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Elements / One ingredient, one dish

They are called "seedless" cucumbers, but that's not strictly true.

The seeds are still there, just greatly diminished by selective breeding. Other genetic nudges spur the English seedless cucumber vines to sport fruit over a foot long, cucumbers that may even cause fewer burps among their eaters.

English seedless cucumbers and similar varieties are often used in Middle Eastern salads and yogurt dishes, where the green of their peel adds color to the dish. They also are fixtures in the classic English tea snack, cucumber sandwiches.

With their delicate skins, English seedless cucumbers are generally grown in greenhouses.

Wax off: If your cucumbers aren't from the farm down the road, chances are they've been waxed to help slow the natural loss of moisture, and they often are peeled before eating. English seedless cucumbers tend to arrive in stores encased in plastic to avoid drying out. Without the wax, they're chosen for dishes when cucumber peel is desired.

Here, from Saveur magazine, fresh ginger root turned into delicate matchsticks adds a spike of exotic flavor to cucumber. Squeezing out extra liquid helps avoid diluting the pickling liquid, so don't be shy about applying the sort of vigorous pressure that gave this dish its name.

> Smashed Cucumbers with Ginger

1 English seedless cucumber, or 2 seeded

Kosher salt

1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

Cut cucumber into irregular chunks about 2 inches long and 1/4 -inch thick. Transfer cucumber slices to a medium bowl, coat with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and set aside at room temperature to extract excess liquid and let them soften, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, julienne ginger; transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Drain and gently squeeze cucumbers to extract more liquid, then pat dry with a towel. Add cucumbers to the bowl of ginger along with sugar, vinegar, sesame oil and garlic. Toss to combine and season with kosher salt, to taste.

Let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to come together. Serves 4.


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