Each year I do the same thing. I sow lots of cucumber seeds, presuming that they won’t all come up; they do. I plant them all, presuming that most of them will succumb to mildew; they don’t. So I find myself with enough cucumbers to feed most of Umbria.
There’s not much you can do with cucumbers. Yes, you can pickle them but as neither of us like picked cucumbers, that’s a bit pointless. You can give them to friends, which I do. And you can invent salads around them… endless, cucumbery salads.
This year I planted marketmore and burpless tasty green. I never let them get longer than about 20 cm long: that way they don’t have time to accumulate water or build up banks of chewy seeds down the middle.
Top and tail the beans, and if necessary cut them into 5-7 cm lengths then cook them, preferably in a steamer, for four or five minutes. Remove them from the heat when ready. You can now use the water left in the saucepan to prepare a little quinoa if you are using it. Rinse it very well then boil it gently, covered, for 12-15 minutes (you should check from time to time that it’s not boiling dry). When it’s cooked, check that there’s hardly any water left and leave it to stand for a further five minutes, then fluff it up with a fork.
Peel or score the cucumber: I generally use a lemon zester, to remove interesting parallel grooves along the length of the cucumber. Now quarter the cucumber lengthwise, remove the core where the seeds are, and cut the cucumbers across into small cubes. Peel the peach, remove it from the stone, and cut it into cubes.
In a large bowl, beat together with a fork the juice of a quarter of a lemon and a generous teaspoon of mustard. Now gradually add two tablespoons of olive oil, beating it constantly to create a smooth French dressing. Halve the avocado, remove the stone, carefully cut the fruit into cubes inside its skin them scoop the pieces into the dressing. Add the rest of the ingredients you’ve already prepared, and mix them all together gently.
On a serving dish, lay out 15-20 well washed and thoroughly dried lettuce leaves. I prefer something tastely like the russet-edged canasta, or even a mix of lettuce and rughetta. Arrange the avocado and cucumber mix on top of the leaves. Now crumble the feta – 100 g should be sufficient – over the top of the salad, then top with finely chopped fresh chives.
©Anne Hanley, 2013