The cucumbers in this week’s CSA box were a surprise. A nice little treat from the farmer to me, who based on his email was planning to pack a head of cauliflower, but ran out and substituted these cute little baby cukes instead. I was planning on making this detox toubbeleh salad, but the moment I laid eyes on the cucumbers and tomatoes I knew I’d be making an Israeli salad.
The combination of tomato and cucumber is so very simple that I am totally surprised each time this salad turns out perfectly. I’ve made an iteration before, in this long ago post, and many times in between when I have found myself in possession of both ripe tomatoes and fresh cucumbers at the same time. While the salad can have many different adaptations, diced tomato and cucumbers always form the backbone along with olive oil and lemon. Other additions may include fresh herbs, sliced radish, or diced sweet peppers and I had a hunch fresh, raw sweet corn could work too. I was right.
My love for it is especially surprising because I have lukewarm feelings on grocery store cucumbers. Once seeded and diced they are palatable but I mostly eat them because they are a vegetable and good for me, not under any presumption that the experience will be an enjoyable one. Take those same cucumbers, maybe if you can, replace them with a farmer’s market hothouse, english, or kirby variety, and suddenly I go goo-goo for them. Add a fistful of fresh parsley, bright lemon, rich olive oil and you can’t hold me back, I’m in the kitchen scooping spoonfuls out of the bowl as the juices drip down my chin on to the countertops.
Did you know that sweet corn begins to turn more starchy and less sweet the moment it’s picked? I can’t remember when I picked up that fun fact but it stuck with me and so in went the corn too. Got to use it before we lose it.
In Jerusalem, a salad such as this would be served at every meal including breakfast. I followed suit and paired it with Greek yogurt and while I enjoyed it this way for dinner, I prefer it as a meal to start my day. If any meal in the American diet consistently lacks vegetables, it is breakfast and outside of smoothies I see very few examples of how to fix this. Enter salad for breakfast. Really, it’s a thing, you should try it.
This keeps well for several days in the fridge and it also enjoyable as a side to hummus, roasted chickpeas or grilled meat. I also rather enjoy it with a diced avocado and a side of pita chips for snack or light meal.
Note: This dish is also known as Arab salad, if you are from one side of town or chopped salad, if we are being inclusive, which I should be, but that is so non-descriptive. See now I’m conflicted, what should I have called it?
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 2 cucumbers, or more depending on size, diced (see Note)
- 1 shallot or small red onion, diced
- 1 green pepper, diced (a red or orange would be better if you have it)
- 3 ears of corn, shucked
- large handful of fresh herbs, I used chives and parsley
- juice of 3 lemons (zest 2 of them)
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (use a good one)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 garlic clove, diced
- greek yogurt
- sumac or za'atar for sprinkling
- Mix all diced vegetables and herbs in large bowl.
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl or jar. Combine with vegetables and set aside for at least 10 minutes to meld the flavors.
- If you so desire, serve in a bowl with greek yogurt and za'atar for sprinkling
And I almost forgot with all this excitement over cucumbers – here are some other ideas for your CSAs or farmer’s markets this week. In our CSA this week we got kale, sweet corn, cucumbers, assorted squash, melon, apples, green peppers, tomatoes, beets and yukon gold potatoes.
I took the beet greens, kale, and leeks and made a version of this pasta. This is recipe I’ve gone back to over and over again. It truly is a keeper.
There are so many good salads floating around, especially featuring melon, squash and corn. Here are the links to a few I spotted:
Apple Beet and Lentil salad (make a double batch of lentils for both this salad and the pasta above)