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Volume III
June 22, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

June - It's a Month of Celebration!

By Alice Osborne

Did you know that June is National Corn and Cucumber Month? And don't you just love living in a country that finds so many excuses to celebrate or to bestow the limelight? Well, corn and cucumbers certainly do deserve this attention. Let's look at each vegetable:

CORN: Corn is high in protein and carbohydrates, so it has been an important nutritional resource for thousands of years. Today, corn has less starch and is sweeter. The sweetness accounts for its popularity. Americans consume about 25 pounds of corn per person annually, most of which is frozen or canned. A good thing about corn is that frozen and canned corn has about the same nutritional value as fresh corn - wonderful to know when fresh corn isn't available.

When selecting, be sure the husks are green, tight and fresh looking. Pull the husk open to make sure that the ear contains tightly packed rows of plump, glossy kernels. The kernels should be smaller at the tip of each ear. Large kernels at the tip is a sign of over-maturity. If you pinch a kernel, milky juice should spurt out. Corn should be stored in a cool area. Warmth causes the sugar content of corn to be converted into starch, which causes the ears to become less sweet.

Storage: If you're not planning to cook it shortly after purchasing, then store it in the refrigerator. Refrigeration helps the corn retain its sugar and vitamin C content. Store corn in its husk until you are ready to cook it so that it can retain its moisture content. But to fully enjoy the great taste of sweet corn, cook it as soon as possible. The sooner the better is the best "rule of thumb."

Now in celebration of Corn and Cucumber Month, here is one of our family favorites - a corn recipe that wins applause every time it's served!

Fresh Corn Salad

Serves 6

3 cups fresh corn off the cob, canned corn or thawed frozen corn
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup minced red onion
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 green bell pepper, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saute pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute for a few minutes. Add chili powder and cumin and saute for 1 minute longer. In a serving bowl, combine corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cooled onions. Toss to mix. Add cilantro and vinegar. Toss well to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss again. This recipe is best served at room temperature.

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CUCUMBER: "Cool as a cucumber" isn't just a catchy phrase. The inner temperature of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. No wonder these are such a summertime favorite!

Cool and moist due to their high water content, they belong to the same family as pumpkins, zucchini, watermelon and other squashes. "Cukes" are a staple in most home gardens and summer menus.

There are several varieties of cucumber; the most popular are English, Persian, and Pickling cucumbers. All these varieties are available year round.

Persian cucumbers are also known as regular cucumbers with soft, edible seeds. The skin is often waxed to seal in moisture.

English cucumbers are sometimes known as gourmet cucumbers, "burpless", or seedless cucumbers. This variety has seeds that are very small but do not need to be removed. Longer and thinner than regular cucumbers this variety is usually shrink-wrapped to seal in moisture because they are not waxed.

When selecting the best cukes, it's important to look for firm cucumbers with rich green color and no soft spots. Watch out for bulging in the middle. This means it's most likely filled with large watery seeds and tasteless flesh.

Storage: Whole cucumbers should be refrigerated in a crisper for up to a week. Unwaxed cucumbers will easily lose moisture so keep them wrapped tightly in plastic. Here are two more use and preparation tips:

•  Wash well, then, depending on the type of cucumber you have, you may want to remove the peel and seeds. To seed, slice in half lengthwise and scrape out with the tip of a teaspoon.

•  Add a decorative touch to your veggie platter. Run tines of a fork down the entire length of the cucumber, penetrating the peel. Slice crosswise.

Add this delicious cucumber salad recipe to the corn recipe above (put both in your Cook'n Recipe Organizer) and gather the family around for a delightful summer meal - all in celebration of the great month of June!

Tomato, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad with Mint

Serves 6

2 large cucumbers - halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
3 large tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup coarsely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, toss together the cucumbers, vinegar, sugar and salt. Let stand at room temperature for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, onion, mint and oil to cucumbers and toss to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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