Too many cucumber salad recipes result in soggy disks awash in an insipid dressing.
We wanted a crisp, cool salad with a concentrated dressing that would hold up to the cucumbers’ excess fluid.
We started our recipe with American cucumbers, which have more crunch than their seedless English cousins. Draining the thinly sliced cucumbers on paper towels helped to wick away initial moisture, but the cucumbers continued to exude more liquid once they were incorporated into the salad, diluting the dressing and watering down the dish. Instead of trying to mask the excess liquid, we worked with it. We incorporated a small amount of the fluid into an extra-potent dressing made with olive oil and reduced vinegar. Gently simmering (rather than boiling) the vinegar preserved its character while mellowing its sharp bite, giving it concentrated depth. Adding a little lemon juice to the reduced vinegar punched up the flavor without over-sharpening the acidity.
All our salad needed now was some jazzing up. Clean-tasting cucumbers take well to bolder elements, so we added ingredients like kalamata olives, fresh chiles, cilantro, and ginger to our four variations.