by Cathy Erway
Perhaps it’s a maternal instinct of tucking things in, but I’m a fan of stuffing food inside other food. So when I signed up for the Great Hot Dog Cookoff for the third time this year, all I could think of was: what’s going to be the bun?
Previous exploits in this cookoff, a benefit for City Harvest, had led me to roll up tofu dogs inside nori with sushi rice, bake a hot dog inside a flaky pastry with brie and raspberry jam, and steam Asian buns to put hoisin-slathered hot dogs inside. What was going to be the vessel for the almighty (and, in my opinion, otherwise boring) American barbecue food this year?
A cucumber. It’s been a terrifically hot summer, and a cold, crunchy cucumber can’t be a bad thing for any food. Also, thanks in part to that heat, cucumbers have been proliferating in this region, particularly on my friend Annie Novak’s Eagle Street Rooftop Farm. Now, my little rooftop garden at Sixpoint has some interesting heirloom cucumbers, but not nearly as many as her roof has produced. Not knowing what to do with all the striped, slightly warted field cucumbers recently harvested, she asked if I could help take some off her hands. Sold.
Halving and scooping out the tender seed pockets of these cucumbers didn’t take nearly as much time as I’d expected. The kitchen smelled wonderfully fresh the whole time, and I welcomed the cooling sensation of the occasional splatter of seed on my face. What was supposed to be an arduous task actually put me in a spa-like calm.
For my hot dogs, I decided to go East once again, and visit Thailand for inspiration with a green curry paste-flavored mayonnaise to squiggle on top of the dog. Buying prepared green curry paste is a great way to shortcut to an incredible sauce, marinade, or even devilled egg. Mixed with some lime juice for a little freshness, the main topping for my dog was done, and poured into an easy-squeeze bottle. For a crunchy topping, I crushed some salted peanuts to sprinkle on top of the cucumber dogs. And to add a florid touch, separated fresh cilantro sprigs as a final garnish.
All together, it made a delicious, cool contrast for a hot, greasy pork hot dog, grilled just before serving. But I don’t see why hollowed-out cucumbers can’t be used to hold more things than that. Lobster salad? Pulled pork? The possibilities are endless.
The best part about performing the chore of coring cucumbers may just be the byproduct. Once all the seed pockets had been scooped out into a bowl, I strained the liquids and it produced the most refreshing beverage I’ve had to date. Slightly sweet on its own – thanks to the cucumbers’ good flavor – I added a touch of honey to the juice, and served it on ice. Hit the spot. Make only this by blending and straining cucumbers, or go for the double-whammy at your next barbecue.
Green Curry Cucumber Dog
(makes 6 hot dogs)
6 hot dogs (preferably pork and beef blend)
6 6-inch cucumbers (or the length of your hot dogs)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Thai green curry paste (can be found at most Asian markets)
6 long sprigs fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon crushed salted peanuts
juice of 1 lime
Halve the cucumbers lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seed pocket completely. Chill until use.
Combine the mayonnaise and green curry paste and about half the juice of the lime.
Assemble dog: place hot dog inside the cucumber. Squeeze the cury mayo on top as you would ketchup or mustard. Sprinkle with crushed peanuts, add the cilantro sprig, and squeeze a squirt of the lime. Enjoy!
(makes about 16 oz., depending on cuke)
about 2 large cucumbers, rinsed
1 teaspoon honey
fresh mint sprig (optional)
Chop cucumber coarsely and puree in a blender. Strain juices from pulp and skin (which you can compost). Stir in honey until completely dissolved. Serve with ice and optional mint.