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?






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.



9 Ways Carla Hall Was Great at DeGustibus!

by Anne Maxfield on May 5, 2014

Accidental Locavore Carla HallSometimes you just have to make a decision by not making one. The Accidental Locavore was invited to a class of my choice at DeGustibus at Macy*s and rather than pick something, I left it up to Sal Rizzo and his team to choose for me. They suggested Carla Hall, who you may know from her stints on Top Chef and/or The Chew. It was exactly what I was hoping for – someone I normally wouldn’t have picked because they weren’t “exotic” enough and it turned out to be a great evening. Here’s why:

  1. The menu was international and eclectic. In four courses we covered Spain, Greece and the US, along with Asian influences. The menu consisted of gazpacho, cauliflower steaks with olive relish, fried chicken marinated in Thai spices along with an Asian noodle “slaw” and baklava for dessert. At first I questioned the inclusion of gazpacho, especially when the pallid tomatoes on the prep board just made me yearn for August, but she made it taste great by highlighting other (less seasonally sensitive) ingredients, including some fabulous looking fennel.Accidental Locavore Gazpacho
  2. The gazpacho was made with tomato water, which gives you some options. One is that you can make it when the tomatoes are fabulous, ripe and not expensive and freeze the water in case you have the craving for something summery in the middle of the next polar vortex. The other is that it makes a fabulous, and beautiful, take on a Bloody Mary (hint: freeze some of the water and add it instead of ice cubes, to chill it)
  3. I learned something. Actually two somethings. First of all, when you choose peppers, on the base end of the pepper they have an innie or an outie. The ones with the outies have less seeds (leading to faster prep). The second thing came when Carla was preparing the baklava for dessert. Instead of brushing the sheets of filo dough with butter, she sprayed the sheets with an olive oil spray. If you’re thinking olive oil Pam, fuggedaboudit, she prefers an organic olive oil spray from Whole Foods.Accidental Locavore Roast Cauliflower Steaks
  4. Not only does she respect your time in the kitchen, Carla also respects the time of whoever is cleaning up after you. This is a big contrast from say, Jamie Oliver, whose 15-minute meals always look great, but even my husband noticed that on one episode Jamie used four pans and a blender – definitely not a 15-minute cleanup! As Carla said: “If you spend 2 hours cleaning up for one little dish – it ain’t worth it.”
  5. She’s really high energy, funny and as you can see from #4, has a great sensibility about things. If I wasn’t so busy eating, I would have been able to write down some of the many funny lines that got bandied about.
  6. When she roasted the cauliflower steaks, she coated the baking sheets with olive oil and sprinkled that with salt. It’s a great idea, because as she said, you don’t have to worry about turning them and seasoning them on both sides. I’m definitely going to try that the next time I roast veggies.Accidental Locavore Cucumber Trick
  7. Another easy trick Carla used when she plated the gazpacho is to put some thinly sliced cucumber (I’m sure zucchini or similar vegetables would work well too) between the plate and the bowl to keep the bowl from sliding around.
  8. Her take on baklava was a big hit with the audience. In it she used three different nuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios and instead of rose water, she used an orange-infused syrup. I have to take the word of the person sitting next to me, who eagerly scarfed down both her serving and mine (I’m allergic to nuts).Accidental Locavore Baklava
  9. She gave us all two types of her new Petite Cookies to try and take home. What a great idea! Really mini cookies that pack a flavor punch in every bite. Perfect for when you just really want a taste of something sweet.Accidental Locavore Petite Cookies

All in all, a fun, delicious, inspiring evening! If you want, all the recipes are in her latest book: Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes From Around the World. Many thanks to Sal and the DeGustibus staff for inviting me. And a quick note to Carla, the French word for smothered is étouffe.



Lunch With Iron Chef Jose Garces

by Anne Maxfield on September 30, 2013

Accidental Locavore Chef Garces and Range How many times do you get invited to lunch with an Iron Chef? Recently, the Accidental Locavore was whisked down to Chef Jose Garces’ Luna Farm in Pennsylvania for lunch. It was a gorgeous day, the kind that makes you start to really like September, a beautiful setting, interesting company and, oh yeah, great food!

Accidental Locavore Chef Garces GazpachoThe day was a launch party for BlueStar’s new Platinum line of ranges. They’re made a few miles away from Chef Garces’ farm and if you haven’t started your Christmas (or whatever) wish list, you have now. And it will probably take you that long to pick your options, starting with the 750 colors you can choose from. If that’s not enough, pick your size and burner options. They all come with easily changed grill/griddles and remove a burner and your wok fits right into the 25,000 BTU burner. So far, I’ve narrowed it down to about six colors, but haven’t moved onto the burner layout yet – Santa are you listening?

Accidental Locavore Grilled Iberico SecretoOk, so now that you know about my range lust, what did Chef Garces actually cook on it? We started with flutes of cava in a deep pink color. What a nice change from prosecco and something that I’ll definitely be serving soon. The best of the passed hors d’oeuvres was a skewer of lamb and eggplant (from the farm) wrapped in bacon and done on the range’s griddle. Lamb along with the smokiness of the bacon and eggplant was a great combination.

Accidental Locavore Eggplant and PeppersThe main course was the real star of the show. If you’ve had enough of pork belly, the next trendy pork part to lust over is Ibérico secreto. It’s the pork version of a skirt steak (however, if you can find it, the price tag more resembles an expensive aged rib eye), well-marbled and, when marinated in olive oil, thyme and garlic and grilled by an Iron Chef, probably the single best piece of pork I’ve ever had! This was served with a platter of eggplant and padron peppers that were grown on the farm and some creamed corn he made with bacon and smoked onions. Before the Ibérico secreto, Chef Garces served a superb gazpacho. His secret? Really good olive oil and a lot of time in the blender.

Accidental Locavore Olive Oil CakeAnd speaking of olive oil, I’ve wondered for a long time about olive oil cakes and now I know, they’re delicious! These were served in little jars and topped with cream, plums and pistachios so they not only looked good, but tasted good too.

Accidental Locavore Farmer GarcesAfter all that great food, a much needed walk through his farm. Farmer Garces has 40 acres, growing organic produce for his restaurants. Along with that are a flock of chickens and a couple of bee hives. He has spent a lot of time and money working the farm and improving the drainage. One thing that really resonated with me, as we were leaving the farm he said that while they would never recoup the money invested in the drainage system, “at least the ground would be growing food for a long time.”