There are a few varieties of cucumbers out there, and it’s good to know what to do with each one, to bring out the best in each variety.
Some cucumbers are great for pickling. Notable among them are kirbies and gherkins (cornichons). They come in various sizes, have a bumpy skin, and have more girth than length.
Some cucumbers are perfect for eating raw, like in salad. My favorites in this category are Persian cucumbers and Japanese cucumbers (Kyuri). They are perfectly crunchy, snappy, and sweet. Kyuri are a bit longer and more tapered than Persian cucumbers, but otherwise they look quite similar. They are also a bit harder to locate (I found some excellent Kyuri cucumbers in the Studio City Farmer’s Market in September.
And there are the lovely hothouse cucumbers, also known as English cucumbers, which grow in many places outside England. These are similar to Persian or Kyuri but are much bigger and don’t have as much flavor. They can be used in salads or in tea sandwiches.
But what about those ubiquitous, large and waxy cucumbers you see at the grocery store? These are usually the cheapest variety, and perhaps for good reason: they are not nearly as appetizing as their exotic brethren. The skin is usually a bit bumpy, their size is a bit intimidating, and they don’t taste all that good. The skins are all but inedible, and the seeds are tough and fibrous. These are often called ‘slicing cucumbers’ because a common use for them is to slice and present them on a crudités platter along some ranch dressing.
Well, my world was turned upside down when I discovered a delicious way to use these big guys. I found myself looking at a bin of very large slicing cucumbers at a silly price of, like, $0.69/lb., and musing, “there’s got to be a good use for these.” And later that night, a friend shared with me the inspiration for this recipe.