Smashed Cucumber Salad

Smashed Cucumber Salad

I am a big cucumber fan — the type that will take a bite straight from a whole cuke - but you don’t have to be to enjoy this salad.

Smashed Cucumber Salad is a Chinese side dish, and I’ve adapted that dish into a recipe I can make any old day. The salad base is still just cucumber (a GREAT way to mix it up when you’re in a salad rut). The dressing is where the rubber really meets the road here. You could use this dressing on other salads, too — but I never have leftovers 😁

The perfect balance of salt, acid, and sweet: rice vinegar, soy sauce, and honey come together here. I haven’t yet watched Salt Fat Acid Heat (or read it), but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a dish that balances all of it’s flavors well. What do you think — should I jump in and watch the show?

Either way, this dressing is golden. Garlic and chili flakes add punch. Cucumber is plain and simple; but simple is just right with the dressing.

Smashed Cucumber Salad
Smashed Cucumber Salad

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Published April 2, 2019 by
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Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 50 minutes



Ingredients:

  • 2-3 english cucumbers 
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • 3 tablespoons avocado oil or other neutral oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes 
  • 1 teaspoon honey (or white sugar)
  • 3 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ginger juice or minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce 
  • Garnish: 1 tablespoon minced cilantro, 2-3 small sprigs of mint (optional), lime wedges (optional)

  • Directions:

    1. Slice ends off of cucumber, and slice in half the long direction. Lay halved cucumbers seed-side down on a cutting board. Roll a rolling pin over cucumbers, smashing them just until the start to crack. Chop into bite-sized pieces.
    2. Place cucumber in a bowl and generously sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
    3. Place avocado oil, garlic and chili flakes in a small sauté pan and warm over medium heat until garlic begins to sizzle. Stir occasionally, and allow garlic to turn golden. Remove from heat.
    4. In a jar, combine honey, rice vinegar, ginger juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, and the chili-garlic oil. Stir (or close jar and shake) to combine.
    5. Toss cucumber in dressing. Top with minced cilantro, and optionally garnish with mint and lime wedges. Serve.

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    Pineapple Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowls

    Pineapple Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowls
    Pineapple Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowls

    Do you ever take a spring break, even though it’s not really built in to work-life?

    This last weekend we went climbing in New Mexico. I’ve been looking forward to the trip for weeks, partially because the weather locally hasn’t been ideal for climbing outside, and I was craving the sunshine. Also because time in the desert is just the right kind of unplugging: no screens, no desk chairs. Just dust, dirt and the moon.

    Last month, I started a Best Self Journal. Have you heard of it? It was recommended to me by co-workers as a journal that gets you into a journalling habit and also tracks you towards goals. The journal is a 13-week track, and one of my goals was to send three V6s outside. This trip was one of our first climbing trips this season, so was also a time for me to really dig my heels and focus. In the end, I did one V6 and even one V7 — two out of three checked off the list, far exceeding my own expectations for the weekend! Maybe I needed a more aggressive goal since there are still 10 weeks left in my journal. Mostly, I think I just needed to believe I could do it.

    This is where my mind has been: journalling, planning, climbing.

    Admittedly I’ve put less energy to cooking as of late, but that’s how life goes, ebbing and flowing. Between everything else going on, this chicken was a standout meal. The combination of pineapple and chipotle is sweet and spicy and grilling season is just starting to call (well-grilled chicken is SO juicy and satisfying).

    With the base of chicken, pineapple, and bell peppers you can make either taco bowls (like in these images) OR fajitas, with tortillas. Both are good — and heck, you can make one for dinner and then use the leftovers to make the other the next day.

