This, friends, is a cucumber dish with an identity problem.
It started as an appetizer. I’ve been eating these mini English cucumbers by the bagful – locally grown they are not, but they’re adorable, which is almost as good – and at the top of the list, just above the variation on a Greek salad, there’s been a quick pickle. I’ve been salting, rinsing, and sprinkling with rice wine vinegar. This time, I wanted to jazz it up a bit, with a good dose of garlic and a bite from red pepper flakes, but I didn’t want to wait. So I didn’t. I just chopped the cucumbers up, threw them into a bowl, and mixed them together with the garlic, pepper flakes, ginger, rice wine vinegar, and a sliced shallot. The idea was to set them aside until friends came for dinner.
Trouble came when I picked one up, five minutes after I made them. Even though they’d brined for such a short time, the flavors sang – so I ate, and ate, and ATE, the way you eat a salad, until I had to chop more cucumbers and remake the salad, because there weren’t enough left to actually fill the bowl.
Later, with friends, we agreed they’d be right at home on top of a flank steak flavored in a Vietnamese-style marinade, made with maybe some rice vinegar, fish sauce, ginger, and cilantro. Or atop a pate-smothered cracker. Or even in a taco, with spicy seared salmon.
I hesitate to call these pickles, because none of the things I associate with making pickles – boiling, sometimes salting, and usually waiting – are applicable. “Salad” is too boring. But “chips” – in one word, that encapsulates ultimate snackability, addictiveness, and deliciousness. So chips they are. (But I swear they’re healthier.)
Garlic-Marinated Cucumber Chips (PDF)
Dunked in a mixture of garlic, red chili flakes, ginger, shallot slices, and rice wine vinegar, sliced baby cucumbers become infinitely snackable. Eat them alone, serve them in tacos, or use them to top a simple salad.
TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: 4 snack servings
5 baby English cucumbers, cut into 1/2” rounds
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
Big pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Let sit at least 10 minutes, and up to 4 hours. Serve at room temperature.