Cool as a Cucumber - Nine Easy Ways to Use One of Summer's Best Veggies

Words and photos by Rachael Bender, special to EdibleDC CucumbersIt's cucumber season! Cukes have had a strong season and are plentiful in the farm markets, and maybe from your home garden. Growing cucumbers is easy and rewarding. Using a trellis to help the vines grow as tall as they grow wide, it’s an adventure to sift through the big leaves and pretty yellow flowers each day to find ready-to-pick cucumbers hidden inside. But when you have an abundance of anything perishable, the question is always: what should I do with it all? Here are ideas for using this superfood daily.

Make pickles. Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Find your favorite mason jars and make a brining liquid for turning your cucumbers into sweet or sour pickles. Check out recipes here and here.

Freshen up your H2O. We all need to stay hydrated in the warm summer weather. Throw cucumber slices into your prettiest pitcher for an instant classic. They are 95% water anyway!

Explore salads from around the world. Make a Japanese cucumber salad with soy sauce, rice vinegar, scallions and a dash of sesame oil. Chop up a Greek salad with tomatoes, onions and olive oil. Add cucumbers to your favorite tabbouleh recipe. It’s an easy upgrade from your average garden salad.

Japanese Cucumber Salad

Host high tea. It’s as easy as a cucumber sandwich – thin slices on high-quality white bread slathered with cream cheese mixed will dill and a little lemon juice. Cut into triangles for a fancy presentation so you’re ready for that surprise visit from Queen Elizabeth and Princess Kate.

Spiralize it. The spiralizer gets prime real estate on my kitchen counter all summer because I use it so often. Make sesame cucumber noodles with peanut sauce for a bowl that tastes like takeout.

Enjoy a refreshing frappe. Blend cucumbers with plain Greek yogurt, lime juice, fresh mint, ice and a pinch of sugar for a smoothie delight. Add macerated blackberries to the bottom of the glass to make it a dessert.

Cucumber Frappe with Blackberries

Taste tzatziki. I recently hosted a Greek-themed dinner for friends and one dish on the table all night was tzatziki. This refreshing sauce is great with grilled meats or as a dip with veggies and pita.

Channel your inner Julia Child. Cucumbers baked in butter? Yep. That’s what Julia would do. Find the recipe with multiple variations here.

Have an afternoon snack. One of my favorite ways to eat cucumbers is to peel, slice and dress with lemon and pinch of salt. Simple, quick and healthy.

Whether used for meals, as a hangover cure or as an anti-inflammatory eye mask, remember that cucumbers are one of summer’s best produce.


Rachel_BenderRachael Bender enjoys cooking as much as dining out, particularly when she can use harvests from her home garden.  A regulatory attorney by day, she caught the travel bug and looks forward to sampling local cuisines while visiting all 50 states with her husband. 

Saving Summer - 10 Top Tips for Freezing Summer's Fruits

DSC_0040By Deb Moser, special to Edible DC. From our Summer 2014 issue.

It is a sure sign that spring has arrived when the first local strawberries make their appearance in farm markets—bursting with flavor, bringing vibrant color at the end of a drab winter. We dream of sun-drenched days full of delicate red raspberries, overflowing cartons of juicy blackberries and blueberries bursting with flavor.

As spring eases into summer and fruit-filled menus intrigue us, now it is the perfect time to start thinking about next winter. Freezing our abundant fruits and berries now to later add to breakfast dishes, entrees, soup desserts and smoothies will make your recipes sparkle long after summer is just a memory..

Freezing fruits picked at their peak is a must as it will give you the best chance of preserving the integrity, nutritional value and, of course, the intense flavors. Frozen properly, most fruits can maintain their quality for eight months and up to one year. To maintain that quality, fruits should be stored in a freezer at zero degrees F. or colder. Higher temperatures can cause them to deteriorate. Investing in an inexpensive freezer thermometer can help you maintain the correct temperature, especially if your freezer is not a chest freezer.