    Pineapple Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowls
    Pineapple Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowls

    Pineapple Chipotle Chicken Fajita Bowls

    Published March 26, 2019 by
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    Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 50 minutes



    Ingredients:

    For marinade:
  • 4 tablespoons adobo sauce from a from a can of chipotles in adobo 
  • 2 tablespoons maple
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice 

  • To serve: 
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
  • 2 bell peppers, cut into strips 
  • 3-4 slices of fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup black beans (cooked)
  • 1 cup corn (cooked)
  • 1-2 cups rice (cooked)
  • Garnish: cilantro, sliced avocado, sliced jalapeño

  • Directions:

    1. Marinate chicken: combine all ingredients for marinade in an air-tight container large enough to fit the chicken. Place chicken in marinade and turn to coat. Then, close container and marinate in refrigerator for 4-12 hours.
    2. When ready to cook: light a grill with a medium-high flame, and allow grill to heat to 450-500°F. Place chicken on grill and cook, with grill lid closed, for 5 minutes without moving. Then, using tongs and/or a metal spatula, flip chicken. Brush chicken with remaining marinade. Cook on second side for 5 more minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Move chicken to a clean plate, and set aside.
    3. Place pineapple and bell peppers on grill, turning after 3-4 minutes. Cook for 3-4 more minutes, and then remove from heat. Turn off grill.
    4. In serving bowls, divide rice, corn, and beans. Add bell peppers and pineapple. Slice chicken and divide among bowls.
    5. Garnish with cilantro, avocado, and sliced jalapeño to taste.

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    Wild Rice Salad with Pomegranate & Satsuma Mandarins

    Wild Rice Salad with Satsuma Mandarins

    Two delicious fruits are currently in season: Pomegranates and Satsuma Oranges.

    When I was a kid my dad would buy pomegranate as soon as it appeared in stores. Back then the fruit wasn’t “cool” and no one was talking about how it was a good source of antioxidants. In fact, I would take it to school for lunch and other kids would ask, “What is that?” (I got that a lot — I always had the most “interesting” brown bag lunches.) I’ve adopted my dad’s habit, and hop on pomegranate season as soon as the fruits look bright and red and juicy. I put them in salads (like this one with kale and delicata squash or this one with brussels sprouts) and add the juice to smoothies. My favorite is my dad’s Pomegranate Sorbet (!), but this wild rice salad is a a healthier way to enjoy the flavor.

    Wild Rice Salad with Satsuma Mandarins
    Wild Rice Salad with Satsuma Mandarins

    When it comes to citrus fruits, I’ve never been the biggest fan — it’s not that I don’t like oranges, there are just other fruits I like more. BUT during citrus season, when everything is at it’s peak and you can find blood oranges and ruby red grapefruits and mandarins… that’s when I get on board. Satsuma Mandarins are the best, aren’t they?!

    These two fruits together sing winter to me — they are a pop of fresh in an otherwise dull season, little gems in this wild rice salad.

    Wild rice, by the way, is another key here. It’s nuttier than white rice and gives this salad great texture and flavor. Either use leftover rice or cook the rice ahead of time. You can do this in an Instant Pot (affiliate link!) by placing 1 cup water and 1 cup wild rice in the pot and setting it to High Pressure for 28 minutes, and then allowing the pressure to release naturally.

    The whole thing is tossed with arugula (which is why it can be called a salad 😏). The bitterness of the greens are a good balance to the sweetness of the fruit and nuts. Add toasted pecans on top of that, and every bite is a combo of nutty and fresh and savory and sweet.

    Wild Rice Salad with Satsuma Mandarins

    Wild Rice Salad with Pomegranate & Satsuma Mandarins

    Published January 10, 2018 by
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    Serves: 6   |    Active Time: 20 minutes



    Ingredients:

  • 3-4 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled wild rice (leftover rice does great!)
  • 3-4 Satsuma Mandarins, peeled
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate perils 
  • 3/4 cups toasted pecans
  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • For the vinaigrette:
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Directions:

    1. Make the vinaigrette: Add all ingredients for the vinaigrette to a jar. Close jar and shake to combine.
    2. Assemble salad: In a large salad bowl, combine arugula, wild rice, mandarins, pomegranate perils, and toasted pecans.
    3. Drizzle vinaigrette over rice salad to taste, adding additional salt & pepper to your preferences. Toss and serve.

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