Hot Weather First Aid Kit: Smashed Cucumber Salad

July 26, 2018

I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of the nation is friggin’ MELTING right now? Looking at my Facebook feed, I think I can confidently say something like that (and Jesus, you poor suckers is Texas and Arizona. Whoa.)

We came back from chilly Alaska to sizzling temperatures in the Rocky Mountains. We also had the added misery of humidity, which we don’t usually experience in this part of the country. The heat wasn’t pleasant but the humidity? That just flattened me. I had the energy level of a throw rug. I can’t do the muggy stuff. Again, shout-out to you Texans and Floridians and Southerners because I don’t know how y’all do it. You are made of titanium and sweet tea.

Once I got my post-vacation unpacking over with and the (many) loads of laundry underway, it was time to think about feeding our sweaty selves. Heating up the kitchen was not going to happen. I knew that from the get-go. I also knew that somewhat healthy fare was in order, because some of us are suffering from a case of Cruise Ship Caboose. We’re in penance mode over here. Dieting suckity-sucks but at least we’re awash in all of that summery fresh produce right now. It takes the sting out of it a little. I find it much more arduous to stick to a healthy eating plan in the winter months; there’s only so much soup a girl can slurp before she starts to feel like a character in a Dickens novel. Thank goodness for summertime fruits and vegetables that look gorgeous and almost beg to be eaten. I waddled my post-cruise arse off to the grocery store and filled my cart with the good stuff, in every shape and color.

When it’s truly an oven outside, I gravitate most toward things like cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes and peaches. Those suckers are naturally packed full of water, and when served cold, they’re incredibly refreshing. Eating them almost feels like that old Nestea commercial, where the guy falls back into a swimming pool (I do realize I am seriously dating myself by even mentioning this piece of nostalgia.)

I’ve seen several different recipes for smashed cucumber salads in food magazines and cookbooks lately–it seems like smashing cucumbers is the thing to do right now. I’m always a little behind on the food trends (see above cultural reference to Nestea…I’m old, people) but I was perfectly willing to try smashing the bejeezus out of a bunch of cucumbers on a summer afternoon because it sounded like messy fun. And it is fun. And messy. The theory behind smashed cucumber salads is that by cracking cukes open with a mallet or a rolling pin (as opposed to slicing neatly) you achieve two things: you get rid of a lot of the pesky seeds and you expose a lot of surface area of the vegetable. Both of those things are conducive to those cucumbers being able to soak up whatever you dress them with, resulting in a tastier salad.

I’m not sure about the soundness of the theory, but I can attest to the deliciousness of this salad. It is so, so good. This recipe, from Deb Perelman (of Smitten Kitchen fame) is an odd duck of a recipe but boy, does it pack some flavor. The dressing is loaded with good things like sake and rice vinegar and sesame oil but the real kicker is the flourish at the end–a generous sprinkling of nose-tingling Wasabi peas and salty roasted peanuts. This is basically the culinary equivalent of fairy dust. I’m not even kidding. Don’t even think of omitting the fairy dust, people. It transforms this salad into something altogether magical.

Magic. Salad.


It’s both fiery and cool, light and sustaining. And addictive as Hell. I ate this salad for lunch and immediately wanted it for dinner. And lunch the next day. Then I had to get in the car and go get some more cucumbers, because I knew I wasn’t done. I also got the idea (because I’m a genius) to throw in some cooked shrimp and/or poached chicken when I wanted to make this wonderment into a meal. It’s a solid plan.

Seriously, you’re gonna love this thing. Especially if you’re suffering from heat-induced misery because aside from smashing the cucumbers, this salad is dead easy. And let’s face it, smashing cucumbers isn’t that hard and is actually quite cathartic, so if you’ve got a good mad going, all the better. Bash the devilment out of your pores by making cucumber salad. You’ll make yourself feel better and get lunch out of the bargain.

Stay cool, ladies and gents. This summer is a sizzzzzzzler. Best to stay indoors. With some salad.






Smashed Cucumber Salad with Salted Peanuts and Wasabi Peas

makes 4 servings (unless you are me. If you are me, this makes 2 servings)

recipe courtesy of Deb Perelman


2 large English hothouse cucumbers, or just shy of a pound**

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sake

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

hot pepper flakes, to taste

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro (optional)

2 tablespoons salted roasted peanuts, crushed or coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons wasabi peas, crushed


Cut the cucumbers in half crosswise, then split lengthwise. Put on an apron or an old t-shirt you don’t care about, because you’re about to get messy. On a solid work surface, lay the cucumbers cut side down. Bash them with the back of a meat pounder or a rolling pin until the skin tears open and the seeds largely separate. Shake them to dislodge any seeds hanging on and tear them into rough 1-to-2-inch pieces. Toss the cucumbers with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 2 tablespoons sake. Place the cucumber mixture in a colander set over a bowl. Let the cucumbers drain for 15 minutes at room temperature or (recommended) for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Discard the liquid in the bowl. Wipe the bowl out and place cucumbers back in the bowl. Pour in the rice vinegar, sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of sake, a sprinkle of salt and the red pepper flakes. Toss and taste for seasoning. Add the chopped herbs, if desired and scatter the peanuts and wasabi peas over the top. Eat immediately (this doesn’t keep well as the cukes get pretty slippery and the peas lose their crunch).


**if your store has them, the thin-skinned little Persian cucumbers are genius in this salad. Get about two pounds of them and substitute for the English ones. You won’t have to bash them quite so forcefully.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sherri August 5, 2018 at 8:33 am

Looks so good!


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