THE WASHINGTON POST – Smashing vegetables is nothing new, but it’s so fun that it remains thrilling every time you do it.
Smashed cucumbers are a mainstay in many Asian cuisines. With a few whacks of a cleaver, skillet, rolling pin or some other heavy device, the cucumber is broken up into irregular pieces. Some spots stay firm, while others give and soften. In those irregular crags, dressing can nestle. In Sichuan cooking, for instance, smashed cucumbers are seasoned with vinegar, garlic, and sometimes chiles or Sichuan peppercorns, and are served as a cooling side. What was once a slick cucumber becomes a rubble of various shapes, textures and flavours – all you had to do was smash and salt it.
The technique is not just for cucumbers, though. Many firm vegetables can take it. A smashed roasted potato or beet has a lot more character than a cut one – ready for, say, a green sauce, mustard vinaigrette or garlicky yogurt. Same with raw radishes and string beans, as in the recipe here.
Once broken up into bite-size rags and seasoned, the string beans are no longer squeaky. Instead, their texture is reminiscent of a snow pea – crisp but giving – and their flavour is fresh and pronounced, not at all dulled by heat. The radishes? They open up like dinosaur eggs, ready to absorb dressing.
Here, a light sauce reminiscent of ponzu is made with soy sauce, citrus and a little rice vinegar. As the vegetables sit in the dressing, they start to lightly pickle and, yes, get more tender still. You could eat the salad with your fingers from the bowl, or turn it into a meal with cooked grains, a soft egg and nori. Switch up the dressing and accompaniments with whatever sounds good or needs using up. Chances are that smashing your vegetables will feel really good and you’ll want to do it more than once.
SMASHED VEGETABLES WITH GRAINS AND CITRUS-SOY SAUCE
Active: 30 minutes. Total: 45 minutes
Smashing a crisp vegetable, such as green beans and radishes, makes for a more intriguing end product – a delightful jumble of textures, shapes and flavours. Dressing settles into nooks and crannies, while other parts stay crisp. It’s also just plain fun to do. So go ahead, smash something.
Four large eggs
One cup farro
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (may substitute lemon or tangerine juice)
Two tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
Two tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Two teaspoons lime, lemon or tangerine zest
1/2 teaspoon grated serrano or jalapeño chile pepper (optional)
Three tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or grapeseed
Eight ounces green beans
One small bunch radishes, trimmed and halved
Furikake or crumbled nori, for serving
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the eggs and cook for seven minutes. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the ice bath; keep the water at a boil. Add the farro to the water and cook until it is tender but retains some bite, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.
While the farro is cooking, in a large bowl, stir together the citrus juice, vinegar, soy sauce, citrus zest and grated chile (if using). Whisk in the oil until emulsified.
On your cutting board, using a meat pounder or rolling pin, pound the green beans until they split into irregular pieces. Place the radishes flat sides down and pound until they split into irregular pieces. Add the beans and radishes to the dressing, season with salt and stir to combine. (This mixture can sit for 30 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator.)
When ready to eat, peel the eggs and cut them in half. Add the farro, vegetables and eggs to serving plates or bowls. Drizzle some of the dressing over everything. Top with furikake and serve.
Calories: 368; Total Fat: 17g; Saturated Fat: 3g Cholesterol: 186mg; Sodium: 423mg; Carbohydrates: 43g; Dietary Fibre: 5g; Sugars: 3g; Protein: 13g.