This light and refreshing salad packs a tangy punch, but has just enough sweetness to balance out the pucker factor. Crunchy cucumbers and onions mingle with juicy tomatoes and summery herbs to make a colorful side for family dinner, or the perfect easy pot luck dish.
Holy pho, life has been moving lightning fast lately for our family.
In the past three weeks my catering, teaching and sideline reporting jobs have all started back up, featuring two road games 7-10 hours away and lots of muggy, 90º days. I’ve shot a ton of recipes (more than I’ve posted) so this blog doesn’t fall off the face of the earth this Fall. We’re also scrambling to get ready for our baby—who is due in 8 weeks (what?!)—by taking childbirth education classes and hiring a doula, along with the now bi-weekly midwife appointments (all of which are 40 minutes away).
I love all the things I do, or I wouldn’t do them, and indulging my nesting instincts has been fantastic. That said my feet hurt, my intentions to read all the baby literature are quickly going out the window, and I’m in need of a little simplicity.
Enter Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad. Simplicity and nostalgia soaked in a delicious blend of vinegar and herbs.
I’ve always said I’m not a huge fan of most the kind of “salads” you find at picnics. Heavily mayo-ed potato and pasta salads, just about any “salad” compared of meats. Fruit salad can be good if it’s not all canned fruit. But this is one I can get behind unquestionably.
One of my favorite snacks is actually just sliced cucumber drizzled with a little vinegar, salt and pepper. My Pop-Pop used to keep a section of the garden just for me with cucumbers and watermelon because I ate them all (also growing the watermelon was my idea, so it was only fair, really).
I can’t even explain how excited I this summer when my morning sickness FINALLY let up enough to let me have my first cucumber snack. It was such a relief to stop living on granola bars and getting all my veggies from fruit squeeze pouches.
I grew up with my Ya-ya’s version of cucumber salad, which I can’t get enough of when I visit home. Hers is just thinly sliced cucumbers and white onions in white vinegar with salt and pepper. Full stop.
It’s so simple, but so incredibly good, and it goes SO well with the sweltering summer sun and/or a lack of air conditioning in the summer, let me tell you from experience. My house only had a window unit in one room, and my Ya-ya’s house (where I spent at least half my childhood), to this day only has air conditioning in the bedrooms.
I think everybody’s grandma has a version of cucumber salad where I grew up, as the majority of families are Italian, Polish or Balkan. I don’t think I’ve had a bad one yet.
Why add the tomatoes? Why NOT add tomatoes? I’ve had variations with and without, but at this time of year when there’s an abundance, I see no reason to hold back.
Shallots fit nicely in this recipe too, rather than the standard red or white onions. Their flavor is a little softer and they bring a nice color to the party. They’re a little thinner, so they don’t take up a lot of real estate, plus they absorb the marinade nicely so you don’t get such a shockingly pungent bite if you’re not watching your onion-to-everything-else ratio closely.
You can certainly use fresh herbs, as I do sometimes, but lately I’ve been loving partially dried basil. The grocery store closest to my house is hit or miss with fresh herbs, especially basil—sometimes it’s all going bad on the shelf and they often don’t have it at all. Partially dried basil has much better flavor than dried (which I rarely use), and it can stay in your refrigerator much longer than fresh leaves.
Since moving to the South I’ve encountered something pretty new to me… super SWEET tomato and cucumber salad in a marinade so think it’s almost like a vinaigrette. It’s delicious, but it’s also a lot. To me, marinated cucumber and tomato salad is ideally about simplicity.
Besides, I still like the stuff from home, so I compromise: I add a little sugar (or sometimes honey), but not enough to make it syrupy or sweet to the point where it loses its kick or stops being cooling. Let the vinegar have it’s moment in the sun, please.
I also like to hold back on the olive oil a little bit, I don’t want this dish feeling greasy, or it defeats the purpose for me. I’m all about this remaining a light delight.
The reason I cover Marinated Cucumber Tomato Salad tightly with plastic wrap is because it lets the liquid cover the veggies without wasting vinegar just to make sure everything is completely covered. Yes, eventually the vegetables would soak up the liquid even if they aren’t entirely covered, but that takes time and I’m not about that for this dish.
You’ll want to makes sure you squeeze as much of the air out as possible, or it defeats the purpose. The goal is to get all that liquid to travel up around the veggies so it can really soak in.
And the reveal. Gorgeous.
Today I’m forcing myself to rest, but I don’t see things slowing down for us anytime soon, and if history is to be trusted, it’s going to continue to feel like summer here until well into the actual fall. I see a lot of this simple Marinated Cucumber and Tomato Salad in my future.
I’m not mad about it.
If you make this, snap a pic and show me! I’d love to know how it went. Just tag me and hashtag #whipsmartkitchen.
Let's get marinating!