I’ve recently spoken with several people about Oscar Wilde’s comedy of manners and mistaken identity, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, and posed the same question to each: “What in particular do you recall about the play?”  The results were not unanimous, but the most frequently mentioned recollection was “cucumber sandwiches”.  With the cuke season upon us, it is worthy (pun intended) to consider the theme of cucumber sandwiches and the teas that complement them.

Stack of cucumber sandwiches on a plate

The following is an example of the classic cucumber sandwich.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut rounds out of a good quality sandwich bread; butter the bread and cover half the slices with three or four pieces of thinly sliced cucumber; season to taste with salt and pepper and, if you wish, top with a small sprig of dill; cover with another buttered round of bread; and press together.  If the sandwiches are to be held for more than an hour, cover with a well-wrung-out damp cloth before refrigerating.  These go well with a hot cup of your favorite black tea, or perhaps an Earl Grey.

Kraft Foods makes a lovely cream cheese with smoked salmon spread that comes in eight-ounce tubs.  If you can find “baby” bagels (Sara Lee’s are widely available), you’ve got the makings of a really fast sandwich.  Split the bagels in half horizontally, spread each side with the cream cheese spread, and top with thin slices of cucumber; serve open faced or closed.  I think these go well with a Lapsang Souchong.

For sushi fans, a rolled sandwich would be in order.  Start by trimming the crust off a thin-sliced piece of sandwich bread, place the bread between two sheets of plastic wrap, and flatten slightly with a rolling pin.  Then butter the bread.  Place a generous teaspoon of “imitation crab” salad in a line down the middle of the bread, then a thin spear of peeled and seeded cucumber next to it.  Using the plastic wrap as a guide, roll the sandwich up; secure with two toothpicks. Cover with a damp cloth, and chill for a couple of hours; cut the roll in half before serving.  Enjoy with a hot cup of your favorite jasmine or green tea.

Chunky nut butters, such as almond, cashew, or peanut, make a heartier, non-traditional cucumber sandwich; use a dense, whole grain bread; spread one slice with softened butter and the other with the nut butter.  Then top with cucumber slices, put the bread slices together, and cut the sandwich into three equal bars.  These pair nicely with a hearty tea, maybe an Irish Breakfast.

The next idea would probably have Ernest’s Aunt Augusta threatening to disown the presenter of the sandwich, but it is really worth trying.  Some recipes identify it as a salad, and others as a sauce, but I like it best as a dip; it is called tzadziki.  In a small bowl, add one half of a large, peeled, seeded, and finely diced cucumber to one cup of unflavored Greek yogurt (it’s thicker than other yogurts).  Season to taste with salt and white pepper; then add one (or more to taste) cloves of crushed garlic, a quarter to half cup of finely chopped fresh dill, and the juice of a half lemon, if you wish, and a few chopped mint leaves.  Combine all ingredients, and chill at least four hours.  Serve in small individual bowls with toasted four-inch pita breads, quartered, for dipping.  This goes well with a robust brew, either hot or iced.

This article has been reformatted and updated from the original May 2009 publication.

Photo “IMG_6749” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Sheri Wetherell and is being posted unaltered (source)

Photo “Tea Grading” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Evan Bench and is being posted unaltered (source)