Smashed Cucumber Salad

In my youth I never really had many female friends. I was pretty boy crazy from the get-go, complete with chasing on the playground and having crushes on my older brother’s friends. Even into high school and college I connected more frequently with men, and I’m not entirely sure why. I was never a girly girl, but I wouldn’t necessarily have considered myself one of the guys – I disliked sports and only really enjoyed playing games centered on Mario characters.

It wasn’t until I got older and went through the second dramatic breakup of my life that I turned to women for support. The more time passed, the more I found myself surrounded by women until one day they were the majority of my social group. Working in food it has been pretty rare to be surrounded by women, so it was refreshing to say the least.

Last winter I found myself working alongside a group of incredible women. It ended up being a short-lived liner note in my career, but it shifted my paradigm on the entire first part of my resume and showed me how empowering it can be to work with inspiring females. This recipe comes from the head chef of that kitchen, by way of Flushing, Queens. Not too long ago, another friend of mine was talking about a similar dish at a renowned noodle restaurant and I rattled off my chef’s recipe in a text. His response was “Holy shit, you have to put this on your blog.”

So, here it is. Very simple, but you have to taste as you go and use your cook’s intuition. If you don’t like cilantro try swapping it for mint and/or scallions. No peanuts? Try sesame seeds. This is typically served solo as a side but I ended up tossing it into some soba noodles with other veggies. It’d also be great on top of some wilted greens or with a side of rice. Go nuts.

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Smashed Cucumber Salad

3 Kirby cucumbers
3-4 stalks of cilantro, washed and leaves taken off the stems
1/3 cup peanuts
Chiles – to taste, I used 3 Calabrian chiles in olive oil because I had them and that’s what Chef used. You could also use Thai bird chiles or red Fresno chiles, or small diced red pepper if you prefer no heat at all
1 Tbsp sesame oil
Splash of rice vinegar
Salt

Trim the ends of the cucumbers and cut them in half lengthwise. Chop the cucumbers into 1 inch pieces, and using the flat of your knife, smash each piece.
Put the pieces in a small-medium bowl, discard the pulp that gets smashed out. Salt heavily. I mean heavily. Almost 3 tablespoons of salt. You’re essentially making a quick salt pickle. Salt the cukes and then toss. Let it sit while you pick the cilantro, slice the chiles, and crush the peanuts.
Drain the cucumbers and return to the bowl. Add sesame oil, a splash of rice vinegar, cilantro, chiles, and peanuts. Toss to combine, then enjoy!
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