Thumbnailing with Cucumbers + Tomatoes

Go to any market and you’ll see that it’s tomato season. It’s cucumber season too. They seem like good friends. (And who can complain? They are sporting complimentary colors…)

When I look at these two beautiful summer gifts, my mind begins to race with all of the possibilities!

And in my context, possibilities and thumbnailing are two sides of the same coin. I learned how to “thumbnail” in an illustration class. Thumbnailing is a creative, exploratory exercise in discovering the not-so-obvious possibilities. It’s one of my favorite tools in problem solving, and it’s a similar process to brainstorming. The process is rather quick, rough and all about quantity. For pictorial ideas, creating little boxes on a page (much like storyboarding) sets a bunch of little canvases just salivating for your great ideas.

Generally, the rule of thumb is the more thumbnails the better. Early on, I started doing a minimum of 30 thumbnails, and some of my best ideas emerged when I pushed beyond 30. Regardless of the number, the process helps in divergent thinking. Once the ideas are out, then some initial refining can begin.

Here are some thumbnails specific to cucumbers and tomatoes:

Let’s run with thumbnail number 1 for now. It’s cucumber and tomatoes with olive oil and salt and pepper, and it might be the easiest thing to make.

The non-negotiables: you’ll need some tomatoes and a cucumber. Hopefully you have more of these around right now than you know what to do with.

Today, we’re operating at a two-to-one ratio.

The cucumber wanted to be in multiples, like the tomatoes. So we cut it in half.

Grabbing the spoon, we scooped out the seeds from both halves.




Next, we flipped the cucumber canoes over and cut them lengthwise into strips.



Bunching them altogether…


… we proceeded to dice the cucumber strips into tiny cubes.


Grand. Now we clear the way for the juicy tomatoes. I’m transferring these cucumber pieces into a bowl.

We halved the tomatoes…

Then we cut the halves in half to make quarter slices…

And we repeated the process on the second tomato…


Next we grabbed the spoon (sound familiar?)… and started to remove the tomato flesh. The tomato comes built-in with a little groove that begs for a spoon. The only resistance is toward the top where the core meets the top. Add a little resistance and the guts pop right out.


The guts go into the bowl… we’ll use these later!


Wow. Aren’t they beautiful?


Now we’ve got our tomato boats ready and they’re begging for the next step…

So, grabbing the tomato piece, we basically perform the same lengthwise slicing that we did with the cucumber.


Two down, six to go…

All sliced up!

Bunching them into manageable stacks…

we were ready to start the dicing!

Half-way…

And we’re all diced up.

Onward, we loaded the cucumber pieces into a ziplock bag, perhaps one of the most glorious inventions ever created by mankind.



Don’t worry, we didn’t forget the tomatoes…

A little olive oil…

A little salt and pepper…

Yessss….

A little zip…

A little shake…

Dumb it in a bowl with a little more freshly ground pepper…

And there you have thumbnail number 1. Also known as Cucumbers + Tomatoes.

I love it when concepts tip into the tangible. In this case, I am very happy with this tasty tangible.

Hooray for fresh tomatoes and cucumbers!

Which thumbnail shall I do next?

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  • http://godgrown.net/blog Mark W

    Wow.  This was a fun post! It reminded me of watching you do a painting – wonder if other cooks do “thumbnailing!”

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