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This tomato cucumber onion salad is a crunchy, refreshing, simple dish that you can enjoy as a starter or as a side dish. Pick your favourite tomatoes, we love Roma tomatoes, a crunchy cucumber, and sweet red onion.
Sometimes, when we want to eat this as a main, we even add some crunchy pan-fried tofu. This way it's going to be more like a greek salad, but with tofu instead of feta.
Tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions combined in a salad, seasoned with olive oil, salt, and vinegar are some of the most popular Italian salads.
And while you can find those ingredients all year round, this salad is most delicious in summer and early autumn, when tomatoes are at their best.
This salad is also very similar to a Greek salad. If you've ever been to Greece, you would have noticed that they serve tomato, cucumber and onion salad pretty much everywhere, except, they add feta cheese to it to give that salty, umami flavour booster that is so good.
Because I like that salty flavour so much, I decided to make a variation of this tomato cucumber salad that is similar to a Greek salad.
I substituted salty pan-fried tofu for the feta. To make it look even more like feta, you can cut it in small dice. I love this variation, it's easy and delicious. You can find the recipe in the "variations" chapter below.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Tomatoes: we like to use Roma tomatoes when we are in Italy, since they are everywhere, are delicious, and very affordable.
You can use your favourite tomatoes for this salad, even small cherry, plum and date tomatoes. What's important is that they are ripe, but not overripe, and tasty.
- Cucumber: make sure it's very fresh. Fresh cucumbers are crunchy and sweeter. Old cucumbers can be flabby and bitter.
- Red Onion: ideally a red onion that is not too old and not too strong in flavour. Make sure you cut it very thin.
When we are in Italy we like to use Tropea red onions, which by the way, are my favourite onions in the world, due to their sweet, round taste.
- Olive oil: go for extra virgin if you can, it will give a better taste to the salad.
- Vinegar: balsamico, white wine, red wine, or apple cider vinegar are all good.
- Salt and pepper: to season.
- Parsley: to add freshness and colour. Fresh basil is great too.
Optional ingredients for greek salad variation
- Tofu: this is entirely optional. Only add this if you like to eat this more as a main dish than as a side salad, or if you feel like eating a plant-based greek salad.
- Cornstarch: to coat the tofu before pan frying it, it will make it crispy.
- Garlic clove, rosemary sprig, salt and pepper: to season the tofu.
How to make tomato cucumber onion salad
Rinse tomatoes and cucumber, peel the onion. Cut the tomatoes and add them to a large bowl. Some tomatoes can be very watery. If this bothers you, remove some of the tomato liquid.
Roma tomatoes: if you use Roma tomatoes, then cut them in half on the long side, then each half in slices.
Vine tomatoes: if you use vine tomatoes, then cut them in half, then each half in wedges. You might need to remove the stalk of the tomatoes if it's hard. Add to the bowl.
Date, plum or cherry tomatoes: for these kinds of smaller tomatoes, you can just cut them in half, or in quarters if you prefer smaller pieces.
Cut the cucumber in half on the long side, then cut each half into slices, and add to the bowl.
Based on your preference, you can peel the cucumber or not before cutting it. I like to peel it in stripes, with a vegetable peeler.
Slice the onion into thin slices. If you have a big onion, then cut it in half first. If you have a shallot, you don't have to cut it in half. Just make sure to cut thin slices. Add to the bowl.
If your onion has a sharp, pungent taste, then read our "tips" chapter to make it a bit sweeter.
If you like, you can finely chop some parsley and add it to the bowl.
Alternatively, basil works too. Basil should not be finely chopped, just tear it apart with your hands to make small pieces.
When you are ready to serve, add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix well. Serve as a side, or as a starter with some toasted bread.
- Freshness of and quality of ingredients: this is the most important tip I can give for this recipe.
For instance, try to get good organic tomatoes, that are ripe and in season. Same with the cucumber.
For the olive oil, if you can choose one that is extra virgin. It tastes a lot better than regular olive oil.
- Tomatoes at room temperature: tomatoes should be served at room temperature to maximise their flavour. My advice is to never put tomatoes in the refrigerator, including for this salad.
If you want the salad to be cool and refreshing, then refrigerate the cucumber before making the salad, but not the tomatoes.
