A creamy smothered cucumber salad with a 50-year history
This story begins with James Beard's now 50-year-old 1972 cookbook: "American Cookery," where, on page 48, Beard shares his version of Smothered Cucumbers. If you opened up my well-worn cookbook, you'd find my handwritten note: "Absolutely superb," with a star in front of it.
That history goes even further back to Grandmother Mauer, who used to make a creamy cucumber salad that she rolled out in summer that I, as a young boy, was not inclined to taste. Foolish boy.
Years later, when reading Beard's cookbook (yes, I read cookbooks), his "smothered" recipe caught my eye. I made his recipe as written and found it to be nearly perfect. However, I did not leave it alone, adding some finely chopped onion as Beard suggested as a variation.
In the 1990s, being a cut-the-fat fanatic, I made Beard's salad with fat-free mayonnaise and fat-free sour cream, nearly eliminating all fat, trimming hundreds of calories and, unfortunately, putting a negative dent in the flavor.
The diminished flavor did not diminish my enthusiasm for my weight loss that I linked directly to using those ingredients to make those cucumbers, not knowing the added sugars and carb-based thickeners in the fat-free mayo wouldn't work well today.
Today I know that some fats can be healthy.
For the past few years, I've been avoiding seed (also called vegetable) oils, especially those made from GMO seeds, like soybean, canola, or cottonseed.
My current favorite oil is avocado. My favorite go-to mayonnaise is an avocado oil-based mayo. The avocado oil used isn't organic (too expensive); all the remaining ingredients are organic and use no added sugar.
Some folks who've been brought up on the mayonnaise with the blue-ribbon emblem can't get past the flavor difference between avocado oil mayo and theirs.
Decades of experience with that blue-ribbon mayo help me understand some folk's resistance to any other mayo. It took me a while to stop noticing the flavor difference, too.
There's also been a change in my smothered cucumbers over the years. Since I have a mandolin that easily cuts carrots into julienned matchsticks, I added carrot for its color and nutritional boost -- natural Vitamin A, you know.
Hothouse, seedless cucumbers make it possible to enjoy smothered cucumbers anytime throughout the year. When using a regular cucumber, Beard required removing all the seeds before slicing and soaking in vinegar and salt.
Big plus. Cucumbers are amazingly low in calories; 3.5 ounces delivers just 15 calories. Yes, that's right: 15. All cucumbers are 95 percent water, making them very low in carbs.
Here are my updated Beard-based Smothered Cucumbers. Give it a try.
• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at email@example.com.