Tomato and Cucumber Salad. One for Every Culture

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell

The tomato and cucumber salad – one for every culture. 

Every culture in the world that can get its hands on a tomato and a cucumber makes a dish with them. In fact, tomatoes and cucumbers together on a plate might be the international symbol for salad. In typical Tennessee style, the summer duo is often chopped up with onion and swimming in a sugary, vinegar bath. Delicious yes, but there’s so much more.

To make this summertime staple more sophisticated eliminate the bowl and the dressing and serve the vegetables casually scattered on a platter au natural. Experiment with your design by combining several varieties, shapes, and colors of tomato. The farmers market is loaded with tomato varieties right now. It’s time to play. Slice the cucumber perfectly thin with a $10 plastic mandoline slicer.

Now you have a world-class salad that needs little adornment, if any, for the perfect summer side dish. This simple version is especially welcome when the rest of the meal is rich and meaty.

Next, with just a few added ingredients you can give your tomatoes and cukes a new cultural identity. Here are a few variations to prime the pump:

Persian Shirazi Salad—Add onion, a squeeze of lime juice and chopped fresh mint.

Greek Salad—Add a few olives, pepperoncini and sliced red onion. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.

Italian Salad—Add sliced fresh mozzarella and basil. Drizzle with fruity olive oil. Drizzle on the fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar and coarse salt.

Taco (or Barbecue) Salad—Sprinkle one or all: roasted corn kernels, sliced jalapenos, and avocado. Add sprigs of cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.

Indian Buffet Salad—Drizzle with a dressing made of plain yogurt, lemon juice, cumin seeds, and salt.

Asian Salad—Drizzle with soy sauce blended with a pinch of sugar. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped green onion.

American Salad—Add shredded cheddar cheese and top with a healthy dose of thousand island, ranch or blue cheese dressing. Bacon is always a bonus.

New York City Weekend Salad—Add sliced smoked salmon, chopped hard-cooked egg, capers, and red onion. Have the bagels and cream cheese at the ready.

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