The way an ingredient is sliced may have a significant impact on the finished product. During the spring of this past year, I went through a snap pea phase in which I cooked Melissa Clark’s easy snap pea salad on a near-constant basis. Slicing entire fresh pods of snap peas allowed me to better enjoy their sugary, juicy, and slightly starchy bite.
When you’ve been preparing an item in the same method for a time, even the tiniest change might have a significant impact on the final product. Take raw zucchini. I used to produce long ribbons by dragging a vegetable peeler down the length of them to create a sheer effect. The resulting ribbons were lovely, but they exuded a lot of water, which made the dressing less concentrated.
The raw zucchini salad that is prepared by Alexa Weibel begins with considerably thicker pieces of zucchini, which she refers to as batons. The batons are then coated in a garlicky caper vinaigrette and mixed with pecorino, chopped herbs, and almonds. It’s a really little tweak, but it makes a world of difference: I can get the most out of raw zucchini without it being immediately soggy if I make this alteration. The salad is delicious on its own, or you can combine it with some warm spaghetti or cooked grains and flavour it with a little bit of olive oil and lemon zest.
And if it’s been a while, don’t forget the cooling effect that stomping on a few cucumbers may have on a warm day. Smack the vegetable with the flat side of a cleaver or a thick rolling pin to cause the skin to crack and the cucumber to break up into a few sections. Next, chop the portions into pieces that have rough edges, craggy surfaces, and a pleasing crunch to them.
You can either pile them on top of Ali Slagle’s grain salad after draining and chilling them in the refrigerator, as a variation of pai huang gua, which is often translated as crushed cucumber salad, or you can create a version of pai huang gua by just dressing them and making them into a salad. The creamy cucumber salad at Superiority Burger, which is drizzled with hot honey and builds on the same approach, is one of my favourite things in the world.
One other suggestion for you to consider today is to grate your tofu. A block of hard tofu may be transformed into a particularly light and fluffy pile of shreds by using the big setting on a grater rather than by chopping it into pieces with nice, smooth edges or even by crushing it in your fingers. These shreds will sauté wonderfully with mushrooms and edamame in Melissa Clark’s speedy and extremely tasty stir-fry if you let it drain unattended for some time (or press it, if you prefer), and it only takes a few minutes total.