We talked to our berry experts at Westmoreland Berry Fruit Farm in Westmoreland, Virginia, and Moody Blues Farm in Windsor, Maryland, for their freezing techniques that will help you keep your fruits in perfect condition to enjoy throughout the long winter months. So head out to the local farmers’ market and start dreaming of the blueberry cobbler you’ll savor next January.DSC_0136


  1. Talk with your local farmers at the farm markets. They can tell you when the fruits will be at their peak. This is the best time to load up for freezing, especially if you have a chest freezer. With deeper freezers it is possible to freeze several flats of berries at a time.
  2. It is important to freeze your fruits right away to maintain their flavor and nutritional value.
  3. Gently wash and dry your fruits and make sure that they are completely dry before freezing. Do not soak the fruits in water as this will cause a loss of nutrients and flavor.
  4. For strawberries, it is best to remove the green tops and make sure there are no blemishes or moldy spots. For cherries it, is best to pit them for later use. Blackberries, blueberries and strawberries can be frozen whole.
  5. Stone fruits such as peaches, plums and nectarines should be peeled, pitted and can be sliced before freezing. Apricots can be pitted, halved and frozen.
  6. Place berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer. You can line the sheet with parchment paper if you like.
  7. For smaller freezers, you can skip the baking sheet step and put the fruit right into airtight, zip-locked bags.
  8. When the berries are frozen, roll them into a zipper-top freezer bag or other heavyweight air tight containers.
  9. Because they are individually frozen, the berries won’t stick together and you can grab any amount you need quickly and easily.
  10. If using frozen berries in baking, gently toss the frozen berries with a little flour before adding to your batters.


Deb Moser is the co-founder and of Central Farm Markets and Meatcrafters, a food photographer, writer and trained pastry chef.

Local Food Companies Shine at Summer Fancy Food Show

By Susan Able, Edible DC The Capital Region’s food artisans were well represented at the Summer Fancy Food show in NYC.

Just closing yesterday afternoon, the 2015 Summer Fancy Food Show (SFFS) held June 28-30, had over 2,600 product vendors pitching everything from sriracha flavors, to exotic teas, cheese infused with kale, goat milk caramels and lavender chocolate nuts. Over 22,000 attendees crowded through the Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan to taste, talk and size up the vendors as they searched for new, novel, great tasting and on trend products for their stores or customers. The great news was that all the packaged food samples are collected at the end of the show and given to City Harvest, a NYC gleaning non-profit. 200 volunteers gather up all the specialty foods and fill more than six tractor trailers to give to the hungry.


The Virginia Pavilion was one of the largest of the state pavilions this year, sponsored by Virginia’s Finest, a state marketing program designed to promote the success of Virginia’s specialty food companies, processors and agriculture producers. Virginia producers were well represented by almost every peanut company in the state (think Williamsburg, Whitely’s and Virginia Diner), popcorn, gourmet chocolate makers, chutney, mango preserves, crab pie and peanut butter makers. We chatted with CEO Sarah Cohen of Route 11 Potato Chips, headquartered in Mt. Jackson, VA. She has been chipping for 23 years and is a regular trade show attendee. This year, as the show opened and Sarah was arranging the display in her booth, a very large national retailer made a beeline to talk to her about coming on board as a buyer and distributer of Route 11 chips. That kind of thing is exciting to food entrepreneur and while deals like that don’t happen everyday at the SFFS, Sarah sees attending as good promotion for her brand and praises the Virginia First’s program as a great booster for Virginia food businesses. (


We also ran into a DC area favorite, Trickling Springs Creamery from Chambersburg, PA who had wheeled in a entire dairy case of their products that have had us at hello--ice cream, milk, drinkable yogurt smoothies, and oh yes, the dark chocolate milk. (

Firehook Bakery, the retail bakery and cracker maker headquartered out of Chantilly, VA, was introducing a line of crackers made with hummus and showcasing their cookies. (


S. Wallace Edwards & Sons of Surry, VA showcased their award winning hams and a new product that will have a lot of interest--lamb ham. The Edwards ham curing experts teamed up with reknowned lamb producer, Craig Rogers, owner of Virginia's Border Springs grass-fed lamb farm, to create the "lamb ham." Lamb ham has a long history dating back to colonial times, for more info, follow this link to a story from NPR. The spring delicacy was a fixture of American foodways in colonial times, gracing the tables of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. (For more company info, go to

