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Za’atar Smashed Cucumbers

Ever 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.


Quick 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