Voracious this year is celebrating our local farmers markets with a series of poems extolling what's newly ripe and ready for sale. Each week during market season, we'll run a poem from a local poet who's found inspiration in the region's bounty. And should you find yourself feeling similarly inspired after reading their odes to romaine lettuce, nectarines, pea vines and gooseberries, the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance has provided us with recipes featuring each of the edible muses.
While pickles have assumed increased importance in recent years, people are still fairly blasé about raw cucumbers. A cucumber is the odd edible that comfortably straddles the line between food and cosmetics; Beauty-seekers who might hesitate rub ricotta cheese in their hair think nothing of putting cucumber slices on their eyelids or spreading cucumber cream on their faces.
But as poet Molly Tenenbaum reminds us, cucumbers make just as much sense in a bowl with salt and pepper (or, in the Thai tradition, white sugar.) In addition to its flavor, she celebrates the cucumber's color, deep and dark for a vegetable that's 90 percent water.
In addition to authoring three books of poetry, Tenenbaum plays Appalachian fiddle and banjo. She lives in Seattle.
Never made sense what they said--
to cut off one end and rub it
with salt on the rest
or to salt and let stand
rinse and dry
when before any method or recipe
my mother sliced them in salad
and we all lingered
in the litter of dinner
to slide the remaining
vinegar salt pepper circles from the bowl
dropping them slippery tart to our mouths
although I will add
they've been used in art for example
at the museum café
refreshing the water
visually at first in the dispenser
with floating translucent circles
the greens in concentric colors more luminous
the more toward the seeds in the center
and then as fragrance in the glass invisibly
and as one more example my friends
whose two doors take two keys
dark green for the outer
pale green for the inner
"like a cucumber" they remind me
dropping a set in my hands and telling me
to make myself at home
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
3 Tbsp cider or white vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
¼ tsp each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small sweet onion, sliced and broken into rings (optional)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (leaves from 1 lg. stalk) or about 1 Tbsp dried
Using a mandolin, a food processor with the thin slicer attachment, or the slicer opening on a cheese grater, slice the cucumber very thinly.
Place the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a serving bowl and whisk until the sugar dissolves completely. Add the cucumber, onion if using, and dill, and toss well. Marinate for 15 or more minutes and serve.