I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Made” on the Food Network channel and saw Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian make Grilled Salmon with Smashed Cucumber Date Salad. It sounded really good so I thought I would try it. Wow! I was definitely impressed! It was so easy to do and the salad had such surprising flavor combinations! I loved the bite of sweet date combined with the sour lemon juice and the creaminess of the walnuts.
Chef Zakarian served the salad as a bed underneath a piece of grilled salmon. I didn’t have any salmon when I first made it, but I did have Mahi Mahi so that’s what I used. Delicious! Since then, I’ve served this salad with other fish, like cod, and even with roast chicken. It goes great with anything. Its refreshing flavor is perfect for a summer meal. It’s easy to see why Chef Zakarian is an Iron Chef. His recipe is definitely a keeper!
GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN’S CUCUMBER DATE SALAD
- 2 English seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
- 3/4 cup finely sliced fennel, feathery fronds reserved for garnish
- 8 Medjool dates, pitted and sliced
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1/2 a large lemon)
- 4 tablespoons fruity olive oil (preferably from Spain)
- medium-coarse sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- Roll the cucumber pieces up in a clean linen napkin or towel, and then smash them to release the juices, pressing down hard with the heels of your hands while ensuring the towel doesn’t unroll.
- Transfer the crushed cucumbers to a cutting board and then coarsely chop.
- Combine the cucumbers, sliced fennel, dates, walnuts, chives and some of the fennel fronds in a salad bowl and mix gently.
- Dress the cucumber salad with the lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of fruity olive oil.
- Season with sea salt and pepper.
- Toss the salad lightly.
- Arrange equal portions on each of six plates and top each portion of salad with a piece of grilled fish or chicken.
- Garnish each plate with fennel fronds and serve.
NOTE: If you can’t get fennel, you can just omit it. I’ve done the salad with and without fennel and both ways are equally delicious.