Hannah Kaminsky is:
- Prolific, with five, count ‘em five, bestselling cookbooks including her newest, Real Food, Really Fast.
- Persevering, with over a decade blogging at BitterSweet .
- Talented, not just in recipe development and food photography, but in knitting, crocheting and crafting adorable things —activities requiring so much patience and precision, they just strike me as punishing.
- Petite, professional and demure.
About item #4 — it’s true, but that’s not all of it. Hannah possesses hidden depths. There’s a reason she named her blog BitterSweet. Though sweet-natured, she harbors the occasional dark impulse. Take this recipe headnote from Real Food, Really Fast: “Ever have such a frustrating day that you just feel as though you could just beat someone up?”
This part of Hannah does not come out much in her blog, but I like her for it. I also like that she channels such dark impulses into positive energy. Rather whale on some unfortunate person, she crushes cukes. It takes only minutes (and we mean less than 10), gives this mild, quenching vegetable incredible texture and is a safe and effective way to take out your aggression, too. Hannah goes even further, adding za’atar, a soulful Middle Eastern spice blend of sesame, thyme and sumac. Za’atar graces everything it touches, including this salad. It’s the ticket for summer.
Other things to like about Hannah:
- the way she dotes on her new puppy, Luka.
- Her recipes work. That scored points me with from the get-go.
- Self-taught in the kitchen, Hannah is generous about sharing the kitchen hacks she’s discovered through experience. She puts the real in Real Food, Really Fast.
Za’atar Smashed CucumbersEver have such a frustrating day that you feel as though you could just beat someone up? Before things get too violent, head into the kitchen to take that aggression on your food, instead of your coworkers! Roughly bashing cucumbers rather than merely slicing them actually serves a very flavorful purpose, rather than just being a satisfying way to blow off some steam. The uneven nooks and crannies created by forcing them to split open allows them to more readily absorb dressing, whereas smooth cuts yield slick surfaces that let it roll right off. This technique is typically seen in Asian cuisine, paired with hot spices to contrast with the cooling effect of chilled cucumbers, but I love going a more Mediterranean route and hitting an herbal, savory note with fresh za’atar instead. That said, consider this a template for any sort of seasoning blend you’d prefer, from Creole seasoning to yellow curry powder. I have yet to find anything in my spice rack that clashes with the humble cucurbit!
- 1 pound Persian cucumbers
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds toasted
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme minced, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves minced or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons ground sumac
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Take a few cucumbers at a time and lay them on your cutting board. Place the blade of a wide knife (a butcher’s knife is especially well suited to the task) on top and use your palm to carefully whack at it, much as you would smash garlic into paste. Continue hitting until the cucumbers split their skins. If you’re worried about cutting yourself on the blade, you can use the bottom of a heavy pot or a rolling pin instead. Use your fingers to roughly tear the crushed cucumbers into bite-sized pieces, working through the pile until all the vegetables have received a proper beat-down.
- In a medium-sized dish, mix together all the remaining ingredients and add the cucumbers. Toss thoroughly to coat, and serve immediately.
NotesQuick Tip: Reach into the pantry if you don’t want to stop and chop; use half the measurements of dried herbs as you would use fresh. Alternatively, put this recipe on warp speed by using about 2-3 tablespoons of a ready-made za’atar blend instead of the sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, and sumac