This cooling salad is a summer favorite. Cucumbers, tomatoes, basil, red onion and light balsamic vinaigrette make for an exceptional summer side dish that's even better when it's served on a bed of arugula. Cucumbers are thirst quenching and anti-inflammatory, tomatoes are ultra-rich in lycopene, and basil is a potent antioxidant that is believed to have anti-cancer and antiviral properties.
- 4 Kirby or 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
- 2 beefsteak or 3 plum tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 1/2 small red onion, sliced very thin
- 1 clove garlic, chopped very fine
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Gently toss all ingredients together in a stainless or glass bowl.
- Serve immediately or chill first.
Tips and Variations:
- You're not limited to Kirby or Persian cucumbers, as long as they're seedless. Otherwise, take a moment to scoop the seeds out first before preparing the salad and pay attention to size when you're substituting. Kirby cucumbers are about 6 inches long, while Persians can be as much as 2 inches shorter. Don't substitute a large cucumber for a Persian without adjusting the other measurements.
- You can cut the vegetables ahead of time, but don't add the dressing ingredients until you're ready to serve. Adding it too soon will turn the cucumbers soft and mushy. If you want to chill the salad before serving, do so as briefly as possible, just long enough to bring it to your desired temperature.
- Slice or tear fresh basil into thin strips for best flavor and presentation.
- You can use apple cider vinegar or even red wine vinegar if you don't have balsamic vinegar on hand, but the balsamic vinegar is probably worth a quick trip to the market.
- You can add cheese — preferably feta — if you're not following a dairy-free diet.
- If you chop the cucumbers and tomatoes, it's easier to enjoy this salad by scooping it up with chunks of crusty bread.
- Change up the salad's visual appeal by adding small cherry tomatoes in place of some of the tomato wedges.
- If you're a fan of the Dash Diet, this recipe fits right in and follows all the rules. The Dash Diet aims a spotlight on healthy eating — whole grains, lean protein, fresh veggies, and fruits. It also allows for some low-fat dairy. Just substitute red wine vinegar for the balsamic vinegar and be sure to peel the cucumber.
- You're not limited to making this salad in summer. Who doesn't love salads all year long? But it's best when the tomatoes and cucumbers are at their peak freshness.
Copyright 2009 by Jen Hoy