The family behind Virginia Chutney was there—their hot pepper jelly and chutneys are distributed nationally, and are widely available at area Whole Foods Markets and other grocers. (

Our pals with the chickpea snacks, 2 Armadillos, profiled in our fall issue last year have had a name change—Whatusee. They've also updated their packaging and will be rolling out the new look all fall. (



The Van Cleve Seafood Company has a long history of being first a seafood purveyor, and got so much acclaim for their crab pies that they have turned their focus to selling and marketing only crab and scallop pies, available locally at Balducci’s and some Whole Foods Markets and via ordering online at their website. (


We ended up talking to the team at Virginia’s Finest, started 25 years ago under the aegis of the VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as the Specialty Food Advisory Committee. The goal of the committee is to market and promote Virginia’s specialty food and beverage industry. Companies that meet or exceed quality standards can become part of the Virginia’s Finest program. For more information, go to


Amazing to see the ingenuity and entrepreneurs from our area in person. The Edible DC teams wishes  everyone the best of luck and great outcomes from the show.

Old Recipe, New Trick: Late Summer Gazpacho

by Anya Kroupnik Gazpacho

Gazpacho may be a time-honored summer recipe, but it’s one that I wasn’t a fan of in the past. Maybe it was too chunky, or even too cold, but I’ve recently rediscovered this classic and now I am hooked. I’ve made half a dozen varieties over the past month, incorporating a different mix of fresh ingredients from my garden or the farmers market, and each version has been summery, fresh, and vibrant from the fresh herbs and juicy — preferably heirloom — tomatoes.

Although most recipes call for chilling the gazpacho, I prefer to serve my version at room temperature. This particular recipe has a lovely sweetness from the beets, which are just now appearing at the local markets, and the fresh oregano, along with the drizzle of oregano-infused olive oil, brings an unexpected spiciness to the dish.

Oregano oil

Late Summer Gazpacho

Serves 2

3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, any variety, roughly chopped

2 small beets, peeled and boiled or steamed until tender

3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

2 sprigs of fresh oregano, several beautiful leaves reserved for garnish

¼ cup fresh basil, loosely packed

Salt & pepper to taste

Several cherry or pear tomatoes in different colors for garnish

1 tablespoon oregano-infused olive oil* or any other olive oil

This delicious recipe is quick to assemble. Put first five ingredients into a blender and purée on high for 20+ seconds until gazpacho is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into serving bowls and drizzle with the olive oil. Garnish with halved cherry tomatoes and reserved oregano leaves and serve immediately.

* To make oregano-infused olive oil: simply put fresh oregano into a jar or bottle of olive oil and let it infuse for 2+ weeks. Can be stored in a cool dark cupboard for up to six months.


  • The herb combination can be switched up to whatever you have that’s fresh. For instance, chives are delicious as a garnish and in the soup as well.
  • Experiment with the ingredients: it’s wonderful with just tomatoes, and creamier with the addition of ripe avocados.
  • Due to the beautiful hue of this gazpacho, white bowls will really make the color POP.
  • This is a great soup to serve for a dinner party since it can be made several hours ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to serve — or, if you also like your gazpacho room temperature like I do, just take it out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving to take off the chill.



The Savory and Sweet Fruits of Summer

It’s late August and the local farmers markets are overflowing with the best fruits of the summer season — peaches and tomatoes. Juicy and luscious, they can be at their best when the summer is at its worst, providing a sweet respite to the most sweltering day. Here we have two perfect late summer recipes to make the most of the season, one savory and one sweet: a French Tomato Tart and Brandied Peach Pie. Enjoy! French Tomato Tart, inspired by David Lebovitz

by Madeleine McDougall

Tomato Tart

Harvest season. You know you're there when big, ripe, juicy tomatoes pack every farmers market from here to Silver Spring. Growing up, tomatoes tasted too acidic to me, but last summer, my mom — a constant source of knowledge and inspiration for my cooking adventures — introduced me to the French Tomato Tart. I will never look at tomatoes -- or pie -- in the same way again! Something about the combination of flaky pastry dough, toasted goat cheese and fresh herbs brings out the true flavors of the tomatoes. Last weekend, I had some dear friends over to help me experiment with the recipe; these tarts are the perfect compliment to charcuterie, lots of wine, and deep belly laughs. A new summer tradition is born — and the best part is, it’s simple to make. 

