Saturday, July 2, 2011

Recipe! Cucumber Onion Tomato Salad AKA: Cool Bliss In The Heat

Oh! Boy did spring shoot by!   Summer is upon us and wouldn't you know it I didn't post in June.  I certainly did photography for a couple June posts (to follow soon, watch out!) but I didn't make the time to post them here for The Happy You.

Fortunately I come bearing a gift: The Ultimate Summer Salad Recipe From My Youth.  That's too long for a title, isn't it?  We shall just refer to it by it's Granny given name: Cucumber Onion Tomato Salad.

Some of the happiest memories from my youth were formed with with my grandmothers.  One lived in town (yay for me!) and the other lived in the country with a large sprawling farm (yay again!).  This little bit of culinary paradise hails from In Town Grandma.  She was one of the best cooks that I've encountered.  She knew a great deal about food, nutrition, how to eat well, and how to feed a family fabulously on the cheap.  I cherish my memories of her and I use advice from her virtually every day.  This wise and loving lady certainly knew a good thing when she found it and that's where this delicious salad comes in to my life.

Cucumber Onion Tomato Salad was served at family dinners and at quickly assembled lunches on the fly many, many times through out each summer season with fresh produce lovingly tended from her garden.  There's nothing as good as food assembled that you (or a loved one) grew personally.  But organic and farmer's market finds can be a pleasant runner up!

Sorry for the grainy quality of the photo, this was taken on my cell phone camera, such was my haste to dig in!

Cucumber Onion Tomato Salad

Note: This salad is more about ratios than exact measurements and tends to vary a little bit each time you make it

1 1/2 regular cucumbers (just use 1 english cucumbers or 2-3 smaller garden grown cucumbers)
2 medium tomatoes (I used one really large tomato and one smaller tomato)
1 small white or yellow onion (don't use a too hot variety, you want it to stay pretty mild)
1/3 to 1/2 cup of mayo (Start with a scant 1/3 and see how liquidy it gets as you stir it up) [See Note Below]
1 teaspoon of celery salt (you could use a heaping teaspoon of celery seed and salt to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon mustard powder (I always use a heaping amount)
1 teaspoon sugar (If you use Miracle Whip, this may not need as much if any sugar)

Peel the cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise and then cut into half moon slices about 1/4 inch thick.  (Or larger if you want it to be chunkier but I always liked the thinner slices.  Some people dice all the vegetables to  be evenly sized, so that's another option.)  Core the tomatoes, slice in half and cut into chunks that are twice as thick as the cucumber and half as long.  Cut the top and bottom off the onion and peel the skins away.  Place each half flat-side down on the cutting board and cut into very thin half moon slices.  Place all vegetables into a large glass bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the mayo, celery salt, pepper, mustard powder (you can sub 1 teaspoon of regular yellow mustard, if desired) and the sugar.  Taste to see if there's a good balance.  You'll want it a little sweet and somewhat salty.  The tangy will come in later after you stir it into the tomato juices and the onion slices. Add more pepper, celery salt or etc if necessary.  If in doubt... wait until it's all mixed together and set for a few minutes.

Pour the mayo mixture into the vegetable mixture and stir until very well combined.  Let sit 5 minutes and taste it.  Add any additional flavors at this point. I almost always wind up adding a little more celery salt and pepper.

A Note About Mayo: My grandmother always used Miracle Whip, which is a little tangier and a little sweeter than normal mayo.  As I've gotten older, I use Hellmanns/Best Foods (the West Coast version) instead.  For the classic flavor: Miracle Whip is a must!  For those concerned with healthier options you can sub plain yogurt and sweeten and salt it more heavily to make up for the plain tang of the yogurt.

I hope that this wonderful salad becomes a part of your summers just like it was a part of mine.  When it's hot, you're tired or just want a quick snack/side/picnic or potluck dish/cold supper/etc this is a dream come true.  If you're eating it as a full meal, I can confirm it's great with leftover cold chicken from the fridge and crusty bread.  I've tucked it into pita with hummus and had spectacular results.  But no matter what... When I taste the combination of flavors together I feel my grandmother's love and can see her sweet, smiling face beaming at me.  She approves so, Happy Eating!!