Cool as a Cuke
by MadamePince, McGonagirl, Hermi2
Menu: Cucumber & Radish Salad | Frosty Bread & Butter Pickles | Carrot-Cucumber "Potion" | Looney Luna's Cucumber and Radish Gazpacho | Cucumber RaitaIt's not easy being a teen, even in a normal context with a normal upbringing. But if your family has a legacy, and that legacy cannot protect you, you might be in very grave danger. Neville Longbottom is thought to have witnessed the torture into insanity of his parents both aurors by Bellatrix Lestrange, and had memory charms placed on him to help him forget. However, no selective charm is perfect, and the result in Neville is absent-mindedness, lack of confidence, and for a large part of his life, he thought he was a squib, the child of wizards with no magical talent.
At Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Neville's talents were fostered and he started to live up to his family legacy; he stood by Harry when they did battle with Death Eaters twice, and injured both times! and even had the courage to stand up to Harry their first year. He made friends perhaps his grandmother sequestered him to protect him, but it made him socially awkward. His friendships with the boys of Gryffindor was a great source of comfort and growth for him.
Imagine when a GIRL actually was nice to him? True, many girls were friends, including Luna Lovegood. But Luna had an unusual bond with Neville in that she, too, was socially backward and had witnessed the death of a parent. Like Neville, she found the secret "Dumbledore's Army" activities to be the highlight of her time at Hogwart's, and not-so-secretly pined for their return. And when Neville was injured, Luna was the one who cared and comforted the boy.
Though their relationship might not get past the "really great platonic friends" stage, Neville did dare to think fanciful thoughts. And he's the star pupil in herbology. So when Luna showed up at the Great Hall with a huge box of cucumbers (and some smaller bags of radishes, carrots, and many different herbs), he invited her to sit with him at the Gryffindor table to ask what she was making with all the vegetables?
Luna looked surprised, "Making? I think they're beautiful just as they are. Aren't they beautiful, Neville?"
She had, indeed, chosen some superlative samples of cucumbers. There were so many that Neville was prompted to ask, "Where did they come from?"
Luna slowly tilted her head and smiled, "Seeds."
Even Neville had to admit, Looney Lovegood was a pretty good nickname for Luna!
"They're good to eat," commented Neville. Luna looked askance at him. "They're my friends."
"Friends help each other, and vegetables are meant to help by making other vegetables, and so that animals and plants can grow." Neville was getting hungry looking at all the fresh veggies!
"Okay," agreed Luna, rather quickly. "I'm willing to make them better friends ... especially if we can be cool like they are." Neville didn't take time to ponder her odd statement, because it was time to start chopping and slicing!
Menu: Cucumber & Radish Salad | Frosty Bread & Butter Pickles | Carrot-Cucumber "Potion" | Looney Luna's Cucumber and Radish Gazpacho | Cucumber Raita
Cucumber & Radish Salad
The house elves at Hogwart's were very amenable to helping students who were hungry, and they had grown to know and like Neville. All he needed to do was tap a code on a particular spot on the Gryffindor table and explain his needs, and ingredients and cooking tools would appear! He asked for two knives, two boards, etc., but it was soon apparent that Luna was happy to simply watch Neville chop and grate and whisk. He'd learned to do these things in the muggle manner, since for much of his life he seemed to have no magic abilities at all, and he actually preferred these methods most times.
Come to think of it, he couldn't imagine Luna doing anything muggle-like. Or anything normal, whether muggle or wizard! But she liked this salad enough that he had to make a second batch for their friends who'd rushed over when they realized Neville was cooking something!
Frigid Bread & Butter Pickles
Neville recalled the only time he did well in potions ... and it ended up not counting for anything. They had received a sheet for a different potion meant for "reducing fevers" and everyone noticed the ingredients were not what they normally pulled out of the cupboards. Where were the reptilian organs? The goat crystals? The finely chopped and smeared poisonous plants? What they instead collected looked like a grocery list: carrots, cucumbers, corn, jicama. Malfoy made some comment about this being a salad bar, but was silenced quickly by a look from Professor Snape.
Eventually, Snape noticed things were not quite right, and he asked, "Mr. Longbottom, what are you doing?" It was said that Snape's whisper was more devastating than nearly any other teacher's shout; to Neville, anything to do with Professor Snape was terrifying! "S ... s ... sl...icing swee ... sweet ... uh ... uh ... onions ... sir ..." was the stammering reply.
