Wednesday, 21 May 2008

A few favourite salads: Smashed cucumber salad with sesame dressing

Other than the Japanese herb shiso, or perilla, there is nothing especially unusual in this salad, but I really get a kick out of the way it's prepared: by bashing away at your cucumber with the handle end of the knife! In other words, stress relief and something yummy at the end of it. I should charge double!

Perilla is a Japanese herb that has a strong, clean taste that you either love or hate. I love it, but the Young Man won't have a bar of it, so it gets left off his portion. If you can't find perilla, you could substitute basil, in which case, perhaps a sweet wine could substitute for the mirin.

In Japan's hot and sticky summer months, this super simple salad, with its cooling cucumbers and shiso, really hits the spot.

This recipe is also translated and adapted from one found in this Japanese book.

Smashed cucumber salad with sesame dressing

3 Japanese cucumbers, or 300 g of other kinds
1 tomato
5 shiso (perilla) leaves
1 tbsp sesame paste (tahini is fine)
1 tbsp vinegar
1/2 tbsp mirin

1 Smash the cucumbers with the handle of a knife or a rolling pin into rough, uneven pieces. Cut tomato into bite-sized chunks. Roll the perilla (or basil) leaves together and slice into long, thin strips. Slice down the middle of the roll of strips to shorten them.

2 Make dressing by shaking sesame paste, vinegar and mirin in a clean jar. Pour over the vegetables, toss, and top with shiso strips.


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