Mama's Salad

While I grew up in Chicago, my people are from the South. Dad’s parents were from Arkansas, while my mother’s folks hail from Mississippi and Tennessee. Despite moving way north of the Mason-Dixon line, our families never stopped eating Southern soul food. This was especially true on holidays: Thanksgiving would not have been Thanksgiving without Mama Dear’s cornbread dressing. Her collard greens and peach cobbler were so delicious they could make grown men weep. Banana cake (even for big family dinners, my Grandma would make this one just because she knew I adored it). Butter rolls. Oh, and sweet potato pie! That creamy, nutmeg and cinnamon concoction was a revelation. I deeply pitied my poor friends whose unfeeling parents forced them to eat the obviously inferior pumpkin pie.

As an adult, I have developed a different cooking style — and having gone paleo, even more so — but one of the dishes that I love and try to eat all summer long is this simple cucumber salad. Though I’ve varied it here with fancily spiralized onions, miniature cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes, its essential simplicity never fails to comfort me. My grandma made it, my mother still makes it, and when I need a taste of home, I make it too.

Mama Dear’s Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion
  • 8 miniature cucumbers
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Using a spiral slicer or mandoline, thinly slice the onions and cucumbers.
  2. With a serrated knife, slice the tomatoes into wedges.
  3. Combine the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle in the parsley. Using salad tongs or your hands, toss thoroughly.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and olive oil with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  5. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Toss again.
  6. It may be served immediately, though I prefer to refrigerate at least 30 minutes for best flavor.
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