It’s possible that I needed an outlet for my frustration (the lazy days of summer are over, after all!), but when I read about the trend of smashing cucumbers, I couldn’t wait to pull out my kitchen mallet and make a delicious mess. Bashing cucumbers turns out to be a great trick – creating craggy surfaces for dressing to hide in makes for a much more flavor-packed and texturally interesting salad, and you can’t deny the fun of wielding a hammer in the kitchen. The sesame dressing is a rich counterpoint to cucumber’s cool, slightly bitter crunch, and you’ll fall in love with the Sichuan chile oil – I’ve been drizzling it on chicken and stir-fried greens all week. If you want to make a meal out of this dish, toss in some thinly sliced grilled steak and serve steamed jasmine rice on the side.
- 3 small-medium cucumbers
- ¼ c sesame tahini
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 T rice wine vinegar, plus a splash extra for drizzling
- 2 T toasted sesame oil
- ¼ c grapeseed, peanut, or canola oil, plus a splash extra for drizzling
- pinch salt
- pinch sugar
- 2 T chile oil (recipe follows)
- 1 small handful cilantro, coarsely chopped
- 1 T sesame seeds, lightly toasted
- ¾ c grapeseed, peanut, or canola oil
- 2 star anise
- ½ small cinnamon stick
- ½ t Sichuan peppercorns
- 3 T crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 t salt
- ¼ t sugar
- In a small bowl, combine tahini, lime juice, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice), and a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Stir until smooth and set aside.
- Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then cut on the bias into 2” chunks. Place the pieces on a cutting board and bash them with a kitchen mallet or a small, heavy skillet.
- Place the pieces in a bowl and toss with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of rice wine vinegar and grapeseed oil (or oil of your choice).
- Place on a serving platter and drizzle generously with tahini vinaigrette and chile oil to taste.
- Top with cilantro and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Chili Oil Preparation:
- Pour oil into a small saucepan and add star anise, cinnamon stick, and Sichuan peppercorns.
- Toast spices over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove spices with a slotted spoon and discard.
- Allow oil to cool for 5-10 minutes, then add red pepper flakes.
- Toast over low heat again until oil is fragrant and smells toasted. Remove from heat and stir in salt and sugar until dissolved.
- Store in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.