Thursday, August 18, 2011

Grandma's Cukes n' Onions PLUS a Yummy Cucumber-Pastrami Panini

My grandma's marinated cucumbers and onions were a summer staple through my childhood. The recipe is so good that it has become a time-honored tradition. My family is still eating them today. A July trip home to the farm just wouldn't seem right if I couldn't take a bite of this crunchy cucumber concoction. I have a whole list of foods in that represent summertime in my mind. Just off of the top of my head: strawberry shortcake, corn on the cob, rhubarb cream pie, fresh green beans with potatoes and bacon, caprese salad, and Kentucky Grilled Chicken are all foods that I look forward to each and every summer.

I can't remember a summer that I didn't enjoy the sweet and sour crunch of these cucumbers alongside whatever we pulled off of the grill. The funny thing is, I also can't remember ever preparing this dish for myself. I always just find a jarful in my mom or my grandma's fridge each summer.

Considering that my one hill of cucumber plants has already produced dozens of pickles, I decided that it was time for me to make a batch of cukes n' onions for my very own fridge. I've already canned pickles and made a delicious cucumber ribbon salad and more tiny little cucumbers keep showing up on the vine in my garden! It was definitely time for this nostalgic recipe. One of the great things about grandma's recipe is that when you eat all of the yummy pickles from the marinade, you don't need to start over. You can just add more sliced cucumbers to the vinegar-sugar-cream mixture.

Many of you probably use or have tried a recipe like this. I've also tried a few. But I'm biased. I like Grandma's the best.

You want to start out by peeling the cucumbers. I forgot this step the first time that I made the recipe. Live and learn! I realized that Grandma probably always peeled the cucumbers first because the skins seem to grow tougher as they marinate.

After the cucumbers are peeled, thinly slice and add them to salted water. Let them marinate in the salt water for "as long as it takes you to make dinner". Not very specific, I know, but those were grandma's instructions. I think that I let them sit for about an hour. Grandma claims that this helps to remove some of the bitter taste from the cukes. I'm gonna have to back her up on that one, because like I said, her cukes n' onions are the best!

Remove the cucumbers from the brine and rinse thoroughly, then drain.

While the cucumbers drain, add equal parts of vinegar and sugar to a quart-sized canning jar or Tupperware for the marinade. I used my new favorite storage container- a Ball 32 oz. re-usable freezer container.

Then pour in some cream or half and half. I've seen similar recipes that use mayonnaise instead of cream, but this is how Grandma does it and it works!

Next, drop a thinly sliced onion into the marinade.

Then add the cucumber slices (please ignore the peel on some of those cukes in the picture. This was my first batch...before I realized the error of my ways...). Now put a lid on your container and "shake it like crazy".

I like to let mine sit in the refrigerator overnight before eating them.

Yum! For such a simple recipe, it sure packs a flavor punch. The cucumbers and onions are sweet, salty, sour, AND creamy!

Grandma Shirley's Cucumbers n' Onions recipe written based on a phone conversation with my grandma. (Translation: I had to do some guesswork. If this isn't to your liking, "tweak" the ratios to perfection in your own kitchen.)

2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
1/2-3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2-3/4 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup half and half or heavy cream
chopped parsley for garnish

In a medium bowl, mix the salt into the water until dissolved. Soak the peeled, sliced cucumbers in the brine for about an hour. Rinse under cold water and drain. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, vinegar, and cream. Add in the sliced onion, then the rinsed cucumber. If the marinade does not cover the cucumbers, add additional vinegar and sugar (in equal parts) until the cucumbers are covered. Place a lid over the container and shake well until everything is combined. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with your favorite summer dinner.

After enjoying Grandma's Cucumbers n' Onions on their own for a couple of days, I found a panini recipe that used marinated cucumbers in the sandwich. Perfect!

Our family has succumbed to a panini addiction this summer. I attribute it to my new Pampered Chef Grill Pan and Grill Press. This cookware duo turns out perfect paninis every time. I've had fun coming up with panini combinations over the last couple of weeks. I know that I mentioned this in an earlier post, but the Grill Pan and Grill Press are on special this month if you're interested. Click HERE to see the deal.

I began this recipe, (which was inspired by a recipe in the November 2003 issue of Better Homes & Gardens) by creating a mustard spread. The original recipe called for honey mustard and prepared horseradish. I didn't have either. I ended up mixing together some honey mustard salad dressing, some Gulden's Spicy Mustard, and a little wasabi (for that horseradish kick). It seemed to work really well!

Lesson: if you don't have the exact ingredients on hand for a recipe, improvise with similar ingredients. But DO taste the ingredients or mixture of ingredients first before applying them to the entire recipe.

Spread the mustard over one side of each bread slice.

Top half of the bread slices, mustard side up, with cheese. I used Muenster. Swiss would be really good here too. Arrange some of the marinated cucumbers over the cheese. Then top with some diced onion.

Another tip: during the summer burger-and-hotdog months, I like to keep a screw-top jelly jar of diced onions in the fridge for use as a condiment. Dicing onions once a week or even every two weeks cuts down on the tears!

Back to the sandwich...

Pile on some sliced pastrami. (I used turkey pastrami).

Top with another slice of mustard-"schmeared" bread. Then brush liberally with olive oil.

Place the sandwich in a pre-heated grill pan. Apply the pre-heated grill press or a brick wrapped in foil to the top of the panini.

Cook for a couple of minutes, until golden brown on one side, then flip the sandwich and cook on the other side.

Now slice that sammie in half! But don't take a bite just yet.....

You're supposed to dip it in Thousand Island dressing. At least, that's what the original recipe recommended.

Okay. Twist my arm...

Oh man. That's good stuff. This was a great panini!

Here's the recipe:

Pastrami-Cucumber Panini

3-4 tablespoons honey mustard
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
8 slices hearty wheat or rye bread (I used both whole grain white and light wheat)
1/2 cup Grandma's Cucumbers n' Onions (see above)
2 tablespoons diced red or white onion
6 oz. thinly sliced pastrami (I used turkey)
4 oz. Swiss or Muenster cheese slices
Olive oil
Thousand Island Dressing (for dipping)


Tip: If you don't have a grill pan and press or a brick wrapped in foil, try using a George Foreman Grill to press and grill the paninis.

1 comment:

4*KowBoys said...

I love those "phone conversation" recipes. I have a few of those on my blog, too! Love those cucumbers!!

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