Tomato, cucumber, red onion salad
“Se casa alegramente/ con la clara cebolla / y para celebrarlo/ se deja/ caer/ aceite,/ hijo/ essencial del olivo,/ sobre sus hemisferios entreabiertos/ agrega/ la pimenta/ su fragancia,/ la sal su magnetism.”
–Neruda, Oda al tomate
This salad is almost ubiquitous to most of Europe, the Americas, and the Middle-East and North Africa.
What makes it special is the freshness of the ingredients used and that it is made à la minute. Particularly in Spain, where green tomatoes are often used, and in Portugal, it comes all sliced on plate with sometimes olives, fresh herbs added to it. Often, you make your own dressing at the table with a cruet of olive oil and red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper shakers.
I listed this salad with an additional bed of greens and with seeding the cucumbers to make them easier to digest and scoring them for a touch of elegance. Choose small cucumbers as they have fewer seeds than large ones.
This salad can also serve as a base for many salads such as tabbouleh with bulgur, couscous, quinoa and Panzanella with toasted bread pieces. It is truly a worldly world salad.
Green leave salad: optional
Romaine, Boston, or lettuce: enough to make a bed on each plate
Cucumber: 2 small, score in the length with tines of a fork or a channel knife, cut ends and seed out. Cut in thin slices.
Vine grown tomatoes: 4 each, quartered
Red onion (use Vidalia as an option): about ¼ cut in thin slivers
Black Olives: a dozen, pitted and halves in length
Feta or goat cheese: about 4 oz, crumbled
Herbs: basil and with a little bit of mint.
Nuts: pumpkin seeds
Quality virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar or Sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish each plate with green leaves. Mix together onions, tomatoes, olives—salt and pepper to taste, and put this over salad and sprinkle olive oil and vinegar about 3 volumes of oil for 1 of vinegar.
Put cucumber slices on top and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
If you want to Italianize your salad, and make use of some old but good bread, you may make Panzanella out of this basic salad. Omit the green salad entirely, and the cheese. Cube the cucumber rather than slicing it, and substitute mint for a ¼ cup of chopped flat parsley.
Increase the quantity of tomato by 1/3 and put less cucumber.
Slice about 4 ounces on bread, or more, on the bias so to have long slices and rub them with fresh garlic. Toast slices in a regular oven or toaster oven till dark blond and crunchy. Let cool and cube slices to a large bite-size. Incorporate them with the salad mix and adjust with more olive oil and vinegar after bread has steeped for 15 minutes.
Tabbouleh is mostly a matter of fresh, finely chopped herbs, parsley leaves, mint, even basil and chopped scallions and crushed garlic.
Generously cover ¾ cup of bulgur with hot water and let soak for 15 to 20. Drain and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Add ¼ of squeezed lemon, a bit of grated lemon peel, ½ cup of olive oil. Let rest while you prepare the vegetables for the salad above, cutting them in small dices and adding to them 2 chopped scallions (upper part and roots removed).
Finely chop parsley for 1 cup, mint for ½ cup and basil to your taste. Mix herbs in tabbouleh, add diced vegetables. Toss with a fork, making sure not to crush vegetables. Let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, at least, and adjust taste with salt and pepper. Moisture with olive oil and more lemon if needed.
You can proceed in the similar fashion using cooked quinoa, cooked rice, cooked couscous and millet.