By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: July 13, 2019 | 8:05 a.m.
With cucumber season upon us, one of my nieces was bemoaning the fact that she has no idea what to do with all the green goodness now appearing on her cucumber vines. What a problem to have! But her comment inspired me to remember one of my favorite recipes – Smashed Cucumber Salad – so I dug it out to send her to help with her surplus problem. As I was glancing over the recipe before sending it I saw my notes about “next time I think I’ll add tomatoes…” And since I picked my first cucumber today and my sister in law had just given me some yellow baby tomatoes, I decided to try that “next time” bit. Boy, am I glad I did! I didn’t think it could get any better, but the addition of the baby tomatoes? Perfection! So now, I’m going to share it with you.
This year, I decided to try a couple of Japanese Cucumber vines, and they apparently are trying to take over the world. But they didn’t seem to be producing much on all those vines. A couple of weeks ago, when I finally saw one… two… three… I got excited. Well, they grew and grew and the one I picked – and prepared – and photographed – today is gorgeous. OK, it WAS gorgeous. It IS also absolutely delicious, and I honestly can’t tell it from an English Seedless except it’s kind of spikey.
Anyway, I assembled the ingredients – that cucumber and the baby golden tomatoes and some fresh chives from out back – and started to play.
Here’s the thing: I love cucumbers just about any way you can fix them. I grew up on sliced cucumbers and onions in vinegar and salt and pepper. I love stuffing cucumbers with a ranch dip I like to make. I have a great recipe for a cucumber and honeydew and feta salad that I’m crazy about. And of course there are a million recipes for cucumbers in various creamy recipes that all begin, “Take half a cup of sour cream… or yogurt… or…,” well, you get the idea. But before this recipe, I had never heard of smashing cucumbers. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
Not only is it easy, but it’s actually so much to do fun that I’ve made a note to prepare this the next time I’m having a bad day. Because you actually do take your cucumbers, divide them into about four pieces, and then just smash them with a heavy pan or mallet! Now you don’t mash them down flat like pancakes or anything. What you do is just put each piece between paper towels on a cutting board and bang on it two or three times until it kind of splits and … well, gets smashed! Then you break the pieces into bite-size chunks – about the size of the first joint of your thumb – and you’re just not going to believe what that does to the flavor. The process of smashing them rather than chopping them produces an amazing contrast of textures, plus they really soak up your special dressing!
But we’ll get to that in a second. First, you sprinkle those pieces you just made with salt. Then you let them hang out on in a colander so the salt can draw out some of the water while you whip up the dressing. And Ohhhhh, that dressing! It’s simply fresh lemon juice, EVOO, coarse ground pepper, and cumin – things you likely keep around all the time – and once you make it, you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before because I promise you this stuff is SO good that I was tempted to drink what was left after I finished eating the salad! Really!
But I’m getting ahead of myself again . Once your dressing is stirred together, you dump those salted cucumber pieces out onto a paper towel, pat them dry, toss the pieces and some thinly sliced green spring onions – actually, I used fresh chives, which are almost the same thing – into the dressing, stir – and devour! You can serve it as a salad – or a side dish – with anything from steaks to hamburgers to grilled chicken to… well, I can’t think of anything it wouldn’t be great with!
And you know how I always say experiment with things you’re making? Well, if you’re feeling inspired, go for it! My sister made it without the cumin and said it was delicious. You can vary the number (and type) of onion slices or omit them altogether.
The only thing I’m really concerned about is that, while this was GREAT with an English cucumber because it has very few tiny, tender seeds, I don’t know how it will work with “regular” cucumbers. But I’ll bet if they’re young enough it will be perfect. And if they’re not, hey – with a spoon or a melon baller I can get rid of cucumber seeds in a skinny minute.
Anyway, that’s my new-old recipe – and method – for this week. And, you know, I’m thinking that since this time I loved the added tomatoes I “wondered” about last time, next time, I’m going to have to try adding some fresh basil. And I’ll bet you could chop up some cooled grilled chicken stir that in to make a light, one-dish meal… Hmmmm… next time…
SMASHED CUCUMBER SALAD
Only 15 minutes from start to serve
- 1 English cucumber, cut into four pieces
- 1 Cup +/- cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 small spring green onion, thinly sliced (about 1 Tblsp) (Or fresh chives)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon coarse ground pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
Assemble and measure ingredients. Cover cutting board with a paper towel or freshly laundered kitchen towel. Put cucumber pieces, one at a time, on top and cover with paper towel or another kitchen towel. Smash with heavy pot or mallet until pieces break down – not flattened just broken into easily manageable pieces. Tear the pieces into bite-size chunks. Place pieces in colander, sprinkle with salt while stirring thoroughly and let stand ten minutes.
While salt begins to draw water from cucumber pieces, thoroughly blend together olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and cumin in a medium size bowl. Add onions. Thoroughly drain cucumbers, pat pieces dry with paper towel, and add those with the tomatoes to the dressing. Stir until thoroughly coated and serve. Makes 4 or more servings.