cucumber

Smashed Cucumber Salad Recipe

by Anne Maxfield on July 14, 2016

Accidental Locavore Smashed Cucumber SaladWhat do you do with cucumbers?

Like zucchini, cucumbers are a CSA staple.

However, there seem to be a lot fewer things to do with cucumbers.

Toss them in salads.

Make cold cucumber soup (here’s a delicious recipe). Gazpacho.

And then?

The Accidental Locavore found this smashed cucumber salad recipe on the NY Times Cooking site and has been saving it for the reappearance of cucumbers. It’s easy and serves 4-6 as a side dish.

  • About 2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers like English or Persian (8 to 10 mini cucumbers, 4 medium-size or 2 large greenhouse), washed and patted dry.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cucumbers
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, plus more for cucumbers
  • 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Small handful whole cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Accidental Locavore Smashed CucumbersTo make the smashed cucumber salad:

Cut the cucumbers crosswise into pieces about 4” long. Cut each piece in half lengthwise.

On a work surface, place a piece of cucumber (or several) cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top of the cucumber and smash down lightly with your other hand. The skin will begin to crack, the flesh will break down and the seeds will separate. Repeat until all the cucumbers are smashed. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces, leaving the seeds behind.

Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss with a big pinch of salt and a big pinch of sugar. Place a Ziploc bag filled with ice on top of the cucumbers to serve as a weight and place the strainer over a bowl. Let drain 15 to 30 minutes on the counter, or in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.

Accidental Locavore Sauce for Smashed CucumbersMake the dressing: In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and rice vinegar. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in sesame oil and soy sauce.

When ready to serve, shake cucumbers well to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Add half the dressing, half the garlic and the red pepper flakes to taste, and toss. Keep adding dressing until cucumbers are well coated but not drowned. Taste and add more pepper flakes and garlic if needed. Serve garnished with cilantro and sesame seeds and enjoy!

My verdict: Who wouldn’t have fun smashing cucumbers for a salad? Until you find that there are cucumber seeds all over the kitchen (and the dog won’t have anything to do with them).

This was really good and a perfect summer side dish. If you don’t have thin-skinned cucumbers, cut the smashed pieces into small bits. After tasting it a few times, I just tossed all the garlic (only one large clove) and dressing into the salad. Just go easy with the red pepper flakes, until you find a good balance.

Next time I make this, I might smash some Sichuan peppercorns in place of the red pepper flakes and bash the cucumbers in the sink (since I hate cleaning floors). Even toasted, the sesame seeds got lost in the salad, but the cilantro was a nice touch.

Do you think this is something you’d try?

 

 

 

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The Great Peeler Showdown

by Anne Maxfield on October 19, 2015

Accidental Locavore Eggplant and PeelersAs you may or may not remember, when the Accidental Locavore put peelers that julienne to the test, I promised to test some of the many peelers I had when I got my hands on some eggplant, a vegetable that always gives me grief when it comes to losing its skin.

That day is here, promoted by a request from Frank for a batch of eggplant parm and a lot of beautiful eggplants at the farm. I decided to run the test with only the Y-shaped peelers, since there were only two eggplants and close to a dozen peelers. First up was everyone’s recommendation, the Kuhn Rikon Original. While it’s good on potatoes, fuggedaboudit with eggplant. One down.

Even worse was “the cheapie” winner of the julienne contest. Maybe it’s ok on Asian eggplants but it wasn’t anywhere near passable with the Italian variety. Two down and I’m starting to feel a little discouraged (and thinking Frank’s days of eggplant parm may be limited), so I decided to move onto the more expensive models.

Accidental Locavore Uberchef PeelerThe Uberchef did well in the julienne test, and has been great with potatoes and carrots, but eggplant? Amazing!! I kept peeling the first victim because it was so easy! I think it was because the peeling blades have tiny (and very sharp) teeth. The eggplant had met its match!

Thinking it might be all about the serrated blades, I went for the final challenger, what I called the artsy one. This was a set of three that I bought at MOMA because I liked the packaging and the idea that each one was for a different purpose. “Use the black one and you will easily manage to peel even the thinnest of skins.” And they were right! The black one went through the second eggplant as quickly and easily as the Uberchef. Suddenly, I’m not minding peeling eggplant!