"Onions? ONIONS?!? Let me see that!" And Snape grabbed the instructions Neville was following. Stunned, he grabbed another sheet from Dean Thomas, who was sitting beside Neville. And then Seamus Finnigan's, then he went around the room, grabbing papers and muttering.
Class was cancelled when Snape stormed out of the dungeon in a frosty mood. Later, the students found out that they'd been doing Professor Sprout's herbology exam, rather than a potions assignment! Perhaps the herbology and botany instructor had been playing a joke on the Potions Master? Or perhaps Snape had distributed a grocery list? In any case, Neville and the others thought the resulting pickles were spectacular, even if they did have to wait two weeks before consuming them (that was the problem with potions ... always take TIME to create!).
At the end of the 3 hours, drain the cucumbers in a colander to remove as much of the water as possible, but do not rinse the cucumbers.
In an 2-gallon (8 liters) (or larger) non-reactive pot (stainless steel or a ceramic rated for stove-top use), combine the white and cider vinegars, sugar, dill, celery seed, mustard seed, ginger, and peppercorns. One the mixture comes to a boil, keeps it at a hard boil for 10 minutes. Without turning off the heat, add the cucumbers and sliced onions and let the mixture return to a boil. When it does, pack the vegetables and pickling potion in sterilized jars. Fill the jars to within ½ inch / 60 mm of the top and screw on sterilized lids.
When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, store in the refrigerator for two weeks before imbibing. Yields about a gallon of pickles (4 quarts/liters or 8 pints).
After the potions class trouble, Neville had to run to herbology, where Professor Sprout was lecturing on root vegetables and their medicinal properties, and how cutting an herb or plant versus shredding it would give it different properties. "Remember, you must peel first, chop second! Chopping first will only give you grief later!"
The class felt like double-potions, since there was more chopping and cutting to do and a mixture to make up that looked decidedly Snape-ish ... But it did smell good, and as Neville constantly suffered from congestion (in part due to the broken nose he sustained the year before in the battle against Death Eaters), he decided to take a sip of this potion to heal his ailments. With the spicey horseradish and radishes, it penetrated his sinuses, and all the crunchy, chunky bits made it a fun soup to chew. A lot better than Madame Pomfrey's unguents, for sure!
Ladle soup into bowls or glasses. Top with the cut up radishes. If desired top with the additional shredded arugula and corn. Pass lime wedges. Makes 5 side-dish-sized servings.
Looney Luna's Cucumber and Radish Gazpacho
"Potions?" Luna's big eyes grew wider. "Those are much too complicated. I never do the assignments in class."
"What do you do in Professor Snape's class?" asked Neville.
"I always seem to have Potions just before lunch," replied Luna, "so I make up recipes in my head. I remember hearing about the mix-up in your class. There were leftover radishes in the classroom. I made this soup, but not in my head." She smiled happily at the memory. "Sometimes if I remember them, I tell my Dad, and he prints them in the Quibbler."
"But," wondered Neville, "didn't Professor Snape mind? That wasn't the assignment!"
"I suppose," shrugged Luna. "But maybe it's because I didn't offer him any soup?"
To his surprise, they were reaching the bottom of the box of produce Luna had brought into the Great Hall. "Luna, pass me a bit of that yogurt you used before? It'd be a shame to waste any of this produce, it really is excellent. I'll make something out of the leftovers."
Luna and several others looked into the bowl of things Neville was mixing and Padma Patil exclaimed happily, "You're making raita, like my mother's!"
Luna looked up at her, "Is that bad?"
"Oh no! It's good! I'm so relieved I just thought Neville was going to make something atrocious. I heard you talking about 'potions' and 'leftovers' ..."
"Neville wouldn't waste my friends." Luna smiled, then winked at the boy, who dropped too much hot pepper sauce into the concoction in surprise! But it was good, and they all had a good time teasing Neville and Luna and eating all the good things they'd created out of the cool box of veggies. The two thought it was nice to feel "cool" for a little while. "Maybe that's what she meant before," wondered Neville. Luna was pretty cool!
Squeeze the excess water out of the cucumbers (squeeze harder for grated cucumbers). Add to the yogurt and mix lightly to blend. Cover and chill an hour or so before serving as a condiment or salad course. Makes about 3 to 4 cups.
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