Variations on a Theme: Two Salads with Cucumber, Tomatoes, and Herbs

Lately I’ve been struggling with a certain ennui regarding the overwhelming abundance of tomatoes at the farmer’s market. On the one hand, I feel I should be sampling every variety, scarfing down the juicy, rosy globes while the getting’s good, but on the other hand . . . eh. They’re just not exciting me. This might be part of a larger malaise, one which a wise friend of mine has identified as being calendar-related. As she put it: “August is like February—it is the month that highlights all of the most difficult aspects of the season: the weather, the languor, the inability to get anything done, the heat.” I’m pretty sure I’m suffering from all of it, which combines with some other frustrations and concerns to yield an indifference to, of all things, tomatoes.

And yet, I still buy them by the bushel. The other day I came home from the market with nine tomatoes in four varieties, plus two pints of sungold cherry tomatoes. What was I thinking? I have no idea. I simply can’t be bothered to try anything terribly daring. But it turns out that in August, the height of the tomato season, it’s pretty hard to be unsuccessful when preparing a tomato-based dish. One night I combined them, diced small, with diced cucumbers, toasted pine nuts, and an entire bunch of finely chopped parsley. And last night I served them cut into wedges with sliced cukes, de-fanged slivers of raw onion, basil, and mint, with a balsamic vinaigrette. Both were deeply satisfying—although I must admit I preferred the second salad. The first one was a little too much like tabouli, but without the toothy bulgur I like so much.

So here are the recipes, although they’re both so simple “recipe” might be a misnomer:

Parsley Salad with Cucumber and Tomato
Serves 2

1 bunch Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, seeds and internal membranes removed, diced small
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, diced small
2 T. pine nuts, toasted and cooled
Juice of ½ to 1 whole lemon (depending on your taste)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Put all ingredients in a bowl, and let it sit for a while before serving. See, I told you it was simple…

Tomato, Cucumber, and Onion Salad
Serves 4

For the salad:
½ onion, sliced very thin
6-8 tomatoes of various shapes and colors, cut into wedges
2 cucumbers, washed and sliced into rounds
Small handful each of fresh basil and mint, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
½ clove garlic, minced
1 t. Dijon mustard
1 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. fig balsamic vinegar
1 T. balsamic vinegar
3 T. olive oil
Salt & pepper

Put onion in a small bowl and cover with ice water; let soak at least ½ hour. (This will make the raw onion less offensive to eat.) Drain, and put into a large salad bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small Rubbermaid container and shake until it’s emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning until you’re happy with it. Pour over the salad, toss, and let it sit for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.