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Like melon, tomatoes, and many of summer’s other stars, cucumbers are extremely good on their own. With just a little salt, they’re a crunchy, cooling snack — like the Popsicle of the vegetable world. But what if you smashed, sliced, shaved, or — dare we say it — cooked them? What if you matched them with punchy partners, like turmeric or jalapeño, or rich sidekicks, like yogurt or coconut oil? The cucumber is a lot more versatile than it lets on. See all that cukes can do for you and your summertime potlucks, barbecues, and 3 p.m. snack breaks with these five-ingredient recipes from around the globe.
5 (5-Ingredient) Cucumber Salads
- The ingredients: These recipes call for five ingredients each (not including the basic pantry staples of salt, pepper, and oil). They are inspired by flavors found around the world, including India, China, and the Mediterranean.
- The method: Instead of simply cutting cucumbers into rounds, we’re encouraging you to smash them, shave them, and even cook them to see just how versatile they can be.
Smashed Cucumbers with Turmeric, Coconut, and Peanuts
Smash 4 Persian or mini seedless cucumbers or 1 small English hothouse cucumber (about 12 ounces) with the bottom of a heavy pan, then tear into bite-sized pieces. In a medium bowl, toss cucumbers with 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside for at least 5 minutes or up to an hour; drain and transfer to serving plate or bowl.
Coarsely chop 1/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add peanuts; cook until they turn slightly darker brown, 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut flakes, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, and a few generous grinds pepper and cook, stirring, until coconut is lightly toasted, about 30 seconds. Immediately pour peanut-coconut mixture on top of cucumbers. Season generously with salt and pepper and serve right away.
Blistered Cucumbers with Spicy Seeds
Cut 4 Persian cucumbers in half lengthwise. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt; set aside. Toast 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds in a cast iron skillet over medium heat until lightly golden, 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds to the skillet. Toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes, then transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind until the seeds are just coarsely cracked. Transfer to the bowl of sesame seeds; add 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes.
Wipe out the skillet and pat the cucumbers dry. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the cucumbers cut-side down and cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cut each piece in half lengthwise, then serve with the spicy seeds for dunking or sprinkling over.
Shaved Cucumber and Fennel Salad with Olives and Feta
In a medium bowl, stir together 1/2 cup pitted, torn Castelvetrano olives, 1/2 cup cubed feta cheese, and 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Season with black pepper. Finely chop 1/4 cup fennel fronds from 1 large fennel bulb and stir into the olives and feta. Trim the fennel bulb. Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, shave the fennel and 3 Persian cucumbers lengthwise into very thin slices.
In a medium bowl, toss fennel and cucumbers with the finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon (about 2 teaspoons lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice). Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, plate the fennel-cucumber mixture in alternating layers with the feta-olive mixture so you get a little of everything in each bite.
Cut 3 Persian cucumbers in half lengthwise, then cut in half crosswise. Cut into thin strips. Thinly slice 3 scallions on the diagonal. Finely chop 1 jalapeño (seed first if desired). Transfer all three to a large bowl. Trim off the tough stems of 1 bunch cilantro. Cut the leaves and tender stems into 1-inch lengths, then add to the bowl. Add 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons vegetable or toasted sesame oil, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Toss with your hands and season to taste.
Buttermilk Cucumber Salad
Thinly slice 2 cups cucumbers; any kind will work. Peel fully or in stripes first if desired. Peel and thinly slice a shallot until you get 3 tablespoons shallot rings. Transfer cucumbers and shallots to a colander, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, toss, and let drain for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. In a medium bowl, stir together 1/4 cup Greek yogurt and 1/4 cup buttermilk. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in the cucumbers and shallots and 1/4 cup torn or chopped tender herbs, such as dill, tarragon, basil, parsley or dill.
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