This is a common technique in Turkish and Eastern European cooking. I’m not completely sure about the phrase “murdered”, but several of my Turkish and Arabic friends have used it so I’ll follow suit. Once murdered, vegetables are softer (almost cooked), but still crisp; are typically less-bitter; and won’t leak water into the final dish. I’m going to be pedantic about the details, but rest assured the process is simple: chopping, salting, and squeezing. Rinse — done.
The vegetables we most commonly murder are onions (for instance, to garnish basturma, or cochinita pibil), cabbage (for the Romanian red-cabbage salad), and cucumber (for quick pickles, and yogurt-cucumber salad).
– 1 lb (450g) vegetable
– 3-4 tbsp (45 ml) salt.
– Chop the vegetables into an appropriate size. This might be very thin strips, for cabbage and onions, or little chunks for cucumber.
– Oversalt it. Some recipes call for about a tbsp (15 ml) of salt for a pound (450 g) of vegetables. This ensures that, once you’ve squeezed out the excess liquid, the vegetables are just salty enough. I tend to double this amount of salt, and rinse the vegetables to taste.
– Using your hands, rub the vegetables with the salt, and squish them slightly.
– Let the vegetables stand in the salt for 5 minutes or so. Taste it. It should be disgusting. There should be quite a lot of juice by now.
– Knead the salt into the vegetable with your hands without crushing them into smaller pieces. Cucumber and onion at this point should be quite transparent, and the cabbage should getting uniformly translucent. The texture should be approaching something like a pickle, or blanched vegetables, lightly crunchy, but tender.
– Let them sit a little longer
– Extract, and discard, as much liquid as possible.
– You can put it into a clean kitchen towel, into a wad in the middle of the towel. Fold the towel over the wad of vegetable, and twist it closed. Keep twisting the towel over the sink, until you’ve squeezed as much liquid out of the bundle as you can.
– Or, you can just use your hands. Taking some of the vegetables into your two hands, squeeze out as much water as you can. Repeat, until you’ve done this to all of the vegetables, and they are quite dry.
– Taste. Depending on how much salt you used, they might be acceptably, moderately, salty; or gross.
– If they are disgustingly salty, return them to a bowl, and submerge them in a couple of cups of cold water. Swish them around and let them soak for a minute or two. Taste, and if they are still very salty, let it soak a little longer.
– Extract the liquid again as before. The vegetables should still be a little bit salty, but pleasant.
– Use them, according to the recipe.
– Romanian red cabbage salad