Cooking with Grace

Cooking with Grace: Cucumber Salad Is a Summer Sensation

It’s the best time of year to go to the farmers’ market, in my opinion. There are so many fresh vegetables and fruits that I end up staggering back to my car, juggling several different bags of fresh produce. Since it’s been a little hot lately, one of my favorite things is to make a big salad to snack on midday or serve alongside my lunch or dinner. One of the simplest ones that I find myself making quite often is a fresh cucumber amd tomato salad.

I start with fresh cucumbers. I like to remove the seeds, so I cut them in half lengthwise and use a spoon or small scoop to remove the seeds. You should also taste a slice of the cucumber. Right now, they are young and fairly tender, but later in the season the skin can get tough and bitter. If you don’t care for the flavor or texture of the skin, just use a vegetable peeler to remove some or all of the skin before cutting the cucumbers into bite size pieces.

I like to coat the cucumbers in just enough olive oil to coat them, adding  a little salt, fresh ground pepper, and any fresh or dried herbs. In this version, I used some fresh thyme leaves. Once that is combined and lightly coated with oil, add a few shakes of vinegar to the bowl and re-toss the cucumbers. One again, tasting the cucumbers is your best bet for getting the ratio of olive oil to vinegar that you like. I prefer a more tart flavor, so I go a little heavy handed on the vinegar. You can also add a little sugar if you like a sweeter version, or choose a fruity, less acidic vinegar for your vinaigrette.

Once you have the right flavors in the cucumbers, toss in the tomatoes to coat them (the tomatoes are more tender, so I like to mix them less so they don’t break apart) and any other fresh ingredients that you like. I had some flowering lavender, and I added just a few of those as well as some purslane that I’ve just started trying to experiment with. I love the tender and firm petals the purslane has—they make a nice contrast with the crispy cucumber and the softer tomatoes.

You can cut the cucumbers any way you like them, generally keeping the pieces bite size. Same goes for the tomatoes. To me, cooking is all about experimenting with different flavors and textures. I often find myself randomly looking through my cupboards and my herb garden as I’m deciding what flavors I want to combine, which is pretty dependent on what mood I’m in.

Cucumber & tomato salad recipe
cucumbers (depending on size and your appetite, one cucumber can generally feed two people)
fresh tomatoes ( I used grape tomatoes cut in half, but you can use whole tomatoes and chop them into bite- size pieces)
olive oil (I used Petraia from Italy)
vinegar (I used Rozendal hibiscus and Gardeny cava rose)
sea salt
fresh ground black pepper
any other fresh or dried herbs or flowers you want to add