There’s something alluring about miniature incarnations of vegetables – Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, turnips and beetroot, and cute, summery little Lebanese cucumbers. It’s not just that these smaller cucumbers are fairer of face; they also tend to be sweeter, crunchier and less prone to bitterness.With over 90 per cent water content (they were traditionally used in Europe to quench thirst) cucumbers make a refreshing bite for the hotter months – the perfect side to barbecued meats or spicy dishes.
Fattoush is a delicious, simple salad to show off ripe cucumbers and tomatoes. In a salad bowl, mix 2 thinly sliced Lebanese cucumbers with 2 ripe tomatoes cut into wedges (or cherry tomatoes to keep with the miniatures theme), 1 cup purslane leaves (if available, otherwise roughly torn iceberg lettuce), 1/2 cup each roughly chopped parsley and mint and a small, thinly sliced red onion. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry fragments of pita bread until golden and just starting to crisp. Add to the salad once cooled. Dress it all with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 cloves crushed garlic, juice 1 lemon, 2 tsp sumac and 1 tsp salt, whisked together.
In South East Asia, small cucumbers are often used in piquant garnishes and side dishes. Try this one alongside Thai fish cakes or barbecued chicken: Halve 2 Lebanese cucumbers and scoop out seeds, then slice very thinly on the diagonal to make delicate crescents. Place in a bowl with a handful thinly sliced shallots, 1 shredded carrot, 1 finely chopped hot chilli, 2 Tbsp fish sauce, 1 Tbsp palm sugar and juice 1 lime. Mix, then refrigerate overnight to pickle. Drain the liquid if desired, or serve in individual bowls so guests can dip barbecued morsels into the moreish juice.