Making vegetables ever more delicious and appealing was not always a hip endeavour, and for the years prior to the 1970s, the recipe options were... pretty gross. Now, thanks to the incredible (mostly) women leading in this space, we have options. And oh, what options!
Discovering new cookbooks is great, but the oldies are still goodies. Some important standards should be in everyone’s library. and some classics deserve culinary homage. Such as the reigning and incredible Julia Child with her baked cucumbers.
This version takes half the time and is finished with fresh chopped herbs. It makes a surprising brunch dish, lovely lunch or weeknight meal on thick-cut toast with a poached egg. Miam!
Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side dish
Time: 45 mins, 5 mins to prep, 5 mins of blanching, 35mins of baking time
4 English cucumbers, partially peeled (prettier this way and I don’t mind the peel) Splash of light vinegar, either white wine, coconut or apple cider vinegar 2 small pats butter, ghee or coconut oil 1 fat pinch coarse sea salt A few turns of fresh ground pepper
1-2 eggs per person 1 splash white or white wine vinegar sSmall saucepan 3/4 full of water
Fresh Herb Topping
3 fingers chopped fresh dill 2 fingers flat leaf parsley 2 fingers fresh green onions Pinch of cayenne pepper Half a lemon
Thickly cut sourdough toast, two fingers wide
Truth be told, the laziest and yet completely forgivable way is to just peel the cucumbers, toss them in the butter/oil/ghee, salt and pepper, and bake them as instructed. But if you want to do it properly…
Preheat your oven to 175C. Peel the cucumbers, wholly or partially. English or baby cucumbers don’t need to be seeded in my opinion, but larger cucumbers do require the seeds to be scraped. If not, they turn the finished product a bit bitter and hold a lot of water, leading to mushy baked cucumbers.
Blanching & Baking
Prep a big bowl of cold water in the sink. Boil four cups of water in a kettle. While the water boils, set your partially peeled and chopped cucumbers in a deep pan, pour the boiling water over them, salt the water and cook for 5 mins maximum.
Drain the cucumbers and put them in the cold water for a minute to cool. This forces the cucumbers to release their water, leaving you with a firmer finished product. `Pat them dry with a kitchen towel or gently squeeze to soak up extra water, then add them to a baking dish with your fat/oil of choice. Toss with salt and pepper and bake for 10 mins, then turn them, basting in the baking pan’s liquid. Finish in the oven for another 15 mins.
While the cucumbers are baking, prepare the Fresh Herb Topping. Chop parsley and green from the green onion finely together. Chop the dill roughly or pull it apart with your fingers.
In the final 10 mins of baking, poach your eggs then remove them and set aside. They can rest for 2 min while you toast your bread and remove the cucumber from the oven. I like to toast (or gently fry) the bread in a thick bottomed pan on the stovetop with a bit of ghee and olive oil mixed together. This method takes another 4-5 min, but I think the difference is worth it.
Set toast on a plate and top it with the baked cucumbers and a squeeze of lemon. Lay the poached eggs on the cucumbers and garnish with the herbs and green onion. Add another turn of pepper and small pinch of salt and cayenne to finish.
Original Baked Cucumbers recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child