From the pantry: Cucumber makes for a refreshing summer sip

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July 24, 2014 | 12:01 am

Scorching hot summer days require lemonade. It’s a simple truth. This tart and sweet sunny-colored drink is both refreshing and quenching at the same time. Just the thing you want to greet you after an afternoon of working or playing outside.

When making lemonade from scratch, it can get a bit costly and labor intensive. To make enough lemonade for a crowd, you will have to juice 20-plus lemons. At around 79 cents a pop, this is not an inexpensive drink. On the upside, you will get a good workout from juicing 10 pounds of lemons.

Enter the cucumber. It is typically cheap and is easy to juice. No need to work up more of a sweat and a warm day, just pop these babies into a food processor and you have cucumber juice in no time. It is a stellar stand-in for lemon juice, carrying tartness with a bit of a sweet edge. Once mixed together with ginger simple syrup and just a little lemon juice, the cucumber juice still retains its bright green color but transforms itself beyond its normal limits.

Juicing cucumbers also gives new life to this vegetable, especially, if you are like me, and forget about them and find they are no longer crisp. Instead of the trash can, these seemingly lifeless cucumbers can take on their new liquid form with nary a hint of its former self. No longer just a salad topper or a pickle starter, cucumber in lemonade becomes a unique thirst quencher and lemonade’s newest competitor.

Cucumber-Ginger Lemonade

Serves 6

4 to 5 medium cucumbers

1 cup fresh lemon juice (5 large lemons), plus wedges for garnish

3/4 to 1 cup ginger simple syrup (recipe follows)

Chop cucumbers and place in food processor or juicer, extracting 3 cups cucumber juice. If using a food processor, strain the puree through a fine strainer to extract the juice. Discard the leftover pulp.

Pour cucumber and lime juices into a pitcher. Add 3/4 cups ginger syrup and stir. Taste lemonade and add up to a 1/4 cup more of the syrup, depending on desired sweetness. Pour over ice-filled glasses and garnish with lemon wedges.

Ginger Simple Syrup

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 6-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, ginger and 3 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until sugar has dissolved. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook 5 minutes. Take off the heat and let sit for an hour. Discard the ginger and store syrup in an airtight container, refrigerated, up to 2 months.

Adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics

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