Cucumber Caesar Salad with Dill & Crispy-Spicy Panko

This is another flavor-packed adaptation of a classic. It was a wonderful way to enjoy the bounty of delicious summer cucumbers. Although this version is lighter than a classic Caesar, I was initially concerned that the dressing may be too potent. No worries! It was perfect.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Zaynab Issa. I modified the method and proportions, used cucumbers from my CSA share, and used harissa instead of Calabrian chile paste. I loved the generous volume of fresh dill.

We enjoyed it with grilled chicken thighs and and roasted potatoes. Great.

For the Crispy-Spicy Panko Topping:

  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Harissa or Calabrian chile paste (or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
  • 1 cup panko
  • 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt (or 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal)

For the Salad & Assembly:

  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 T anchovy paste or 5 drained oil-packed anchovy fillets, smashed
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt, plus more (or 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal)
  • 5 peeled, halved, and seeded cucumbers or 3 European hothouse cucumbers, cut on a diagonal into 1″ pieces
  • 2 oz Parmesan, shaved (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 1 cup dill, chopped

To Make the Crispy-Spicy Panko Topping:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium. (I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet.)
  2. Add the chile paste and stir into the warm oil.
  3. Add panko and salt (and crushed red pepper flakes, if using instead of chile paste) and cook, stirring often, until breadcrumbs are deep golden brown, about 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer spicy breadcrumbs to a shallow bowl; set aside.

Do ahead: Breadcrumbs can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

To Make the Salad & To Assemble:

  1. Whisk garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, anchovies, mustard, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
  2. If using regular cucumbers: peel, slice in half, and seed them. (I used a melon baller to seed them.)
  3. Add the cucumber slices; toss well to coat.
  4. Add shaved Parmesan and top with dill. Gently toss to distribute evenly.
  5. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.
  6. Just before serving, transfer cucumber salad to a platter and spoon reserved spicy breadcrumbs on top. (I reserved some of the breadcrumbs to pass at the table.)

Do ahead: Dressing can be made 3 days ahead; cover and chill. Salad (without breadcrumbs) can be made 3 hours ahead; cover and chill.

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