Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tomato Cucumber Salad: A Template

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on $10/day.

When I got married I didn't know how to cook a thing except my sister's cookies and my mother's hot cross buns--you know, the important things. I had spent my life up to that point in low-fat, study hall land, meaning I didn't often eat fat (except for those cookies on occasion) and that I'd been a student for--shall we say--a rather long time. Suddenly, there I was with a husband and some kind of primal desire to feed the man, without any skills whatsoever. So it happened that one day in summer when tomatoes and cucumbers were exploding out of everywhere, I decided to make a tomato cucumber salad. Imagine my surprise when I realized this salad I considered sophisticated (because as we all know any salad that lacks lettuce must be sophisticated) took a whopping 2 minutes and 4 ingredients to prepare (not counting salt and pepper).You'll find recipes galore on the internet, but at their heart, they're singing the same song. And so today I present you with a template.

What do you need for a tomato cucumber salad? Tomato, cucumber, some kind of vinegar, some kind of oil, and maybe some kind of seasoning. You can go as fancy and crazy as you want, using pretty differently colored heirlooms, dressed up in fancy vinegar with finely chopped herbs from the garden. Or you can pull out the Costco tomatoes, douse them with the same white vinegar you use to clean your bathroom sink, throw in some oil, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

You can peel the veggies or not. You can chop them large or slice them as thin as a fairy's wings. You can use what you have on hand. You can get creative. And you can pretty much be guaranteed a good little salad no matter what you do (although I really must insist on some type of fresh tomato--don't make this in January and expect it to come out fabulously, unless of course, you live in Chile).

Got fresh herbs? Here are a few that are great in tomato cucumber salads: basil, dill, oregano, mint, mustard. Don't let that limit you--get as creative as you wish. But those are popular add-ins.

Want it creamy? Add a dollop of mayo or a dollop of sour cream.

Tomato Cucumber Salad: A Template
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: next to nothing in the summertime

1 large tomato
1 small cucumber
1 Tbsp oil (I prefer olive oil)
1/2-1 Tbsp vinegar (I prefer some type of wine vinegar and I've heard rice vinegar is awesome as well)
salt and pepper
other herbs if desired
1 Tbsp mayo or sour cream if you want a creamy sauce

Chop the vegetables to their desired size. Drizzle oil over them. Add a dash of vinegar. Add other herbs (chopped) if using. Add mayo/sour cream if using. Add salt and pepper to taste.

If you let it sit for 20-30 minutes, the flavors will meld. However, the vegetables might sweat a bit from the salt as well, leaving you with a tasty puddle at the bottom of your bowl that is difficult to get to stick to your veggies. If you'd like you can sweat the vegetables beforehand by salting them and leaving them in a bowl or on a paper towel or two to get some of that excess water out. I know this works well for cucumbers, but haven't tried it with tomato.


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