What 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.
- 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)
To 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.
Make 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?