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June 23, 2015 - Radio Kitchen - Cucumbers  

One food that we are finding in abundance these days is one of the most modest:  the cucumber.  The flavor of a cucumber is so mild that it could stand duty as a metaphor for a quiet, unobtrusive demeanor.  But as is so often the case, the simple little ingredients of life serve as an essential backdrop for the more
flashy components of a dish.  Here are a few ideas that will make use of our Maryland cucumbers.

                    Cucumber Salad with Spring Radishes
                            Tarragon Vinaigrette

(Serves 4)

2 whole cucumbers, peeled
1 cup assorted spring radishes, tops saved, bottoms cleaned and diced
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon shallot, diced
½ cup salad oil
Salt and white pepper to taste
Edible flowers for garnish

Using a mandolin set with the 4mm julienne blade, run the cucumber lengthwise to make spaghetti-like strands. Go only as far as the seeds then turn the cucumber 90 degrees. Continue until you’ve gone around four times.

In a bowl add the tarragon, vinegar, Dijon and shallot. Whisk together until combined. While whisking, add the oil in a slow, steady stream to form a creamy dressing.

Place the cucumber strands in a bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of dressing.

Decoratively arrange the radish tops on four chilled plates.

Place a 3 inch ring mold on top of the radish tops in the center of the plate. Arrange ¼ of the cucumber in the mold and remove the mold leaving a column of cucumber. Repeat with the other three plates.

Spoon some dressing around the outside of the cucumbers and sprinkle ¼ of the radishes on each plate.

Top the cucumbers with edible flowers and serve.

Home Pickles

8 pickling cucumbers
¼ cup fresh dill, roughly chopped
1 tbls  whole mustard seed
1 tbls whole coriander seed
1 tbls whole fennel seed
1 tbls whole black pepper corn
1 tbls whole white pepper
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup plus 3 tbls Kosher Salt
¼ cup sugar
1 cup champagne vinegar (or similar)

Brine the cucumbers

•    Dissolve ½ cup of salt with 8 cups cold water
•    Soak the cucumbers in the brine solution for four hours.
•    Rinse them off in cold water.

Pickling the cucumbers

•    Combine the vinegar with 2 cups water in a sauce pan. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
•    Pack the cucumbers into a container with a lid large enough to hold them.
•    Pour the pickling liquid over the cucumbers , cover and place in the refrigerator.
•    Allow to pickle for at least seven days.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.