You'll need a rolling pin and a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.


Tart Filling

Dijon or whole-grain mustard

2-3 large ripe tomatoes — try experimenting with heirloom varieties

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and freshly ground pepper

two generous tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (I recommend tarragon but thyme is also nice)

6 ounces fresh or slightly aged goat cheese, separated into quarter-sized balls

1.5 tablespoons flavorful honey


Tart Dough

1.5 cups flour

4.5 ounces unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2-3 tablespoons cold water

1. Make the dough by mixing the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and use your hands, or a pastry blender, to break in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.

2. Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of the water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg mixture, stirring the mixture until the dough holds together. If it’s not coming together easily, add the additional tablespoon of ice water.

3. Gather the dough into a ball and roll the dough on a lightly floured surface, adding additional flour only as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.

4. Once the dough is large enough so that it will hold your tomatoes, roll the dough around the rolling pin then unroll it over baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

6. Spread an even layer of mustard over the bottom of the tart dough and let it sit a few minutes to dry out.

7. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them over the mustard in a single, even layer. Drizzle the olive oil over the top.

8. Sprinkle with some chopped fresh herbs, then arrange the slices of goat cheese on top. Add some more fresh herbs, then drizzle with some honey, if using.

9. Gather the edges when you’re done, to envelope the filling.

10. Bake the tart for 30-40 minutes, until the dough is cooked, the tomatoes are tender, and the cheese on top is nicely browned. Depending on the heat of your oven, if the cheese doesn’t brown as much as you’d like it, you might want to pass it under the broiler until it’s just right.

NOTE: I like to really embrace the country style of this recipe and mark the tart free form, but you can also use a tart pan.

Brandied Peach Pie

by Kristen Hartke

Brandied Peach Pie

Walking through Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market on a Saturday afternoon, I am always overwhelmed by the amazing scent of ripe peaches, tottering in massive piles all along the farmer’s line. For me, the smell is everything that is good about summer, capturing the essence of long lazy days in the warm sunshine. In the dark of winter, when I am dreaming of summer, I sometimes like to recapture those moments with a tot of peach brandy made by Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in nearby Purcellville, Virginia — unlike most peach brandies, their brandy is not too sweet but has an underlying note of fresh peaches that you smell as soon as you bring the glass to your nose. Marrying fresh summer peaches and a smidge of peach brandy together into a glorious pie is a perfect way to celebrate the changing seasons as we get ready to welcome fall.

You’ll need fresh pastry for a two-crust pie; I like to make a vegan pie crust similar to this one by Savvy Vegetarian (, so that none of my friends have to be left out of dessert.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

3 cups sliced fresh peaches, skins removed (see Cooking Hack for skin removal tips)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup peach brandy

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons basil buds (these are the little buds you’ll find growing on your basil plant and sometimes also for sale at the farmers market; a little goes a long way; you can also use finely chopped basil)

1 tablespoon heavy cream or vegan soy or coconut creamer

1 tablespoon regular or vegan butter, broken into pieces

2 chilled unbaked pie crusts

Put peaches, sugar, and brandy into a bowl and mix together. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, then add the flour and basil buds. Combine well and pour into the pie pan that is lined with one of the chilled unbaked pie crusts. Dot the top of the peach filling with the butter. Roll the other crust over the top, tuck the edges of the top crust under the edges of the bottom crust and crimp together. Brush the top of the crust with the heavy cream (or vegan alternative), then cut a few slits in the top of the crust to let the steam escape as it bakes.

Place the pie in the oven on the middle rack with a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any overflow during baking. Bake for 30 minutes at 400ºF, then cover the edges of the pie with strips of aluminum foil (to prevent burning) and lower the oven temperature to 375ºF. Continue baking for about 40 more minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vegan vanilla ice cream.

**Cooking Hack: to remove peach skins, pour boiling water over whole peaches, let sit for a minute or two, then run under cold water. The skins will slip off easily with your fingers!