Tomato and cucumber salad, sparkling with the bright flavors of parsley, fresh lemon juice, and a subdued and earthy olive oil, finds its way to our supper table several times a week during the height of the tomato season from early August through mid-September. Our family loves the simple combination of some of summer's best vegetables: cucumber and tomato. You'll also find that same combination in this Cauliflower Tabbouleh recipe.
We gorge ourselves on tomatoes in the summer time, all rich, sweet and slightly acidic. We love the brandywines with their burgundy-like color, the zapotec pleated tomatoes with their exotic shape and deep ridges, the Green Zebras with their lovely green and yellow striations, but most of all, we love the Roman striped tomatoes which bloom with flavor and are well-suited to salads, sauces and tomato paste. And those sungold tomatoes (a hybrid), that everyone seems to love? Well, we buy pounds and pounds of those too - always with the intention of preserving them in oil, though most end up in our bellies as we pop them into our hungry mouths as though they were candy. I'll say it again, we love tomatoes - especially heirloom varietals still warm from the sun and served the day they were picked (a particularly challenging endeavor when you live in an area with a 60-day growing season).
Tomatoes, like most foods, are best served at the height of their season. Sure, they may be available year-round, but where's the pleasure in a pallid and mealy tomato served during a January snowstorm? No, keep your tomatoes local and served in season, and if you care to eat tomatoes out of season make sure to preserve them well by sun drying, in oil or even in good, rich and robust sauce. And these tomato salads? We relish them when we can and long for them when the heat of summer has abated and the days grow long.
This tomato and cucumber salad, like other real foods, nourishes the body as well as it satisfies the palate. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a carotenoid with antioxidant properties. While evidence indicates that lycopene may be more concentrated and bioavailable when subjected to gentle cooking - which may make those rich tomato sauces particularly nutrient-dense, this salad of fresh tomatoes is still teeming with antioxidants, food enzymes and vitamins. Tomatoes are even a very good source of folate - a B vitamin that is critical for reproductive health and is particularly essential for women of childbearing years as low maternal intake of folate is concretely and unequivocally linked to neural tube defects in babies. Leafy greens and organ meats like liver are also remarkably rich sources of folate. As an added bonus, this salad is gently tossed in unrefined extra virgin olive oil - a source of vitamin E and monounsaturated fat.