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smashed fetaHot weather makes my ambitions rather simple when it comes to meals. Something slightly watery but still crunchy always makes me smile. I think that is why watermelon will always make a few appearances during summer tho I buy it on the crisp rather than overly ripe side.

Right now, we are seeing lovely Persian cucumbers at the small international food store where I like to pick up feta, okra, eggplants, olives and lavash. During the summer months their outdoor bins spill out into the parking lot and Thursdays and Fridays they are terrifically busy, with a smile and a greeting no matter how packed they are with customers. I figure more than half the customers are immigrants or first or second-generation folks from all over the Mediterranean. I can usually find what I need for my own family’s Greek traditions as well as most anything I need to explore adjacent cuisines. I like the young woman at the cheese counter, who I trust to give me an honest appraisal on the saltiness of the feta (this week they offered Greek, Bulgarian and French, all from large brined containers and just how I like it).  I also found the thicker fillo pastry I am playing with on a quest to try a new way with my spanikopita cravings.

But because we just went through several days of too-hot-for-me weather, first I needed some crunchy cucumbers. The tender little Persian ones fit the bill. You want to be very picky, blemish free skins that are firm to the touch. I also had a nice block of fresh feta, and some sun-dried tomatoes. When local vine-ripened tomatoes become available, they will be my first choice, but for a little intense flavour, sun-dried ones work in this salad as well as they do in kale salads.

variation 1 with feta and sun-dried tomatoes

serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

6 small cucumbers, washed and ends trimmed
2-3 ounces feta, crumbled roughly in chunks
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes
sesame seeds to top (optional)
lemon juice and olive oil to dress, fresh pepper

I find placing the cucumbers in a quart or gallon bag, not too full, then zippered shut is the tidiest way to break them up, rapping the outside of the bag with a rolling-pin until they crack into nice pieces. Sometimes you need to use a knife if the pieces are large, then tip the chunks and juicy pieces into the salad bowl. Add the cheese, tomatoes and dressing, tossing gently so as to not liquefy the feta.

Further dressings: you can play with rice vinegar and  black sesame seeds, and maybe a bit of miso, no cheese. Ginger and rice vinegar can also play together well.

smashed v15.2VARIATION 2 with Daikon and carrot pickle

SERVES 2 AS A MAIN DISH, 4 AS A SIDE

6 small cucumbers, washed and ends trimmed
equal amount by volume of quick-pickled daikon and carrots
black and/or white sesame seeds to sprinkle on top

Smash the cucumbers as before, and then toss with the pickled daikon and carrots. I had made a batch for a side dish or to use with Banh mi using a rice vinegar quick pickle , which I also used as a dressing. You might add a little sesame oil if you wish, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.