Summer has come, so you must brush up on cucumber sandwiches.
These dainties are among the noshes mandated for those incredibly fussy high teas you read about in rapacious Edwardian novels. Similarly, we serve cucumber sandwiches for gatherings where decorum (ostensibly) rules; social luncheons, a patio cocktail hour, and of course those inevitable occasional brunches.
Cucumber sandwiches at a kegger is the epitome of gauche.
Do not use those bloated green zeppelins from the local grocery; the sandwiches will sag before serving. Go to the farmers’ market and select good firm cukes. If you can find a firm yellow one, cherish it’s sweetness. Partially peel fruit and refrigerate for an hour before draining and using.
Trim the crusts of good sliced soft white bread and cut to size. Blend cream cheese and mayonnaise 3:1, add lime or lemon juice, white pepper, and salt. Coat bread with spread, top with cucumber slices, and assemble.
Snarl while serving.
Slice or cube young summer cucumbers, tomatoes, or squash. Pack into a quart jar.
Mix a cup of water, about a third a cup of vinegar, and a tablespoon each salt and sugar. A little garlic is a nice touch. Stir until dissolved, pour over vegetables, and add liquid to cover. Seal and shake a time or two before refrigerating.
Let sit overnight before serving. These keep for about a week, but they’re usually gone by then.
Older recipes for this king of summer soups include bread melded early on with oil, salt and garlic into sort of a cold roux for body. This recipe doesn’t include bread at that juncture, but I like crumbling dry cornbread over the bowl at table.
Mince two or three cloves of garlic very, very finely and mash in the bottom of a glass or enamel bowl with a teaspoon of salt and about a half a cup of olive oil. Add in fine dice one yellow onion, three very ripe summer tomatoes, two peeled cucumbers, two ribs celery (with leaves), and a sweet banana pepper.
I don’t recommend hot peppers; this is a cooling dish, and should be refreshing, not pungent nor heavy; starchy vegetables such as corn or peas seem out of place as well.
Add a teaspoon of powdered cumin, a quarter cup each of chopped fresh basil and parsley, and a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Mix with two cups V8. Refrigerate overnight. An hour before serving, add more V8 to consistency, adjust the salt and pepper, and top with a slosh of olive oil.
Serve in chilled bowls with crusty bread.
This recipe has a distinguished pedigree; I got it from ex-pat Kentuckian Lynn Tucker, who got it from Tish Clark of Prestonsburg, KY, who amended the one in Kentucky’s Best, Fifty Years of Great Recipes by Linda Allison Lewis.
Lynn said, “Years ago, certain bakeries in Louisville used to bake pink and green loaves of bread just for these popular finger sandwiches, a staple at Derby parties, weddings, showers, and appropriate funerals.”
1 8 oz Philadelphia cheese, softened
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
3 tablespoons of grated cucumber, drained well with a paper towel
1 teaspoon finely chopped green onions with tops
1 teeny tiny drop of green food coloring (the color should be delicate)
a dash or two of Tabasco
“Blend all ingredients together and mix well. Yield: 10-12 servings (I multiply by eight.) You may serve this on trimmed bread as finger sandwiches or as a dip. Please note there is not a single drop of Benedictine liqueur used in this recipe!”
“I like to make a nice pile of these sandwiches on a silver tray lined with a paper doily and garnished with a few cucumber slices and parsley. (Cover with a damp paper towel so your sandwiches don’t dry out and curl before serving. Refresh as necessary.)
“I also put out big crystal bowl of pimento cheese with Carr’s crackers, celery stalks, salty peanuts to encourage drinking and deviled eggs to prevent or at least stall off utter drunkenness.”