I was so happy when Short Stack Editions reached out to me a few weeks ago to see if I wanted to check out their latest volume, Cucumbers. For starters, their single-ingredient, expertly-designed booklets never fail to deliver on the recipe MVP front. (I’m guessing there are a good number of people reading this who have made Pasta Con Ceci — pulled from ShortStack’s Chickpeas — in the last seven days.) Secondly, SS was smart enough to assign this latest volume, their 28th, to Dawn Perry, currently the food director at Real Simple and creator of so many of my favorite recipes when she was in the Bon Appetit kitchen a few years back. Lastly, when they reached out two weeks ago, I was on vacation and I remember replying, “Perfect! Please send! By the time I’m home, my birthday vegetable garden will be exploding with cucumbers!”
How young and naive I was two weeks ago. I wrote that before Devastation Day. Overnight, on Saturday July 23, we had visitors. Based on the deep hoof indentations and the generous gifts they left behind in our vegetable beds, we’ve identified these visitors as deer. They ravaged both beds, snapping some of our green netting poles in half in the process. On the day they struck, we had hundreds of Sweet Million tomatoes in their infancy; a small army of filet beans dangling from their stalks; healthy, bounteous chard; and a charming little invasive cucumber vine winding its way around everything in its path. Here is the deadheaded disaster I found when I went to check in on Sunday morning:
I was unprepared for how pissed I was. I know I know, there are a lot of things happening in the world right now that would be better beneficiaries of my outrage. But in a small way, this garden was my response to that. It was supposed to be the one corner of my world that I could control.
Was it Rachel Carson who wrote “control of nature” was a phrase conceived in arrogance?
We had gotten arrogant. In our minds we’d done everything we could to keep out the invaders and in the eight weeks since planting, had seen no evidence of break-ins. We fortified the fences around our yard, we netted the beds, we sprayed some natural repellant around the perimeter. But I guess all it takes is one chink in the armor. We’re working with our neighbors to come up with a battle plan going forward, but I feel defeated and I can’t stop picturing those f**ers whispering rookies to each other as they laughed their full bellies the whole way home.
It took me full day to recover and actually approach the garden again. And when I did, I felt like Marlin in Finding Nemo after the shark attacked (and consumed) his entire anemone, including the family nest containing thousands of the about-to-hatch eggs he had been guarding with his wife.
And I felt like Marlin when I spotted my very own Nemo, the cucumber shown up top, the lone survivor of The Attack, hiding under a tangle of weeds and vines. I cleaned and coddled the thing like it was made of solid gold, then placed it on the counter hoping I’d figure out a preparation to properly acknowledge that it represented the entirety of my 2017 harvest.
Perry’s Cucumbers, seemed a good place to start. There were recipes for Soba Salad with Cucumbers, Soft Tofu and Chile Oil (yum), Cucumbers with Fried and Pickled Shallots, and Sweet Onion Cucumber Sandwiches with Mustard Butter. In the end, I guess it makes sense that my survivor found its way into a good stiff drink, her infused gin and tonic that only called for “one to two” cucumbers. (I affixed a “Do Not Drink” label on it so my daughters didn’t mistake it for some kind of spa water concoction.) Let me just say: It went down easy.
Cucumber-Infused Gin & Tonic
Recipe Note from Dawn: Keep in mind that every gin has its own unique balance of juniper and botanicals. Plymouth is my favorite brand because it’s silk smooth, kind of grassy and really sings with the addition of cucumber. (Beefeater is another fine choice.) I don’t particularly like highballs — they go down too quickly — so I serve this in a rocks glass. Whatever you do, be sure to use plenty of ice and a fresh bottle of bubbles: tonic to make a G&T, or club soda for a gin rickey.
1 cup gin
1 cup sliced Persian cucumbers (1 to 2 cucumbers, depending on the size)
tonic or club soda
Lime wedges for serving
In a resealable container (preferably a glass one), combine the gin and cucumber and shake to combine. Set aside in a cool dark place for 5 to 7 days, shaking the jar gently when you remember to. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the mixture into another glass container and discard the cucumbers.
Place 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of the gin in a rocks glass and fill the glass with ice. Top with tonic or club soda and a squeeze a big lime were over the top. Repeat to make 3 more drinks and serve.
Pick up Cucumbers (and check out all their other volumes) over at Short Stack Editions. Thanks Dawn, thanks Short Stack!
Related: Blue Hill’s Cucalyptus Punch