Recipe: Southern Cucumber & Tomato Salad
Once the hotter months roll around, any side dish that doesn't require the stove becomes an instant champion of dinner. On those really hot nights, one that's as cool and quenching as a cucumber salad suddenly sounds like a good choice for a light main course.
Southern Cucumber & Tomato Salad: Watch the Video
Cucumbers come into season right on cue, at their peak in most regions from May to July. Here, they meet some early-season tomatoes and get tossed with sweet onion and a quick marinade. Add a little mint if you want, and this Southern-style salad will be especially refreshing in shorts season.
Such a simple salad demands the best flavor of its few ingredients. It wants each one to taste as bright and fresh as it possibly can. The best way to achieve that is to shop at grocery stores like Walmart, which receives daily deliveries of locally-grown produce. Less mileage between local farms and stores guarantees you'll be bringing home truly fresh produce at a great value.
You can make the dish with regular or English cucumbers (also called hothouse cucumbers, same thing!). We preferred the English/hothouse in our test kitchen since they have tender skins and smaller seeds. We also prefer beefsteak or slicing tomatoes for wedges that aren't cumbersome to eat.
If you're thinking of bringing this to a picnic or a barbecue, you can assemble the whole thing in the few minutes before you head out the door. Your travel time lets the veggies marinate in their sweet and tangy brine, and right at the last minute you can hit it with the freshly chopped mint, if you're using it, just before serving. Tip: If you're unable to chop the mint right before serving (you're outside or the host's kitchen is just too busy, say), just give it a rough tear with your fingers. Rustic totally works here.
This also makes a great make-ahead dish. You can put it together up to two days ahead of time. Just be sure to drain off any accumulated liquid before serving. It also doubles easily for larger parties.
Southern Cucumber & Tomato Salad
red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
large English or hothouse cucumber (about 12 ounces), thinly sliced crosswise
medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, thinly sliced
small tomatoes, cut into bite-sized wedges
teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)
Place the vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk until emulsified and combined.
Add the cucumber, onion, and tomato, and then toss gently to coat in the dressing. Set aside for 30 minutes to 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Sprinkle in the mint if using and toss before serving.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 days. The vegetables release additional liquid upon storage, drain off before serving.
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