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cool as a cucumber

Recipe: cucumber spritzer

Did any of you stay up to watch the Perseids meteor shower over the weekend? It’s one of my favorite meteor showers each year because it isn’t freezing cold out, there is usually a good show, and the winds are typically gentle in summer. The first night we had clouds overhead that miraculously cleared out by 1 am, so Jeremy and I slept out on our deck while I had the camera running until astronomical twilight around 5 am. I saw several dozens of meteors streaking across the sky despite dozing off for ten minutes here and ten minutes there (Jeremy pretty much slept through the entire thing). The next night, we put two IKEA poang chairs outside on the deck and wrapped ourselves up in flannel quilts and fleece blankets. I’m less likely to fall asleep if I’m not horizontal, but there were considerably fewer meteors. I was still able to see a couple dozen, although the clouds really moved in by 2 am.

perseid and the milky way

another one

long exposure of my camera taking a 30-minute exposure

the milky way (red glow is my town’s center)

star trails (orange glow is clouds, white blur is milky way)

Ahh, sleep-deprivation in summer. It is de rigueur for our summers because of things like the Perseids meteor shower or more likely waking early to beat the sun or thunderstorms on the mountains. There aren’t that many hikes left in our local area that we haven’t done, but the High Lonesome loop was one of them. There were about 5 of the 16.5 miles we hadn’t done before, so it was time. We typically prefer to do the longer hikes in the fall when it cools down and the grasses of the high country turn brilliant golds, rusts, and reds. Except fall is a ridiculously busy time for me and the hike invariably gets shelved. I’m glad we did this one in summer, because it was just so beautiful.

jeremy at the high point

Hiking is always a great way to work up an appetite. What better excuse to meet up with friends for dinner in town? My pal, Ellen of the famed and addictive Helliemae’s Salt Caramels, and her mister joined me and Jeremy for a lovely evening at Frasca last week. It is hands-down my favorite spendy place in Boulder. The food was fantastic, the service impeccable, and the company – perfect.

chris and ellen get the low down on the menu

primi: lasagna (fried eggplant, smoked mozzarella, tomato passato)

So, I’m a bit of a teetotaler. It’s partly because I’m the designated driver and partly because I can’t hold my liquor for squat. I’m okay with that. I usually order an iced tea for the caffeine boost (remember, sleep-deprived all summer long). While Ellen and Chris were fighting traffic to get to the restaurant, Jeremy and I perused the wine list and happened to glance at the cocktails in the back. And there were non-alcoholic cocktails that were about as fancy as any cocktails! I ordered the cucumber-ish cocktail, because cucumber is the perfect quencher for me on a hot day (and it was a hot day spent foraging). Utterly delightful. And you know I had to make this at home.

cukes, lime, mint, sugar

Funny thing is, that morning I was foraging with my pal, Wendy, and we discussed cucumber simple syrup. So the seed was already planted. I had everything I needed at home. These are easy ingredients to get your hands on and I imagine there are many people getting crushed under the weight of their cucumber harvests. To those people I say, “I am jealous.”

make a simple syrup

shred or chop the cucumber

add the cucumber to the hot syrup and steep

I use Persian cucumbers when I can, or English cucumbers if those aren’t available. I really dislike the typical grocery store cukes which are nearly flavorless vessels for water, as far as I can tell. Chop or shred the cucumbers up and toss them into hot simple syrup. Cover and steep for 30 minutes, then strain. The resulting liquid has the color of that old school Hi-C green punch that you bought in a giant can in the 1970s. Remember that? This is not that…

after steeping

strain through a sieve

gorgeous color – and it’s natural!

The cucumber simple syrup has a light, bright melony taste. It’s perfect. Definitely something worth whipping up for entertaining guests – either in spritzers or cocktails. It’s the kind of flavor that would work beautifully with gin (then again, I am under the impression that gin goes with just about everything). The simplest way to enjoy it is with seltzer water, but I got a little fancy. Just a little.

mint and lime

muddle some mint

squeeze a lime wedge

cucumber syrup

Top everything off with seltzer water and you have yourself a refreshing cooler for summer. Add some gin for zippity zip or leave it virgin. It’s a delightful way to enjoy cucumbers. And besides, I love the color green (right, Kat?).

it’s not easy being green

kick back with one of these

Cucumber Spritzer
[print recipe]

fresh mint leaves
wedge of lime
1-2 oz cucumber simple syrup
seltzer water
gin (optional)

Drop 6-10 mint leaves into a highball glass and muddle them with a chopstick. Fill the glass with ice. Squeeze a wedge of lime into the glass. Pour 1-2 ounces of cucumber simple syrup over the ice (to taste). Add gin to taste (optional). Top the glass off with seltzer water. Stir and serve.

cucumber simple syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup shredded cucumber, packed (2 Persian cucumbers or 2/3 of an English cucumber)

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil for one minute then remove from heat. Add the shredded cucumber to the hot simple syrup and stir together. Cover the pot and let infuse for 30 minutes. When the cucumber syrup is ready, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Reserve the liquid, discard the solids. Makes 2 cups.

