Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad (low-fat)

Photo from NYT Cooking
A little technique transforms a simple cucumber into something incredibly delectable. Two versions:
NYT Cooking Recipe:

Ingredients

  • About 2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers like English or Persian (8 to 10 mini cucumbers, 4 medium-size or 2 large greenhouse)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cucumbers
  • 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, plus more for cucumbers (I skip this)
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Small handful whole cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Directions

Step 1. Rinse cucumbers and pat dry. Cut crosswise into pieces about 4 inches long. Cut each piece in half lengthwise.

Step 2. On a work surface, place several cucumbers cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top the cucumber and smash down lightly with your other hand. The skin will begin to crack, the flesh will break down and the seeds will separate. Repeat until the whole piece is smashed. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces, leaving the seeds behind.

Step 3. Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss with a big pinch of salt and a big pinch of sugar. Place a plastic bag filled with ice on top of the cucumbers to serve as a weight and place the strainer over a bowl. Let drain 15 to 30 minutes on the counter, or in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.

Step 4. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and rice vinegar. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in sesame oil and soy sauce.

When ready to serve, shake cucumbers well to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with grapeseed or olive oil and toss. Add half the dressing, half the garlic and the red pepper flakes to taste, and toss. Keep adding dressing until cucumbers are well coated but not drowned. Taste and add more pepper flakes and garlic if needed. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro and sesame seeds.

Cooks Illustrated Recipe

Photo from Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients

  • 2 English cucumbers
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (or substitute a mixture of 2 teaspoons balsamic and 2 teaspoons red wine vinegars)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, pressed or minced finely
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Directions

Step 1. Rinse and pat dry the cucumbers. Cut the ends and then cut them into thirds. Place in a ziplock bag. Gently pound or press the cucumbers just until they crack open into 3-4 spheres.

Step 2. Place the cucumbers into a colander. Break the pieces into bite sized pieces. Sprinkle 1.5 teaspoons salt over the cucumbers and let them sit and drain 15-30 minutes.

Step 3. Place the cucumbers into a bowl and discard juices.

Step 4. Mix the vinegar with the garlic and allow to marinate for 5-15 minutes.

Step 5. To the vinegar and garlic mixture, add the soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar.

Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and mix well. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

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