April 12, 2010

Tomato Cucumber Salad

A slightly-sweet simple salad (that tastes seriously scrumptious)...

Sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes are delicious on their own as a snack or a mini salad with a small sprinkling of salt and a generous seasoning of pepper. But...
Adding some vinegar, a bit of sugar, and other seasonings to a bowlful of cucumber and tomato slices takes these vegetables to another level. The taste is unbelievable.

The tomatoes are tart but sweet, the cucumber is succulent with mellow hints of acidity, the sugar adds sweetness while the salt adds savoriness, and the vinegar tempers it all with its sour edge. The herbs contribute their own tanginess and you have a wonderful combination for a spring and summer side dish.

A great make-ahead side dish: The key is to let the entire mixture chill for several hours before serving it. This added time allows the vegetables to really soak up the flavor from the vinegar and seasonings. You can of course eat it immediately, without any chill-time, but it's just not as good.

A note about the herbs: In this recipe, I use dry dill and dry parsley. If you have fresh herbs, use them--I bet it tastes even better. Just be sure to adjust the amounts a bit (use more of the herb if it's fresh).

And cucumbers: When I first made this recipe, I used small English cucumbers. They're nice because their seeds are smaller than typical cucumbers, so they taste less bitter. But I don't think the type of cucumber matters much with this salad--the seasonings shake it up enough to mask undesirable bitterness. Besides, the "bitterness" is seen by many as just part of the flavor of a cucumber. Feel free to remove the seeds from the cucumber when you slice it--this just adds time to the process, though, so I don't bother with it. 

Does it have to include sugar? Yes. Sorry, but to get the nifty flavor from this recipe, you need the sugar. It's not a lot of sugar, and you can of course alter the amount you use to suit your taste. But if you'd rather skip the sugar altogether, the vinegar and herbs on their own lend a very nice flavor to the cucumbers and tomatoes.

Tomato Cucumber Salad
Estimated preparation time: 10 minutes
Chilling time: 3 hours +
Serves: 2 as a side dish

Ingredients
  • 1 medium or large cucumber
  • 1-1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine-ground salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper (optional)

Instructions
  1. Wash and dry the cucumber and tomatoes. 
  2. Slice the cucumber into small wedges.
  3. Halve the grape or cherry tomatoes.
  4. Place both vegetables in a bowl. 
  5. Add the minced garlic, parsley flakes, dill weed, sugar, and salt.
  6. Add freshly-ground black pepper if desired.
  7. Stir all ingredients thoroughly, being careful not to squish the tomatoes.
  8. Cover and chill for 3 hours or overnight.
  9. Serve as a side dish, as a light lunch, or on a bed of baby spinach leaves for a more significant meal.
[Note: Photo does not depict entire salad.]

Enjoy!

2 comments:

CRS said...

Could you use Splenda in place of the sugar?

abigail said...

CRS,
Yes, you could substitute Splenda for the sugar. The resulting flavor will be different because Splenda and sugar taste somewhat different.
I think this recipe needs some sweetening, so if you'd rather not use sugar but you're willing to try Splenda, I say go for it. *Just be sure to significantly reduce the amount you use since Splenda is much more concentrated as far as sweetness goes.* I'd suggest using 1/2 teaspoon (maybe even start with less) and taste it to determine if you'll need more.
- Abigail