Sunday, May 20, 2018

Rosie Makes Smashed Cucumber Salads.

I get lots of food magazines in addition to food website emails that are always clogging up my inbox with recipes.  Apparently, the latest food trend is smashed cucumbers.  Three of my current magazines have recipes for smashed cuke salads, plus there are smashed cuke recipes in my inbox.  Well, you know Rosie.  Being on the cutting edge of all-things-food, she must investigate.

Smashing cucumbers is not a new technique.  It's been standard in many parts of Asia for quite some time, but it's just coming around to the States.

As for the cucumber to use here, I prefer the English cucumbers.  Those are the long skinny ones wrapped in plastic in the produce department.  Generally, English cukes are sweeter and milder than regular cukes. They don't have a layer of wax on them and, also, they have fewer and smaller seeds and thinner skins, the seeds adding to the bitterness of common cukes.  And I have found they tend to last longer than the regular cucumbers.

Now, about that smashing.  The smashing technique is decidedly Chinese.  It cracks the skin, helps release the seeds, and splits the flesh.  All of this augments the cucumber's ability to absorb flavors, enhancing any dressing you might apply, unlike a sliced cucumber, with its smooth, impenetrable surfaces, which would shrug off the dressing.  With a smashed cucumber, you have all those crooks and nannies wide open, just waiting to accept whatever dressing you desire and form a relationship with it.  In addition, a cool cucumber is the perfect foil for hot weather and hot food.

Now, lets go smash cucumbers!

First, I sliced my cuke into 3-inch links.

Then, I took a rolling pin to 'em.

Smash away to break open the cucumbers, then pull them apart into irregular chunks.

Place cucumber chunks in a strainer, lightly season with salt and sugar (just a sprinkling of each), and let sit for about an hour.  
Drain cucumbers and discard liquid.

I have two cucumber preparations for you, both using vermicelli rice noodles.  That's the type of noodle I had on hand, but soba noodles would work well here, if only I could just find some.

Prepare noodles according to package directions.

Smashed Cucumbers #1
1 English cucumber, smashed, lightly salted and sugared, and drained
3/4 cup peanuts, toasted
1 serrano chili, minced
some shredded carrot

For the dressing:
juice of 1 lime
juice of 1-inch cube of ginger*
2 garlic cloves
1 TB brown sugar
1 TB rice vinegar
2 TB Tamari sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup neutral olive oil (I use Bertolli extra light for a neutral oil.  It doesn't compete with the other flavors going on.)
Mix first seven ingredients until sugar dissolves.  Whisk in olive oil.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Combine cucumber pieces, noodles, serrano chili, and peanuts.
Pour dressing over and toss to coat.

*Ginger Note:  Whenever I buy ginger, I cut it into 1-inch cubes and freeze it.  When I need ginger, I simply nuke a piece for about 25 seconds, put it in a garlic press, and I have ginger juice.  One cannot easily get ginger juice from a fresh piece of ginger.

Now, for the how-to's:
I usually fumble my way through whatever I'm making.
At this point, with the dressing made and the ingredients combined,
I decided it needed some color...
... Hence, the shredded carrots.

Add the noodles and toss with the dressing.

And there you have a cool, refreshing smashed cucumber salad.

Up next, another smashed cucumber salad, a variation on the last.  
Dressing is basically the same, but it has a few extra additions.

Smashed Cucumber Salad #2

juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 TB sugar
2 TB rice vinegar
2 TB tamari sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper 
2 TB vegetable oil
Combine all ingredients. 
Pour over salad ingredients and toss to coat.

1 English cucumber, smashed, salted and sugared, drained
prepared noodles
2 TB toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 TB chopped mint
1 TB chopped parsley
1 TB chopped basil


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