I love discovering new cookbooks almost as much as I love vintage cookbooks. Almost. There are some important academic standards that should be in every vegetarian babes’ library, or anyone’s for that matter. Making vegetables ever more delicious and appealing was not always a hip endeavour, and for the years prior to 1970s, the options were pretty gross.
Now, thanks to (mostly) the incredible women leading in this space, we have options and oh what options! But, there are still some classics to which we owe culinary homage. One of them is the reigning and incredible, Julia Child with her baked cucumbers. This version takes half the time and is finished with some fresh chopped herbs. It makes a surprising brunch dish, lovely lunch or weeknight meal on thick cut toast with a poached egg. Miam!
Baked Cucumber & Dill Tartine
Prep Time: 45 mins, 5 mins to prep, 5 mins of blanching, 35mins of baking time
Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side dish
4 English cucumbers, partially peeled (they are prettier this way and I don’t mind the peel)
a splash of vinegar, either white wine, coconut or apple cider vinegar
2 small pats of butter, ghee or coconut oil
1 fat pinch of coarse sea salt
a few turns of fresh ground pepper
1-2 eggs per person
1 splash of white or white wine vinegar
small saucepan 3/4 full of water
Fresh Herb Topping
3 fingers of chopped fresh dill
2 fingers of flat leaf parsley
2 fingers of fresh green onions
a pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 of one lemon
Thickly cut sourdough toast, two fingers wide
Truth be told, the laziest and yet completely forgivable way is to just peel the cucumbers, toss them in the fat, salt and pepper and bake them as instructed. But if you want to do it properly…
Preheat your oven to 175C. Peel the cucumbers only partially. English or baby cucumbers don’t need to be seeded in my opinion, but larger cucumbers do need to have the seeds scraped, they turn the finished product a bit bitter and hold a lot of water (leading to mushy baked cucumbers).
Blanching & Baking
Prep a big bowl of cold water in the sink. Now, boil 4 cups of water in your tea kettle. While the water boils, set your partially peeled and chopped cucumbers in a deep pan, pour the boiling water over them, salt the water and cook for maximum 5 minutes. Drain the cucumbers and put them in the cold water for a minute to cool. This forces the cucumbers to release their water leaving you with a firmer finished product. Now pat them dry with a kitchen towel or gently squeeze to soak up extra water, add them to a baking dish with your fat/oil of choice, toss with salt and pepper and bake for 10 mins, toss them in the salt, fat and pepper and finish for another 15mins.
While the cucumbers are baking, chop the Fresh Herb Topping . Chop the parsley and green onion finely together, chop the dill roughly or pull it apart with your fingers. In the final 10 mins of baking, poach your eggs (insert DHV poached egg video) and set aside when the cucumbers are out of the oven they can rest for 2 minutes while you toast your bread. I like to do it in a thick bottomed pan on the stovetop with a bit of ghee and olive oil mixed together. This method takes another 4-5 minutes but I think the difference is worth it.
Set your toast on a plate and top it with the baked cucumbers and a squeeze of lemon. Lay the poached eggs on the cucumbers and garnish with the herbs and green onion, add another turn of pepper and small pinch of salt and cayenne to finish.
Original Recipe for Baked Cucumbers from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child