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Putting the Spotlight on Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a family favorite. Composed of 96% water, they promote hydration and bring refreshing flavors to a hot summer day. Although it’s mostly made of water, this crispy, crunchy, low-calorie vegetable is rich in vitamins C and K, as well as antioxidants.

Walking down a grocery aisle, you might be met with a variety of cucumbers. The most common are garden and English cucumbers. Garden cucumbers come with a lower price tag than their English counterparts and tend to have a softer and thicker skin while packing in larger and more seeds. Many grocers wax them to help retain moisture, so peeling the garden variety or purchasing them from a farmers’ market is the best bet to avoid consuming the waxy layer. English cucumbers are sometimes called “seedless” and have a thin skin that’s pleasant to eat. This variety often comes packaged in a plastic sleeve to help retain moisture and prolong shelf life.

Cucumbers are extremely versatile and are delicious as a low-calorie dipper, salad base, appetizer bite and more. Check out these four cucumber recipes:

Spiralized Cucumber Salad with Pistachio Crusted Salmon and Pineapple Salsa — Serves 4

Ingredients

For the cucumber salad:

  • 1 English cucumber, spiralized
  • Tbsp sesame oil
  • ¼ cup tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp chili garlic paste
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • Tbsp soy sauce
  • Tbsp rice wine vinegar

For the salmon

  • Tbsp honey
  • Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 5-ounce salmon filets
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Spray olive oil

For the pineapple salsa

  • 1/4 cup pineapple, diced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Instructions

For the cucumber salad

  1. Combine all ingredients except the cucumber in a jar or bowl, then shake or whisk.
  2. Place the spiralized cucumber in the bowl and toss it with the dressing.

For the salmon

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine Dijon mustard and honey and whisk.
  3. Brush the salmon with the mustard and honey mixture
  4. In a food processor, combine panko breadcrumbs, pistachios, and salt and pepper. If you do not have a food processor, finely chop the pistachios and combine with breadcrumbs.
  5. Pour over the pistachio mixture over the salmon, pressing down to allow it to stick.
  6. Spray with olive oil, then bake for 11-14 minutes, or until desired internal temperature. Thicker salmon filets need to cook toward the longer end of the range.

For the pineapple salsa

  1. Combine all ingredients and place over salmon.

Layered Tzatziki Dip — Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 cucumber
  • Salt for sprinkling
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1.5 cups Greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/3 cup feta, crumbled
  • 5 sprigs dill, stem removed and chopped
  • ¼ cup red onions, diced
  • Whole wheat pita, toasted for dipping

Instructions

  1. Grate the cucumber into a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle salt over the cucumbers to help draw out excess moisture, and let sit for 15 minutes. Press the cucumber to squeeze out excess water, then dry with a paper towel.
  2. Grate, finely chop or use a garlic press for the garlic. 
  3. In a bowl make the tzatziki — combine garlic, Greek yogurt, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In another bowl or dish, start layering: add tzatziki, then diced Roma tomatoes, then crumbled feta cheese, and finally sprinkle on the dill and red onion. Enjoy with toasted whole wheat pita.

Crab and Cucumber Appetizer Bites — Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 English cucumber, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 8 ounces imitation crab, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp light sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1.5 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except the cucumber.
  2. Serve crab mixture on top of cucumber slices and serve.

Cucumber and Mint Refresher — Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 slices cucumber
  • 3 mint leaves

Instructions

  1. Add cucumber slices and mint leaves to a glass. Muddle the mint and cucumber to release the essential oils.
  2. Pour over ice if desired and top with sparkling water.

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family.