Smashed Cucumber Salad
Suggested Garlic Variety: Xian, Korean Purple, Georgian Crystal, Creole Red
• About 2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers like English or Persian (8 to 10 mini/pickle cucumbers, 4 medium-size or 2 large greenhouse)
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cucumbers
• 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, plus more for cucumbers
• 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
• 2 teaspoons sesame oil
• 2 teaspoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon grapeseed or extra-virgin 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)
1 Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Cut crosswise into pieces about 4 inches long. Cut each piece in half lengthwise.
2 On a work surface, place a piece of cucumber (or several) cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top 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 the whole piece is smashed. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces, leaving the seeds behind.
3 Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss with a big pinch of salt and a big pinch of sugar. Place a plastic 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.
4 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.
5 When ready to serve, shake cucumbers well to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with grapeseed or 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 immediately, garnished with cilantro and sesame seeds.
Go Garlic Version
Replace step 2 with: Place several pieces in a plastic food bag. Using a kitchen mallet smash the cucumbers (ok if pieces break just be easy with the mallet). Remove pieces and remove any seeds still clinging with a spoon. Toss out the seeds. Continue process until all of the cucumber pieces have been smashed. Rinse out the bag and put the smashed cucumber pieces inside. Refrigerate for an hour or longer.
In step 3 - Use 1.5 to 2 ts kosher salt and 1 Tbls of sugar to the smashed cucumbers - toss well. Let seasoned cucumbers stand at least 30 minutes (longer is better) in a colander. We used ice packs and a pot to cool and weight down the cucumbers in the colander. Place colander in a bowl or sink and drain cucumbers.
For the dressing
Combine at least 3 large cloves of finely minced garlic (or use a press) with a mixture of 2 tsp rice vinegar (can use white vinegar or cider vinegar) and 2 tsp balsamic and let the mixture stand 15 minutes or longer
Add to garlic mixture 1 Tbls soy sauce, 2 tsps sesame oil, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds (ok if you don't have this available), salt (half to 1 tsp … to taste) and combine well
Depending on the type of garlic you use you may not need peppercorns or flakes to add heat or you may want to adjust how much of these you use. Taste the sauce to determine how much heat you have and then decide to add more heat or not.
Combine all ingredients
Put refrigerated cucumbers into a colander and drain off additional water. Put cucumbers back in the bag and add the dressing. Close the bag and mix well.
After trying this with the drizzle of oil that step 5 suggests, we decided to skip it all together
Put cucumbers in a bowl
Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly (depending on the type of cucumber used, you'll find that you will have to adjust the seasoning)
We found the left overs were still crunchy the next day - actually thought it tasted better too!