GARLICKY SMASHED CUCUMBER PICKLES
MAKES 2 CUPS
Pickles are everyday food in much of Asian cuisine—especially in Japan, where nary a meal goes by without them. This dish comes together in minutes once the cucumbers are briefly bathed in a brine of salt, vinegar, and garlic (but of course they can be pickled for longer to intensify the flavors). I love how fresh and raw this simple dish tastes, thanks especially to the huge dose of garlic. The longer you brine the pickles, the more they will soften, but the heat of the garlic will also intensify. This is a dish you can snack on or pair with practically anything—either as a tangy counterpart to a richer meal or as a spicy, salty pickle to add flavor to a bowl of rice.
8 Persian or Japanese cucumbers, unpeeled, cut in half lengthwise, then diagonally into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon salt
8 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil
Place the cucumber pieces on a cutting board. Smash them lightly using the side of a broad knife blade, such as a Chinese cleaver. Place the smashed cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes; then drain off the accumulated liquid.
Add the garlic, mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil to the cucumbers, and stir to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture mellow in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour. Served chilled.
Note: Although most pickles are brined for longer periods of time in order to produce a sour-tasting lactic acid, a quick soak is all you need to make this fresh dish.