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Take cukes to the next level

Chef Curtis Gamble Bread Wine displays his bread-and-butter pickles.  Curtis writes about cucumbers which are often overlooked but are

Chef Curtis Gamble of Bread and Wine displays his bread-and-butter pickles. Curtis writes about cucumbers, which are often overlooked but are a great fall offering at the farmer's markets. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 18, 2012 6:04AM

Twice a week, I go to the Green City Market and witness the explosion of colors that late summer and early fall bring, stacked neatly in pint containers and wax-covered produce boxes.

Heirloom vegetables tower proudly over the other produce. And usually very close to the striped, colored heirloom tomatoes that seem to have lit the fire on the farm-to-table movement, there lies the Plain Jane cucumber.

Maybe it is their availability in supermarkets year-round, or the rise of the easier-to-eat seedless English hothouse cucumber, but when most people peruse farmers market stalls, they don’t get excited for cucumbers.

Cukes just haven’t reached the impulse-buy worthiness of, say, apples or peaches. It takes planning to enjoy a cucumber. It’s a vegetable with a purpose, and that purpose is the bread-and-butter pickle.

Don’t get me wrong. A just-picked cucumber, still warm from the sun, sliced thin and dosed with kosher salt can be a revelation. My mother used to plate them next to tomatoes and bulb onions slathered in yellow mustard.

It does not take a young chef long to realize that their small blossoms, when fried, put the zucchini blossom to shame.

But I love a good fried chicken sandwich, and there is no better accompaniment to that than the humble cucumber, helped along with a little vinegar, salt and sugar.

Curtis Gamble is the chef of Bread and Wine, 3732 W. Irving Park.

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