For much of my life, I thought I didn’t like cucumbers. I liked sour pickles and Sichuan-style smashed cucumbers, but in most other settings — especially bad renditions of Greek salad — cucumbers struck me as watery, slippery filler, the honeydew of the savory salad world. (I stand by my dislike of honeydew.) Why would you dunk a cucumber spear in dip when you could choose a carrot? Or a radish? Why?
But now I know the truth, which is that the cucumber is one of nature’s great coolants, a foil for both hot weather and chile heat. The best dishes that use it foreground its juicy crunch. And a heap of cucumbers, lightly dressed or quickly pickled, is a fast, single-subject salad that works with many meals. (It helps if you use Persian or English cucumbers, which are thinner-skinned and don’t have the big goopy seeds you find in standard garden cucumbers.)
There are two new cucumbery recipes below, and a lot more of them on New York Times Cooking; you’ll see them here throughout the summer. Because I know there are people who have not yet gone down the cucumber path — and I understand why — there are other recipes for the week, too.
1. Sesame Cucumber and Avocado Salad
This cooling salad by Hetty McKinnon can easily turn into dinner if you serve it with rice, noodles or simply cooked chicken or tofu on the side. The avocados add creaminess that contrasts with the crunch.
2. Greek Chicken With Cucumber-Feta Salad
Ali Slagle took the flavors of a chicken souvlaki platter, including the salad and tzatziki, and channeled them into a single recipe that you can make at home after work. If you love horiatiki — the traditional Greek salad, on which the American diner-style version is based — then you already know that feta and cucumbers are an excellent pair.
3. Halloumi With Corn, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil
This Melissa Clark recipe is a one-pan ode to summer, and I thought of it when I saw fresh corn at the store and wanted to turn it into dinner. I added farro to make it a meal, and honestly, I don’t think you need to halve the cherry tomatoes; just cook them a little longer. But that’s me. Swapping halloumi for firm tofu would make it vegan.
4. Pasta With Green Beans and Almond Gremolata
This simple pasta dish from Colu Henry is great for kids — or really, anyone who loves a simple pasta dish in summer (me). The gremolata takes it up a notch, but you can skip it if you’re looking to keep things low effort.