What We’re Cooking This Week: Spicy Smashed Cucumbers

Craggy bits of the tender cuke hold on to dressing better than smooth slices. You’ll also serve these chilled—perfect for the heat wave.

Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.

Cooks in Asia have been smashing cucumbers forever, and the broken bits were typically dressed with rice vinegar and sesame oil and sometimes soy and garlic. While the smashing part adds a novel approach to your food prep repertoire, it also creates irregular, craggy bits of the tender cuke that hold on to dressing better than smooth slices.

While any cucumber can be smashed, the violence works best with the thinner skins of the so-called burpless varieties, usually labeled English, Persian, or Japanese. I don’t know anyone who complains of excessive burping from eating cukes, but these have lower levels of a chemical compound called cucurbitacin. It’s found on the skin, and some folks believe it leads to burpiness. But the more common slicers found in produce sections have thick skins that are waxed to prolong storage life, and I think they’re too tough.

While you can smash each cuke individually with the flat side of a heavy knife, it’s easier to put a bunch in a plastic bag and use a larger, blunt force object. This also keeps bits of cucumber debris from flying around the kitchen. Once smashed, I like to chop the cukes into more bite-sized pieces, and then they’re ready for your favorite dressing.

This spicy salad mimics Cochon’s, my favorite New Orleans restaurant. The kitchen there uses a dressing spiked with a jarred Hunan-style chile sauce called Heavenly Chef, but most of us already have a bottle of Sriracha in the refrigerator, and it provides a similar capsaicin heat.

Spicy Smashed Cucumbers

5-6 Persian-style cucumbers*

1/2 teaspoon kosher-style salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

6-8 sprigs of mint, chopped

1 tablespoon Sriracha-style chile sauce

*or any burpless variety, enough to provide about 4 cups of smashed pieces

Trim any stems from the cucumbers, place them in a plastic produce bag, and smash them with something heavy (a small cast iron skillet, rolling pin, empty wine bottle, or similar blunt force object). Dump the smashed cukes onto a cutting board and use a large knife to cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Transfer to a colander placed over a bowl, toss with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and let drain for 20 minutes (the slightly salty cucumber water is good for cocktails, try it with a little gin). Transfer the drained cucumbers to a bowl and toss with the rest of the ingredients. Taste and add more salt as needed. Serve chilled.