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Rachel's Recipes: Crisp cucumbers make for cool culinary delights

By: Rachel Chaddock, Special to the Telegraph
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Summer produce always brings to mind my Charles Dickens habit and makes me start murmuring about the best of times and the worst of times, and really – how better to describe it? I am always so grateful for my friends’ gifts of garden-fresh vegetables, and yet, I often find myself looking in dismay at piles of produce on the kitchen counter. How do zucchini grow so huge? And what in the world am I going to do with all those cucumbers? Sure, you can add their cool freshness to a salad, and they’re just the ticket for tea party sandwiches. I’ve seen thin slices floating in ice water (which I happen to love) along with lemon – very refreshing. But then what? An entire bag full of cucumber can be a daunting proposition. Here are a couple of other simple options for this summertime fruit (and yes, Mrs. Witherspoon, it is a fruit. I was nearly sent to the principal’s office for arguing that with her when I was in second grade). The marinated cucumbers (feel free to call it a salad) are a general crowd pleaser. When I was growing up, my mom had a dish of cucumbers on the table nearly every evening when they were in season. Hers’ used mayonnaise, vinegar and milk. This one is a bit lighter, but no less tasty. The soup is chilly enough to provide relief on a hot August afternoon, but is hefty enough to be satisfying as well. If gazpacho is the extent of your cold soup experience, I encourage you to give this one a try. It also has the advantage of being perfect for a weeknight dinner, since you’d make it the day before and let the soup chill (and the flavors combine) overnight and all the next day. The marinated cucumbers will serve six to eight as a side portion, and the soup serves four as a main course. Now I’ve got to figure out something to do with all these zucchini. Rachel Chaddock can be reached by email at rachels.recipes@yahoo.com. She welcomes reader questions and requests. You can also follow her on Twitter, or friend her on Facebook. Marinated Cucumbers 4 medium cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons) 1/4 cup lime juice (from 2 limes) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tsp. sugar 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Thinly slice the cucumbers and put into a non-reactive bowl. Combine lemon and lime juice, olive oil, and sugar, and stir together until the sugar dissolves. Add in dill, salt, and pepper. Pour over the cucumbers and stir together to make sure all the slices are coated with the marinade. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before serving. This will keep for about 5 days. Chilled Cucumber Soup 1/4 cup unsalted butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 5 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped 1 yellow onion, chopped 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped 3 cups chicken stock (either low sodium or homemade) 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Zest from 1 lemon, chopped fine 1 tablespoon fresh dill. chopped 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper 1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt Fresh dill and fresh chives, chopped, for garnish Melt butter over in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the oil and hear for another minute. Add the cucumbers, onion, and leeks to the butter and oil mixture and sauté until tender (about 5-8 minutes). Pour the sautéed mixture into a food processor and blend the ingredients together until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Add the chicken stock, lemon juice and zest, dill, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Let the soup cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Stir in the sour cream until the soup is well blended and a uniform, very pale green. Chill the soup for at least 6 hours (overnight is better). Serve cold garnished with additional chopped fresh dill and chives.