16 nibbles at “cool as a cucumber”

  1. Anusha says:

    I agree i agree its not easy being green cos so am i by looking at this simpleton of a recipe captured beautifully!

  2. Katherine says:

    This looks so good!

  3. Fiona says:

    That’s a great photo of the shredding. It took me a good while to figure out what I was looking at.

    It would never have occurred to me to make cucumber syrup. I wonder if this would make a good sorbet…

  4. Andrew | the fatty chalupa says:

    curious off tangent question- when shooting meteor showers what’s a decent aperture to use? I’ve experimented with higher numbers (usually around 22), but the results aren’t, how should I say it, as stunning as I imagined it to be in my head.

  5. Val says:

    This post is like a gift. Your Perseid photos are jaw dropping beautiful and awe-inspiring. Who knew a cucumber spritzer could be so gorgeous? I love the way you compose your photos. Each one tells a story of its own. ***sigh***

  6. Gina Marion says:

    Your pics are out of this world!!!! Stunning. You are so talented. Cucumber spritzer looks refreshing. Even with alcohol, it’s what I call a “healthy” drink :-) This would work well using a juicer, too.

  7. Denise Dewire says:

    Great photos and delicious recipe! Curious, what are your camera settings? I did a little bit of shooting this past weekend and used a 17-40mm lens, f/4, ISO 100. Did 30 -60 second exposures. We were up in the mountains and while I did get the stars, no milky way (we could see it) and I thought I had the camera pointing the direction for one of the meteors. Seems if you do a longer exp (30 min) you’d get lots of star trails. I’ve done a bit of night shooting and thought ISO was suppose to be at the lowest but thinking higher would let more light in and that’s why I missed the Milky Way? Thanks for any suggestions!

  8. Jen says:

    I love this! I am also a most-of-the-time teetotaler too because of the same reasons (I am a SERIOUSLY cheap date. Embarrassing.). But I loooooooove the chemistry (alchemy?) of mixology and love to have a fancy drink. This is perfect!

  9. ally says:

    such beautiful photography. i’m swooning over that vibrant green of the syrup. brilliant!

  10. Jill says:

    my mouth is watering……looks delicious! Don’t know where you get your energy after staying up half the night, climbing endless mountains, dining in Boulder….all I can say is good!

  11. Rochelle Paretti says:

    Your pictures of the stars are gorgeous. Well your food pictures are very nice….and the recipes too. I love your site.

  12. Kristin says:

    Wow! Thanks to the banana post that Wendy (my cousin) put up, I’ve found a great new site! Yours! Never thought to actually do cucumber syrup. I’ve always just slightly muddled a couple slices of cucumber with lime and mint into ice cold water. I definitely will have to try it out. Thanks!

  13. jenyu says:

    Anusha – you’re too kind.

    Katherine – thanks.

    Fiona – sounds like a swell idea. It has a flavor of mild honeydew.

    Andrew – I think I open it wide, but you will get star trails for exposures longer than 30 seconds, so you can try stacking or additional post processing to bring out the other features.

    Val – thank you!

    Gina – :)

    Denise – See my comment to Andrew above. I don’t bump the ISO because it introduces a lot more noise. There are a lot of things you can do to improve the noise, which I haven’t yet (like subtracting the noise field), but yes, 30s is too short for getting the milky way, so I have to work it in post proc.

    Jen – thanks!

    ally – yeah, I like that green too :)

    Jill – well, I don’t sleep anymore ;)

    Rochelle – awww, you’re such a sweetheart xo

    Kristin – I’ve tried muddled cukes before and I highly recommend giving the cucumber syrup a go – you will love it!!

  14. Jon Mark says:

    How long does this syrup keep?

  15. jenyu says:

    Jon – I’d say about a week, definitely no more than.

  16. bonni says:

    Oh man, oh man, oh man!! Do NOT throw away those shredded cucumbers! They’re delicious! I’m turning mine into a sweet sour relish with peppers and onions, etc., if any are still left by this afternoon. I’m been putting them on everything! Everything!!

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