Since I had run out of eggplant and was a little curious about some other hard to peel produce, I grabbed something I would never ordinarily just peel – a peach. With peaches and tomatoes, the easiest way to peel them, especially if you need to do a few of them, is to cut a shallow X into the bottom, put them in boiling water for 30 seconds and the skins (usually) just slip off. But in the spirit of experimentation, I gave it a shot with my two winners. While not quite as easy as with the eggplant, they both peeled the peach pretty easily and quickly. It’s something to consider if you only have one or two to do.

Accidental Locavore Reject PeelersMy verdict: If you only have room (and budget) for one, the Uberchef is definitely worth hunting down. For things like eggplant, tomatoes and peaches, having the serrated blades is the way to go. Since none of my classically shaped peelers had serrated blades (and they’re the reason I was testing peelers in the first place), I didn’t put any of them to the test and may just clean them out of the drawer, keeping artsy, cheapie and Uberchef close at hand.

Update: Since I cleaned the drawer of all the crappy peelers, the Uberchef was right there when I needed to peel a cucumber (which it did easily) and then, because I could, I julienned my cuke straight into my salad—genius!

 

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Gazpacho, As if You Needed a Recipe

by Anne Maxfield on August 28, 2014

Accidental Locavore Gazpacho With CroutonsWhile it may not seem possible to have too many tomatoes, there are times (like now) when you might be facing a pile of very ripe tomatoes that would be a shame to waste. The Accidental Locavore ended up with five pounds from the CSA this week and knew there were a few more than I could (or should) comfortably use for salads. This being August, recipes for gazpacho are a dime a dozen, from Mark Bittman’s spread for the Times to an interesting one from Food & Wine that my friend Mary adapted for her blog. But gazpacho, like its summer cousin, pesto, really doesn’t need a recipe. It does need a blender or food processor and some great tomatoes (although there’s a hack for that too – see below). This is what I tossed together this morning:

  • 2 pounds tomatoes, cut into big chunks
  • 1 garlic clove (size depending on your love for garlic)
  • 2 slices of bread
  • ½ cucumber peeled and cut into chunks
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper

Put the tomatoes, garlic, cucumber and jalapeno in the food processor and pulse until well chopped. Add the bread, olive oil and vinegar. Process until it’s just shy of your desired consistency. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Process to your desired consistency and chill for at least 30 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and top with your favorite garnishes, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: I always loved the gazpacho at City Bakery, mostly because you could mix in a whole host of garnishes: cilantro, croutons, chopped tomatillos, etc. It also allowed you to control the consistency, making it as smooth (fewer garnishes) or as chunky as you like. When you make it yourself, you can do that with or without the toppings. If you use a blender, you will get a finer blend; with the food processor it will always have a little more texture. I’m not a fan of green peppers, so I leave them out and really only added the jalapeno because it was left over from a batch of salsa (that may garnish the soup). Other great garnishes or add-ins could be avocado, bacon, some toasted pine nuts.

The hack for not-so-good tomatoes, I learned from Carla Hall. If you have pallid tomatoes, use more of whatever you have that’s tastier. So, if you have some good peppers or a nice cucumber, add more of them and just adjust the taste to suit yourself.

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Cold Cucumber Soup Recipe

by Anne Maxfield on July 16, 2010

Cold Cucumber Soup RecipeGot cucumbers?

This is a refreshing cold cucumber soup with a bit of a kick (adapted from Food & Wine Magazine) and if your CSA share always has a lot of cucumbers like the Accidental Locavore’s always does, this is a good way to use them.

It’s easy and tasty and comes together quickly. Serves 6:

1 pound of cucumbers (about 3), peeled, seeded and chopped into 1” pieces. To seed a cucumber, cut in half the long way, and run a teaspoon down through the seeds until they’re all gone
10 pepperoncini. Stem and coarsely chop 4-5 of them, use the rest for garnish
¼ cup of the juice from the peperoncini jar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons dill chopped
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup buttermilk
• ¼ teaspoon cumin
(or more to taste)
Salt
Put all ingredients in the work bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until it’s as smooth as you like (I like mine a little coarse). Chill.

Serve the cucumber soup with extra pepperoncini and dill as garnish and enjoy!

My verdict: This cold cucumber soup has become a go-to because our CSA share often has pounds of cucumbers (and if some of them are pickling cukes, use the extra dill for quick pickles). It may seem like a lot of heat so if you don’t like a lot of spice, add the pepperoncini a couple at a time and taste it as you go along. Same with the cumin. If you have extra buttermilk it can actually be frozen and I measure out 1 cup portions and freeze them in Ziploc bags. Lay them flat in the freezer and then you can stack them (takes up less space than round containers). Or, if you’ve got some heavy cream, make your own créme fraîche.

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