Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cukey ennui

I went out into the yard today to water the plants, as it's been nearly a week since all that rain, and discovered even more weird yellow cucumbers sprouting up. You may recall my mother's visit over the weekend, when we made cucumber salad out of these particular weird yellow cucumbers:
And there were more since Saturday, many of which I have eaten. I've enjoyed each bite, but by Thursday, I was growing weary of them. It makes me feel petty and unappreciative to get bored of a bizarre, juicy treat that won't be around for very much longer, and I know I'll miss once they're gone. Besides, I don't even know exactly how I wound up with these weird yellow cukes. So, really they are a gift.

Glen does not like cucumbers. Or so he says. Glen does not like to eat much in the way of plant material, unless it's by accident, or deep fried. Last weekend, he recounted a hockey buddy's pre-game regimen: the buddy eats a banana before every game, to get some potassium, which he thinks will help him play better. Glen said he wanted to play better, too, and so he asked me if we had any bananas. I said, "Yes," and he looked at me gravely, and said quietly, "I've never eaten a banana before."

How could this be? And, how could I not know this? October marks our 6th year together, and I suppose I don't recall him ever eating a banana, but I never saw him turn up his nose at one, either. But Glen wanted to play better for this recent tournament, so I made him banana smoothies, using frozen banana chunks, and Stonyfield Farm's organic whole freakin' milk vanilla yogurt. I'm no smelly, hairy hippy, but I do like organic yogurt. Especially Stonyfield Farm's. There is none better. Try the whole milk variety -- it's a bit fattier than regular yogurt, but the taste is worth the fat ass. It really is.


So Glen requested a smoothie before each game in the last couple of weeks, and his team did quite well, until the very end, so maybe the extra potassium made the difference. He'll do just about anything to play hockey as best he can, even if it means eating a banana.

But eating a cucumber is another story entirely. I'm pretty sure cucumbers aren't as nutrient-dense as bananas, and if I recall, they rank reasonably low on the nutrient bang-for-your-buck vegetable scale. So their hockey-improving potential is debatable, at best, and considering hockey season is done for now, I'm sure Glen wouldn't go near a cuke, on his own, unless he had to.

So there's that: Glen's skepticism about any cucumber, much less our weird, round, yellow ones. That, with my cukey ennui, I just was not sure what to do with this glut. But, I couldn't just toss them out into the compost pile.

I am voracious about soup -- hot soup, that is -- and so, it didn't take much for my mind to wander toward cucumber soup. But it felt like I was compromising my values while pondering cucumber soup, as it is typically served chilled. The cold part seems to negate the soup part, in my book, making it more of a...hmmm....dip, maybe. But eating a bowl of dip sounds borderline criminal, so I realize we cannot think of cold soups as such. Plus, I like to keep on my toes and challenge my ideals, and so, I poked around my cookbooks and the internet for a cucumber soup recipe. It was time to give it a try. All of the recipes sounded edible, but were so diverse, so I just kind of thought about the general preparation -- which was relatively similar in all of the recipes -- and came up with my own concoction, based on my specialized ingredient list (e.g. what I had on hand).

I used:
  • two good-sized weird yellow cucumbers, skinned and chopped, with most of the seeds scraped out
  • a half of a jalapeño (also growing in the backyard) -- seeded and chopped
  • a cup of half-and-half (milk would probably suffice; we didn't have any)
  • one bouillon cube
  • a quarter cup of powdered mashed potatoes (a little WT, but whatever)
  • a handful of cilantro
I sautéed the jalapeños, and then the cukes, which was weird, because I've never cooked a cuke before, and didn't know when they would be done. They didn't turn translucent or anything. So I gave it a few minutes, stirring frequently on a solid medium-high heat, and then turned the heat off, and let the cucumber-jalapeño mixture rest for about 10 minutes. I added the powdered potatoes, the bouillon cube (which, because of the heat in the kitchen, was easily smashed into the mixture), and the half-and-half, and stirred it all up, without turning the heat back on. It looked a bit thick, like a greenish cake batter, so I added -- I'm guessing -- about a quarter cup of water, which made the consistency look more like soup. I turned the heat to low and let it heat up for about 5 minutes, mostly to insure the fake potatoes were incorporated. I could sense success!

I put the whole damn mess into our blender (which reminds me, Glen's appliance fixation is worthy of its own post; maybe next week), added the cilantro, and turned the switch to "high." And hoped for the best.

It blended up nicely, and I returned the goo to the pot and set it in the fridge. I went outside to pick a few springs of mint, which I'd use to garnish my soup, but not Glen's, because he says he does not like mint. Which, if you ask me, sounds like fear and/or inexperience talking, but he's a grown man and doesn't have to eat mint if he doesn't want to.

I didn't make tons of cucumber soup, but rather, only enough for a bowl each, and we'd need a little something else to accompany it. Especially if the soup did not fly.

I rooted through the freezer and came up with some frozen appetizers from Trader Joe's*: Coconut Curry Stix and Vegetable Bird's Nests. Both are Asian-y, and even though I'm pretty sure cucumber soup has its roots in Europe, I think the cuke itself was born in Asia, if not the soup. But I read about the cucumber's origins in a novel, so who knows if it's true. But that's how I justified cooking the Asian appetizers to accompany the soup. Just like that. I'm so impulsive.

It didn't take long for the Trader Joe's treats to cook up, and cooking them made the kitchen unbearably hot.

Here are some pictures:

That's the cucumber soup, with a sprig of mint on it, and a little blue cocktail umbrella, which, -- even though he didn't say it -- I know Glen thought was "gay." But he smiled, appreciating the effort, as he removed it from his bowl. The cute little dish to the left side contains chopped jalapeños for Glen; I like the finger dish so much, I wanted it to get it into the picture as well. Glen dumped all of the jalapeños into his soup, for the record.

And above are the Trader Joe's appetizers. Toward the back, are the Coconut Curry Stix, and in the front are the Vegetable Bird's Nests. That's soy sauce, conveniently and graciously supplied in a little plastic pouch, within the Bird's Nest box, in the back left of the shot.

The soup was awesome, and really damn easy! And Glen liked it too! It was the first time, for both of us, for the Coconut Curry Stix...I didn't notice any curry flavor at all, and only a little coconut, but we both really liked them, anyway. They were subtle and light, and kind of refreshing. We always love the Bird's Nests -- they're made up of long strands of potato, onion, leeks (I think), and of these days, I might sit down and figure out how to make my own.

We finished eating, and Glen said, sincerely, "Wow, that was delicious. But what's for dinner?"

Apology Deadline Countdown! Today is the day! I'd call Gonzalez's bluff, but am concerned he'll sue me.

* I love Trader Joe's. We need one in this area.


Mr. Clean said...

Glen Glen Glen... If you want to play hockey better, screw the potassium!

EVERYBODY knows the true path to hockey excellence is 4-6 Sudafed tablets, washed down with a 12-ounce Red Bull (or other tasty energy drink), 45-60 minutes before the opening face-off.

Sheesh, I thought you were Canadian or something.

Miss Karen said...

That is indeed some fine soup!