If you needed another reason to add to the list of why you’d probably never want to be cornered at a party with me, I should tell you I’m more than a normal level of fascinated by the intersection of tomatoes and cucumbers in salads around the world. And I want to talk about it.
Because, seriously, can we go on a cucumber-tomato salad summer world tour? From the classic Greek salad (horiatiki), to the Palestinian/Arab/Israeli salads in their infinite variations, their close cousins, the shepherd’s salads (shirazi in Iran, çoban salatası in Turkey, shopska in Macedonia and Bulgaria), plus the kachumber in India and all of the variants, like fattoush and I’m going to need one of each. I was particularly struck by what Ottolenghi said in the intro to the fattoush salad in his Jerusalem cookbook, that freshly chopped vegetable salads like this are served with every meal and that friends visiting London often complained of feeling like they ate ‘unhealthily’ because there weren’t fresh salad with each meal.
This only relates to Ottolenghi tangentially, however. After drooling over this entire Middle Eastern take on a proper English garden party in the New York Times last weekend, it was the cucumber salad that in particular stuck with me, and its spiced yogurt dressing. It made me think of cucumber raita, that great cooling Indian condiment. And it made me want to upend the proportions, that is, instead of a lot of yogurt burying a little bit of cucumber, a great pile of cucumber and a smaller amount of yogurt dressing. Tomato isn’t the most common inclusion in cucumber raitas, although I’ve had it before, but it works wonderfully here, and whether you make this as a side dish to a Wednesday dinner or bring it to a picnic or barbecue or beach this weekend, I don’t think this will be the last time you make it this summer.
One year ago: Swirled Berry Yogurt Popsicles and Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes
Two years ago: Carrot Salad with Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas
Three years ago: Two Classic Sangrias
Four years ago: Tzatziki Potato Salad
Five years ago: Strawberry Summer Cake
Six years ago: Braided Lemon Bread, Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint and Rustic Rhubarb Tarts
Seven years ago: Almond Raspberry Layer Cake, Asparagus Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta and Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
Eight years ago: 30 Ways To Be A Good Guest
Nine years ago: Cellophane Noodle Salad with Roast Pork and Coconut Pinkcherry Yogurt
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Parsley Pecorino Biscuits
1.5 Years Ago: Crispy Sweet Potato Roast
2.5 Years Ago: Cauliflower with Brown Butter Crumbs
3.5 Years Ago: Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
4.5 Years Ago: Dijon-Braised Brussels Sprouts
Cucumber Yogurt Raita Salad
Think of this as cucumber raita with the proportions inverted — a lot of cucumber, a smaller amount of yogurt dressing — but it’s not overly technical, as there are ingredients here not common in raita.
- Feel free to play around with this salad; each seed option will provide a different flavor; pomegranate arils might be a punchy alternative to tomatoes (perhaps 1/2 cup to start, add more if desired).
- Do not mix the dressing with the salad until the end; it becomes looser after sitting a while. You’ll have more dressing than you need, however, so you can always bring extra and stir in more before you share it, to refresh it a little.
- I don’t generally include notations in recipes that you should have cleaned your vegetables because I bet you’ve got that down already, but as this is one of my axes to grind, may I beg you to not forget to wash those plastic-wrapped cucumbers well? I’m always a little horrified by the color of a white towel used to wipe it dry after rinsing it; the plastic makes them seem cleaner than they are.
- This made a delicious dinner last night with some roasted chicken and potato wedges (cooked, if we’re being honest, in the roasted chicken drippings). If I didn’t have chicken around, we might have had this with toast pita or naan wedges and maybe even stirred in some chickpeas for more protein.
Serves 6, more with a spread of foods
1 cup (227 grams) plain, full-fat yogurt
1 garlic clove, peeled
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
Juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon minced mild or hot fresh chile (I used a jalapeno)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, black or yellow mustard seeds or nigella seeds (I used black mustard seeds)
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves, divided
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, divided
Kosher salt to taste
2 long, English-style cucumbers (2 pounds total)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
1/2 medium red onion, chopped small
Make the dressing by placing yogurt in a medium bowl and using a very fine grater to grate the garlic and ginger over it. Stir in sugar, lemon, chile, seeds, half of the mint and cilantro and season it with salt to taste. Set aside until you’re ready to serve the salad.
Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then each half three more times into long wedge-shaped pieces (i.e. 8 long pieces per cucumber). Cut them into 1 to 1 1/2-inch lengths on a diagonal and add them to a big bowl. Pile tomatoes and onion on top and when you’re ready to eat, mix half of the dressing with the salad. Sprinkle with remaining mint and cilantro and serve with extra yogurt dressing on the side.