This salad brings together cucumbers, tomatoes, chunks of cheese and onions with fresh purple basil. Tossed in either a light vinaigrette or a creamy yogurt dressing, cucumber-tomato salad makes a fresh and tasty side dish.
As usual, springtime and summer equal salad to me – lots of salads! The outdoor markets here in Republic of Georgia are full to brimming with fresh veggies and I just love shopping for interesting ingredients. This week when I found the perfect components for a cucumber-tomato salad with purple basil, I couldn’t wait to make it for our next lunchtime side dish.
Lots of people love huge salads loaded with tons of ingredients, but we prefer a small side salad with just a few ingredients. That’s probably because we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, so a whole meal of raw veggies just doesn’t do it for me. There isn’t enough flavor differential. And a little raw goes a long way…
Anyway, I had some gorgeous cucumbers and garden-fresh tomatoes, so cucumber-tomato salad seemed like just the thing.
As an aside, I rarely mix up a salad dressing and keep it in the fridge. Ever since I seriously began cooking and getting into homemade… I just can’t get into making a fresh salad and then topping it with something that has been sitting around in the fridge. Especially salad dressings; they usually separate or get congealed or… just lose something in the sitting.
So, for many years I have just swished together a salad dressing in an impromptu way right before serving a salad with a meal.
Since I have made this simple cucumber-tomato salad often, I’ll offer you two concepts for salad dressings, both of which can be made directly in the bowl when you are tossing together the salad. The first is a vinaigrette and the second is a creamy yogurt version of about the same. Either one is excellent with the purple basil as the key flavor-punch accent. Yum.
Let’s Make Some Cucumber-Tomato Salad
You’ll want to make this salad in a bowl that is larger than you really need for the amount of salad. That’s because you’ll be mixing the dressing right into the chopped veggies and you need stirring room – it will work just fine doing it this way. It only takes a couple of minutes to make the dressing. And you won’t have any old salad dressing sitting around weighing down your refrigerator door until you finally throw it out ?
The steps are nothing fancy, but I’ll go through them, anyway. First you will slice up the cucumber. There are several varieties of cucumber available here, but the best ones are smaller with fewer seeds.
Then cut the tomato into small wedges. I have used a glorious big fat heirloom variety summer tomato, but Romas would be excellent as well… I’ve used cherry or grape tomatoes from time to time and they are also really good… you choose! You can’t go wrong if the tomato is just ripe and not over-ripe.
Next you’ll want to chop up some nice mild yet flavorful cheese; I usually opt for Edam or Gouda.
You’ll add in a tablespoon or so of fresh chopped onion. I usually use white onions, but red onions would also be beautiful and go with the purple basil nicely. Occasionally I use green onions (scallions) or a mix of white and green.
Now we get to the fun part. You’ll first drizzle the oil onto the veggies in the bowl.
Next comes the vinegar and fresh lemon juice. I use apple cider vinegar, but you can choose another favorite if you have one. Wine vinegar of any sort is also good.
You’ll add in the herbs and spices, and just a pinch of sugar. If you don’t want white sugar, then turbinado sugar will work equally well… it might change the color of the dressing and make it a bit darker, but I don’t mind, if you don’t! You could also use agave syrup or honey or another sweetener of your choice.
Now, you’re just going to mix all of the dressing ingredients into the veggies, spooning them over and over until you can see that the veggies are completely covered. If you need a splash of water, add it in now. Salt to taste and voilà! That is your vinaigrette.
If you’d like to try the creamy version of this dressing, you’ll simply add in a heaping tablespoonful of yogurt (Greek is best) and (optional) 1-2 teaspoons of mayonnaise. Here they have amazing mayonnaise made with olive oil… but really, any good quality mayonnaise will do. (Have you ever made mayonnaise? Fresh mayonnaise is the best!)
Then, lastly, you’ll toss in 1-2 tablespoons of finely sliced fresh purple basil.
I like to put the salad into the fridge while I am preparing the rest of the meal. That way, the flavors have a chance to meld. Then I bring it out at the last minute when everything else is ready.
Note: This only works because this cucumber- tomato salad has no lettuce… as lettuce will get wilted if it sits around with dressing on it. So, for salads with lettuce, I make the salad and mix the dressing into it right before serving.
I’m reminded of a Swiss friend of ours who reminisced about his family dinners as a child in the Swiss-French countryside. He said his mom would get everything set at the table and when everyone was seated, she’d run out to the garden to freshly pick the veggies for the salad, hurry back, toss them up with salad dressing and present the salad bowl right as everyone was serving themselves the rest of the meal – now that’s fresh food!!
So, if you’re in the mood for salad, I’m sure you will enjoy this simple yet tasty one!
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Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Purple Basil
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 Roma tomato
- 1 large nicely ripe (but not overly ripe) heirloom tomato
- 1 TBSP finely chopped onions
- ⅓ cup Edam, Gouda or cheese of your choice
- small handful of sliced fresh purple basil
For the vinaigrette:
- 1 TBSP olive or sunflower oil or specialty oil of your choice
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or vinegar of your choice
- juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ teaspoon sugar or sweetener of choice
- ½ teaspoon dried Italian herb mix
- 1-2 pinches salt I use pink Himalayan, but any will do
- 1-2 pinches coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 pinch onion powder
- 1 pinch garlic powder or fresh garlic, as per your preference
For optional yogurt dressing:
- 1 TBSP (heaping) of Greek yogurt
- 2-3 teaspoons mayonnaise
- Into a medium sized bowl, place half slices of cucumber
- Slice the tomato into bite-sized chunks and add to the bowl, along with cheese onion and chopped basil
- Drizzle oil on the veggies and stir to mix
- Add the remaining vinaigrette ingredients and stir to incorporate
- Chill until ready to serve, stirring occasionally