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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    Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

    Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

    Last week, I told you all that I bought The Food of Morocco, and have been on a Moroccan food kick. The kick continues today… with this Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce.

    There are already a lot of eggplant recipes on this blog, and I know it’s not everyone’s favorite vegetable. This blog post is really more about the sauce, which you could use over fish, grilled meat, or roasted veggies (and don’t stop there). Or, eggplant.

    It struck me, while I was adding all of the ingredients for this Charmoula to the blender, that it’s just like so many other herb-based sauces found around the world. It combines oil with an acid (lemon juice), garlic, salt, and pepper, and heaps of herbs. In this case, cilantro and parsley. The process reminded me of making a South American Chimichurri, or the garlicky dipping oil used in Ecuador, or even pesto.

    It is not so much their similarity that surprises me, but the idea that diverse people, strung out across the world, all arrived at a similar solution to saucing food. Oil, herbs, garlic. I’m not a historian, though a quick look at the Wiki history of Chimichurri sauce suggests it was brought over by Spanish immigrants. Were all of these sauces another way of making the flavors immigrants were familiar with in a new environment, with new ingredients? Perhaps. (I, by the way, adored this essay on how immigrants assimilate through food).

    Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce
    Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

    The other thing that struck me about Charmoula was it’s flavor, which I found sharper and stronger than chimichurri or pesto. I would probably eat a spoonful of pesto straight. At least, I would definitely lick the spatula. And maybe I would with charmoula as well, but it’s flavor is not as sweet, or creamy — it will wake you up a bit! It’s salty and tart and herbaceous. Which is why it’s a perfect finishing sauce, the final touch on roasted eggplant that wakes it all up. A drizzle over a fillet of fish that brings everything together. The “zing.”

    Pulling from Mediterranean flavors, I also added a drizzle of tahini to this eggplant. It’s richness is a good counterpart to charmoula, and the charmoula cuts through the richness of the tahini. Eggplant — we'll, I’d say it’s just the carrying vessel, but others might disagree.

    Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

    Roasted Eggplant with Charmoula Sauce

    Published March 12, 2019 by
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    Serves: 4   |    Active Time: 45 minutes



    Ingredients:


    For the charmoula:
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground paprika
  • Dash cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup packed parsley leaves

  • For the eggplant:
  • 2 eggplants
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • For serving: 1/4 cup tahini

  • Directions:

    1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
    2. Slice stem from eggplant and then cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds. Spread out on a baking sheet (or two) in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt, and allow eggplant to sit for 5-10 minutes. The salt with help reduce bitterness.
    3. Brush eggplant with olive oil. Flip eggplant and brush the second side. Place in oven and bake 30-35 minutes, until eggplant is soft all the way through, and is golden/brown on the edges.
    4. While eggplant cooks, combine all ingredients for charmoula in a food processor or blender, and pulse until a sauce forms. I like my sauce to still have some texture to it, so I stop before everything is puréed, but this is just my preference.
    5. Serve: place roasted eggplant on a plate, and drizzle with several spoonfuls of charmoula and several spoonfuls of tahini. Eat warm.
    6. Note: you will likely have leftover charmoula, which can be used as a sauce for fish, or grilled meats and vegetables.

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    Crunchy Cabbage & Peanut Slaw

    Crunchy Cabbage & Peanut Slaw

    As readers of my monthly newsletter know, I was that girl that brought a salad to a Super Bowl watching party. Yes. (But also, someone should be that person. The salad is always gone at the end of the night--or halfway through the night - and everyone is always glad to at least have a little freshness on their plates between tasting different dips and chips). 

    Where this crunchy cabbage peanut slaw began: I am a pack-my-own lunch kinda gal, but some days getting out of the office just to walk around is really the best medicine. It was a day like that when I wandered to Natural Grocers (a few blocks away), and picked up a prepared salad -- I was craving fresh veggies. The gulp of fresh air was nice, but the salad was dry and pretty boring. It was the idea of the salad that inspired me though: a simple cabbage slaw with a peanut dressing. 

    Crunchy Cabbage & Peanut Slaw
    Crunchy Cabbage & Peanut Slaw

    So I went home and dreamed up a better version, which is still a simple salad but it calls for a LOT of zesty peanut dressing -- a dressing far zestier and more addicting than the original. (So addicting in fact, that it also makes a very good dip for crudités).

    You'll notice right away that this dressing calls for a semi-long list of ingredients. They are (almost) all shelf-stable pantry staples, and despite the list of ingredients the magic of this sauce is in how it's made: plop everything in the blender and go. That's it. This is where I tell you: do not fear that list of ingredients, embrace it. It is worth it. And by the time you've checked to see if you have everything you need, you're only 30 seconds away from finishing the dressing. 

    Crunchy Cabbage & Peanut Slaw

    Crunchy Cabbage & Peanut Slaw

    Published February 19, 2019 by
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    Serves: 4   |    Active Time: 20 minutes



    Ingredients:


    For the peanut dressing (yields about 1 cup):
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons water to thin dressing, as needed

  • For the slaw:
  • 3-4 cups finely shredded green cabbage
  • 4-5 green onions, white and dark green parts removed
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Optional additional add-ins we also love: 1 cup chopped bok choy, 1/2 cup chopped sugar snap peas, 1/4 cup minced Thai basil

  • Directions:

    1. Place all ingredients for the dressing, aside from the water, in a blender and purée until smooth. Then, add water as needed to thin dressing as needed (based on preferences).
    2. Sliced green onions and add to a salad bowl with cabbage and cilantro. Toss to combine. Top with sesame seeds and peanuts.
    3. Drizzle with about 1/3 to 1/2 cup peanut sauce, or to taste.

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