with your favorite summer entree or as a topping on lettuce for a flavorful salad. Make ahead, as it is even better after a couple of days.

Served with my foil salmon (recipe to come in a future post), the cucumber salad is the ideal, healthy side.

What is your favorite early summer vegetable? If you adore cucumber, I would love to have you share your recipes on the Southern Sophisticate? Keep following and do dish about what you are serving, loving and wanting to try next...