Michael Vaughn

Let’s face it: salads can get boring quickly. Keeping greens in your diet is no exciting task if you’re having the same tired Caesar with droopy lettuce week after week. Well, worry no more! Over on the West Coast, Michael Vaughn, Executive Chef of Hilton San Francisco Union Square, has created a scrumptious, refreshing Spiced Cucumber Salad with a Burnt Peanut garnish. You’ll never suffer through a lame Caesar again.

Spiced Cucumber Salad with Burnt Peanuts (serves 4)


3 English Seedless Cucumbers

1 cup Sesame Oil

1/2 cup Rice Wine Vinegar

1/2 cup White Sesame Seeds

1/2 cup Black Sesame Seeds

3/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper

5 Scallions

Kosher Salt (about 2-3 teaspoons)

4 tbsp. Burnt Peanuts

Burnt Peanuts:

1 lb Raw Peanuts (out of shell)

1/4 cup Olive Oil

Sea Salt (lightly dust)


1. Clean cucumbers thoroughly, rinsing off any dirt. Cut off cucumber ends and dice into 1-inch chunks. Refrigerate.

2. Chop scallions coarsely. Set aside.

3. In a sauté pan, place crushed red chili flakes and sesame seeds inside. Toast them over medium heat, tossing frequently until sesame seeds are golden brown, about 1 minute. Add 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt.

4. In a food processor, add the toasted seasoning and pulse/process until sesame seeds are coarsely chopped.

5. Remove the cucumbers from the refrigerator, add the sesame oil, chopped scallions, and rice wine vinegar. Toss mixture to allow all of the liquid to coat the cucumbers, then add 3/4 of the sesame-chili mixture and continue to toss.

6. Return cucumbers to refrigerator and allow to marinate overnight.

7. For the burnt peanuts: Preheat oven to 375° F.

8. Toss the peanuts with the olive oil in a large bowl and add salt to taste. Place on a pan lined with parchment paper.

9. Bake peanuts until blackish on all sides. Allow to cool and chop coarsely.

10. To serve: Place marinated cucumber mixture into a serving bowl. Garnish each dish with remaining sesame-chili mixture and crushed burnt peanuts.

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About the Chef:

Michael Vaughn, Executive Chef of Hilton San Francisco Union Square, oversees the hotel’s three restaurants: Urban Tavern, Herb ‘n Kitchen, and Cityscape, as well as all catering services. Vaughn is a native of Chicago and studied his craft at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in St. Helena, CA. He’s since overseen menus and kitchens in hotels around the nation, and always maintains a dedication to sourcing local, organic, and fresh ingredients.