Cucumber salad is, hands down, one of my favorite summer side dishes — and with good reason. It’s light, refreshing, and pairs well with just about any main dish. Plus, cucumbers are plentiful, fresh, and dirt cheap this time of year!
One thing is certain — no matter what type of cucumber salad you’re preparing, you should start by removing as much water from the cucumbers as possible to prevent any excess juice from watering down your dressing. I start by slicing my cucumbers as thinly as possible. You can use a sharp knife for this (just as my great-grandmother did), or you can use a mandolin (my choice) or food processor to speed up the task.
Next, sprinkle the cucumbers with salt, place them in a colander and set it in your kitchen sink to drain for about 30 minutes. Gently squeeze the cucumbers dry in a clean kitchen towel, then transfer them to your salad bowl.
The secret to the bright, tangy flavor in this Asian cucumber salad is rice vinegar. I grabbed this bottle of Marukan rice vinegar in the Asian aisle at Walmart, along with a small bottle of dark sesame oil.
A little dark sesame oil (made from toasted sesame seeds) goes a long way, packing tons of nutty flavor. Rice vinegar and dark sesame oil together, along with a little sugar and salt for balance, produce a light, yet flavorful, vinaigrette that pairs perfectly with cool, crisp cucumbers.
I like to finish the salad off with some toasted sesame seeds. I used black sesame seeds, because they look so striking against the pale cucumbers, but yellow sesame seeds will do just fine.
One last thing, marinated salads like this always improve over time. Refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes after preparing to allow the flavors to develop, and it will last at least five days in the refrigerator. Or so I’ve heard — leftovers are usually gone by the next morning in our house!
What’s your favorite cucumber salad recipe? I’d love to try something new!