Fresh cucumbers transform into creamy summery salad

If you like fresh cucumbers with their sweet, clean aroma and crisp texture, now’s your time.

Last weekend at my local farmers market, I found and bought some young, seedless cucumbers. I could not help myself. They looked beautiful, and this was the first I had seen them this season. Of course, I didn’t know what to do with them.

At first, I thought I’d make a salad named Smothered Cucumbers, created by the famous James Beard many years ago. If you’re not familiar with it, Beard combined thin slices of cucumber and diced onion with sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar, dill and a bit of hot sauce. When fat-free mayonnaise existed, it made a very low-calorie salad for me.

Wanting to make something slightly different, without the mayo, I began by using my mandoline to make evenly thin slices from those market-fresh cucumbers. Then I added some distilled vinegar and kosher salt to the bowl and tossed everything together. From time to time, over the next two hours, I stirred and folded the cucumbers as the salt slowly did its magic by bringing out the cucumber’s water. The purpose, of course, is to keep the finished salad from becoming watery.

Fresh cucumbers straight from the farmers market make an excellent summery salad. Courtesy of Don Mauer

In the end, there was more than a cup of that cucumber water. I hand-wrung the cucumbers and placed them, hand-full by hand-full, into another bowl.

Instead of dicing onions, which sometimes left my guests biting into small pieces of raw onion, I grated a little over a tablespoon of yellow onion and added it to a small mixing bowl.

Using my microplane, I grated a small garlic clove. Again, this delivered the flavor while keeping my guests from biting into a piece of raw garlic. Ugh.

Next, I added a ¼ cup of organic sour cream, some distilled vinegar, about a scant half-teaspoon of ground black pepper, dried dill and a half packet of stevia to the bowl and whisked it all together. I added the dressing to the sliced cucumbers, stirring and folding them together until they were evenly coated with the dressing.

Now, the test: I dipped a fork in, stabbed a cucumber slice, and popped it into my mouth. The cucumber had a nice crunch and still yielded a big cucumber flavor. The dressing complemented everything. I found it hard not to keep dipping my fork back into the bowl.

Depending on your location, most farmers markets are either offering new, young cucumbers or will have them soon.

This is a perfect, cool, crisp summer salad. Give it a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at

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Use a mandoline to get consistent thin slices of cucumber. Courtesy of Don Mauer

Don’s Cool as a Cucumber Salad

2 pounds young, seedless (or small seed) cucumbers trimmed and sliced into thin rounds

2 tablespoons distilled vinegar

1 tablespoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal brand, preferred)

¼ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon distilled vinegar (other vinegar, like cider, may be substituted)

1 tablespoon grated yellow onion

1 small garlic clove, grated on a microplane

½ packet stevia sugar substitute

½ teaspoon dried dill

¼ to ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Add vinegar and salt to a large glass mixing bowl and whisk together until the salt dissolves. Add the sliced cucumbers and stir and fold until the cucumbers are well-coated. Set aside for two hours, stirring and folding from time to time.

Meanwhile, add sour cream, one tablespoon of vinegar, grated onion, grated garlic, stevia, dried dill and black pepper to a small mixing bowl. Whisk together until well-combined. Set aside.

Using clean hands, take cucumbers by the handful and, over the sink, squeeze until most of the liquid stops dripping from your hands; placing the drained cucumbers in another bowl. When all the cucumbers are squeezed, add the dressing and, using a large rubber spatula, stir and fold until the dressing is evenly distributed. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Makes about six ½-cup servings.

Nutrition values per serving: 54 calories (34.6% from fat), 2.1 g fat (1.2 g saturated fat), 8.7 g carbohydrates (7.6 net carbs), 4.1 g sugars, 1.2 g fiber, 1.8 g protein, 5 mg cholesterol, 101 mg sodium.

— Don Mauer

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