The cucumber, while rarely a center-stage star on menus, has still become an essential player in a wide range of dishes including cold soups, classic tea sandwiches, German salads and Japanese maki rolls.
Japonica in New York uses cucumbers as edible garnishes on various sushi and sashimi plates. Some sushi chefs, Nobu Matsuhisa among them, carefully pare entire cucumbers into long sheets to use as wrappers for sushi creations. Atrio in the Conrad Miami hotel serves a filet mignon sashimi, beef carpaccio by another name, with marinated Japanese cucumber, pickled red onions and ponzu.
Japanese cucumbers are one of several varieties on the market. They are thin with few seeds and dense, dark skin. They are similar to the nearly seedless English cucumbers but are sometimes shorter. Persian cucumbers typically are smaller and sweet, with bumpy skin. Lemon cucumbers are yellow and round with pale green flesh.
Soby’s in Greenville, S.C., serves a salad of baby field greens made with English cucumbers, grape tomatoes and tobacco onions in a ginger-sorghum vinaigrette. At Fraîche in Fairfield, Conn., a chopped salad is composed of local greens with green apple, jícama, corn, tomato and cucumber in Champagne vinaigrette.
Salads at Noble’s Restaurant in Charlotte, N.C., can consist of a simple mix of organic lettuces with cucumbers in vinaigrette, but also a “black and bleu salad” combining blackened hanger steak with asparagus, cucumber and grape tomatoes in blue cheese dressing.
Cucumbers often accompany sashimi, crudo and tartare. A tartare of yellowfin tuna is served with a mango compote, cucumbers and crispy phyllo at Restaurant Serenade in Chatham, N.J. At Napa River Grille in Louisville, Ky., a cornucopia of ahi tuna combines freshly diced fish in a sesame-soy dressing with cucumber-tomato salad, wasabi aïoli and pickled ginger.
Olana in New York plates hamachi crudo with cucumbers and pickled serrano chile with a drizzle of lemon oil. At Perilla in New York thinly sliced raw hamachi comes with a cucumber salad, cilantro, tomato water and yuzu. Albacore tuna is prepared as a confit at Range in San Francisco and served with a cucumber salad, marinated beets and lemon aïoli.
The crab salad sandwich at BLD restaurant in Los Angeles comes with pickled Persian cucumbers and dill aïoli. The panko-crusted lump crab cakes at Devereaux’s in Greenville, S.C., are served with a daikon-cucumber salad in a warm ginger mignonette garnished with cilantro. There the organic beef tartare comes with cashews, ginger, cucumber and Asian greens in yuzu-curry vinaigrette.
A grilled shrimp-Greek salad at Backstreet Café in Houston comes with lettuce, shrimp, tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, peppers and olives. At Periyali in New York the Greek salad, or horiatiki salata, is made of tomatoes, feta, cucumber, red onions, olives, and oregano.
Cucumbers also figure importantly on Kurt Gutenbrunner’s Austrian-style menus at Wallsé in New York, starting with a crab-avocado salad with cucumbers and market greens. The Wiener schnitzel there comes with cucumber-potato salad, which is also offered as a side dish. And halibut is steamed and garnished with cucumbers, dill and wild mushrooms.