Saturday, September 11, 2021

Smashed Cucumber Salad from @MysteryMacRae


How often do you get to make something for supper that needs to be “smashed, banged, and whacked”? Lots of fun! This salad is also a nice surprise to the taste buds—crisp cucumbers with the vibrant flavors of garlic, fresh ginger, toasted sesame, and red pepper. We’ve eaten it often this summer and exclaimed over it every time, while making it and eating it. If you aren’t fond of red pepper, reduce the amount or try leaving it out.

Tip: regular cucumbers can’t be substituted for English cucumbers in this recipe. The skins are too thick, they have more seeds, and tend to be waterier.

Smashed Cucumber Salad

(adapted from The Milk Street Cookbook by Christopher Kimball)


2 pounds English cucumbers (about 2 large)

4 teaspoons white sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt (kosher salt isn’t as salty as regular table salt)

4 teaspoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1 medium garlic clove smashed and peeled (we’re garlic fiends; I use 2 or 3)

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (I use olive oil)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (ours doesn’t say toasted on the front label, but the back says it’s made with toasted sesame seeds)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Cilantro leaves, sliced scallions, and toasted sesame seeds to garnish


To make:

Trim ends of cucumbers, then halve lengthwise. Place, cut side down, on cutting board. Press a rolling pin or the flat side of a broad knife against the cucumbers and hit (smash, bang, whack!) with the heel of your hand. Repeat along the length of the cucumbers until they crack. Pull the sections apart. The cookbook calls for scraping and discarding the seeds. I didn’t. Cut into ¾-inch pieces and put in a large bowl.


In a small bowl, combine sugar and salt. Spoon 5 teaspoons of the mixture over cucumbers and toss. Transfer cucumbers to a colander, set the colander over the large bowl. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes, tossing occasionally (I forgot to toss at this point).


Stir vinegar and garlic into remaining sugar-salt mixture. Set aside.


In a small skillet over medium-low, combine grape seed or olive oil and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until sizzling and pepper flakes begin to darken, 2 to 4 minutes. (I go with the time. The flakes don’t seem to sizzle and they’re already dark.) Strain oil. Discard solids*.


Remove and discard garlic* from vinegar mixture. Stir in soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger. (This is the dressing.) Transfer drained cucumbers to a kitchen towel and pat dry. In a bowl, stir together cucumbers and dressing, then stir in half the chili oil.


Serve drizzled with more chili oil and sprinkled with cilantro, scallions, and sesame seeds (optional).


Smashed Cucumber Salad tastes great with fresh fruit

*We’ve thought about saving the discarded red pepper flakes and smashed garlic in a jar in the refrigerator to use in something else. Maybe spicy garlic toast?


Audio deal! Thistles and Thieves and Heather and Homicide, books 3 and 4 in the Highland Bookshop Mysteries are featured specials at Chirp Books, through 9/19/21, for $2.99 and $4.99 respectively. 

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the author of the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. As Margaret Welch, she writes books for Annie’s Fiction. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she’s a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Visit Molly on Facebook and Pinterest and connect with her on Twitter  or Instagram.



  1. I still have oodles of cukes in my garden, and this looks like a delicious way to use them. Thanks, Molly!

  2. Wonderful! Let me know how you like it.

  3. Perfect: mild aerobic exercise while preparing dinner!

    1. Ha! I didn't think of it that way. I will next time, though.

    2. It's those little tricks. Like broken cookies have fewer calories because they leak out of the breaks. And M&Ms are good for you because they green ones are like veggies, the reds are like tomatoes, etc!

  4. This looks like fun! And it makes a change for the same old lettuce salad.

  5. I love this, especially your idea of serving it with fresh fruit. Thanks, Molly!