Grocery shopping has its challenges. I try to strategize so that I get everything thing I need once a week. That usually means that at week’s end, all the lettuce has been consumed.
So, I plan on end-of-week salads that don’t require lettuce.
Japanese-style cucumber salad is one choice: it’s a light and refreshing side dish or starter. One of the first preparation steps involves salting the cucumber slices and letting them drain for an hour or so to extract excess water.
It’s not a difficult procedure but does require some time. When I’m in a hurry, I’ve been known to skip that step. The cucumber slices don’t absorb the dressing as well when they don’t go through the salting step, but they are nice and crunchy.
Japanese Cucumber Salad
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 1/2 hothouse cucumbers (long slender variety generally wrapped in cellophane)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (see cook’s notes)
2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil, optional
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Cook’s notes: If your rice vinegar isn’t the “seasoned” variety, add a pinch of granulated sugar along with the vinegar.
1. Toast sesame seeds in a dry small skillet on medium-high heat. Shake handle to redistribute as they start to lightly brown. When nicely browned, transfer to small bowl.
2. Remove alternate lengthwise strips of cucumber and cut into thin crosswise slices. Place in bowl and vigorously toss with salt. Place in colander in sink or over bowl. Weight with zipper-style plastic bag filled with ice. (My French grandmother used a saucer topped with a large can of tomatoes.) Allow it to drain for about 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile stir together vinegar, sesame oil and pepper flakes in medium bowl. Rinse cucumber slices with cold water and pat dry with paper towels or clean kitchen towel. Toss cucumbers with vinegar mixture and sesame seeds. Serve or refrigerate up to 1 day.