- How to make your onion less sharp: slice your onion into thin slices and put it in a bowl with cold water.
Squeeze it with your hands while in the water, then let it soak for 10 minutes, then take it out, and put it back in the bowl with fresh cold water for another 10 minutes.
Repeat this two to three times to get rid of the acidic, sharp flavour of the onion. When done, take the onion out of the water, dry it with a kitchen towel, and add it to the salad.
Frequently asked questions
Since it takes 5 minutes to make, I recommend making it shortly before serving it. You could chop up the ingredients for this salad up to half a day in advance, but I recommend seasoning it just before serving it so that you won't compromise its flavour and texture too much.
If you make it in advance, store it in the refrigerator. The tomatoes might release some water while they sit in the refrigerator, that's normal. You can remove this extra water.
Take it out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving it. Remember that tomatoes are best served at room temperature.
It depends! If the cucumber is organic and very fresh, then there's no need to peel it. I personally like to remove only half of the pee, creating green stripes on the cucumber for a nice visual effect.
This tomato cucumber salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours, however, it won't be crunchy and delicious as when it's just made because the vinegar and the salt will "cook" the other ingredients.
Let it stay at room temperature for about 1 hour before eating it. It's best if the tomatoes are not cold.
When stored, the tomatoes will release water and the salad will look watery. You can drain some of the water away before serving it if it bothers you.
I don't recommend freezing this salad.
Bell pepper tomato cucumber onion salad
I learned this variation from Marcella Hazan, and even though I haven't seen this myself in Italy where I come from, I think that it is a great variation.
Do exactly the same salad as above, but before seasoning, it, add a cleaned and diced yellow bell pepper. It will add crunch, sweetness, freshness, and colour.
Tofu Tomato Cucumber Onion Salad
This one is basically a Greek salad where we substitute tofu for feta cheese. To make this salad, first follow our recipe box, then when you are done, prepare and add the tofu.
You'll need a block of tofu, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, a clove of garlic, a spring of rosemary (optional) and some olive oil and salt.
First, cut the tofu into small dice. Then in a bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch and the diced tofu. Toss the tofu in the cornstarch until completely coated.
Now, put the coated tofu dice in a strainer and shake the excess cornstarch away.
In a non-stick pan, warm up some oil, then add a clove of crushed garlic and optionally a sprig of rosemary.
When the oil is warm, add in the tofu dice and fry them on the pan till they are golden on all sides. You need to occasionally turn them around.
Season the tofu with salt. I like to add a generous amount to try and imitate the saltiness of the feta cheese.
Then when the tofu dice are golden and crisp, turn the heat off, and let them cool down for 5 minutes before adding them on top of the tomato cucumber and onion salad, just like if they were pieces of feta cheese.
Did you know that we develop our recipes to go together for a complete dinner meal plan? Serve this tomato cucumber and onion salad with:
Tomato cucumber onion salad
- 6 medium sized ripe tomatoes roma or vine tomatoes
- 1 medium sized cucumber
- 3 tablespoon olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tablespoon vinegar white wine, red wine, balsamico or apple cider
- 1 medium sized red onion or shallot
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon parsley chopped
- Rinse tomatoes and cucumber, peel the onion. Cut the tomatoes and add them to a large bowl.Roma tomatoes: if you use Roma tomatoes, then cut them in half on the long side, then each half in slices.Vine tomatoes: if you use vine tomatoes, then cut them in half, then each half in wedges. You might need to remove the stalk of the tomatoes if it's hard. Add to the bowl.Date, plum, or cherry tomatoes: for these kinds of smaller tomatoes, you can just cut them in half, or in quarters if you prefer smaller pieces.
- Cut the cucumber in half on the long side, then cut each half into slices, and add to the bowl.Based on your preference, you can peel the cucumber or not before cutting it. I like to peel it in stripes, with a vegetable peeler.
- Slice the onion into thin slices. If you have a big onion, then cut it in half first. If you have a shallot, you don't have to cut it in half. Just make sure to cut thin slices. Add to the bowl.
- If you like, you can finely chop some parsley and add it to the bowl. Alternatively, basil works too.
- Now add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix well. Serve as a side, or as a starter with some toasted bread.
Full video on youtube @theplantbasedschool
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