I love using buckwheat groats for cold salads — they have a unique and unexpected ultra-savory earthniess that just begs for something creamy and/or briny. I usually go with feta cheese, it's a natural pairing and since I discovered goat feta, I've been crumbling it onto just about anything.
Smashing cucumbers helps them pickle in under an hour, it opens up their pores and crevices to the brining mixture and provides a pleasant soft-crunchy contrast. You don't want them to be obliterated, just smashed enough so that it can still be identified as a cucumber. The pickles and briny feta cheese complement the savory buckwheat and the whole business is delightfully balanced. Take it along on your picnic and see if anyone disagrees.
For the smashed cucumbers
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- several sprigs fresh dill
- 1 English cucumber, sliced into even 1-inch rounds
For the salad
- 1 cup buckwheat groats
- 2 cups pea shoots or other farmers market greens, roughly chopped
- 4 ounces goat feta (or you can use regular sheep feta), crumbled
- 2 tablespoons best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- juice and zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook buckwheat according to package directions, then fluff with a fork.
- Spread the buckwheat out on a baking sheet, breaking up any clumps with your fingers, and allow to cool completely. This will help it keep its shape when you toss it with the other ingredients.
- Meanwhile, bring vinegar, sugar, garlic and peppercorns to a rolling boil in a small pot, then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Smash each cucumber round with the bottom of a heavy skillet, then pack them along with the dill into a sterile glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Pour the brine over the cucumbers, cover tightly and let the jar sit (preferably in the sun) until you're ready to serve the salad. They'll need at least half an hour.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooled buckwheat, pea shoots, feta, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, mint and red onion.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and let sit for 30 minutes, then serve with the pickled cucumbers.
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