This bright, crunchy cucumber and tomato salad, which is loosely adapted from Naomi Duguid’s brilliant book, Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan, is the perfect accompaniment to summer meals and barbecued meats. It’s both refreshing and cooling, and takes mere minutes to throw together.
During the summer, few vegetable combinations are quite as appealing as cucumbers and tomatoes. They’re both pretty and refreshing. Moreover, farmer’s markets and produce shops are bursting with myriad varieties of both veggies.
This cucumber and tomato salad is a new family favorite. It’s simple enough to be prepared without a recipe — as I suspect many Kurdish cooks do. Better yet, it showcases the very best summer produce. Plenty of fresh, green herbs are the icing on the cake.
This salad is as welcome on a mezze platter as it is with meats from the grill. It’s refreshing and light, and is the perfect vehicle to showcase the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes one finds in the market these days. Truly a summer treat.
About the Book
To be honest, I bought Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan on a whim. Persian food was a new challenge for me, and I feared it would be impossibly complicated. However, the book’s gorgeous photographs and rich descriptions of Duguid’s travels through the region made it an irresistible purchase.
Given the warm reception this cookbook has received internationally, and the numerous awards and prizes it’s received, including the prestigious James Beard Award for International Cooking, I should have expected the recipes to be outstanding. However, I’ve learned to be skeptical about awards. Sometimes the most lauded cookbooks are overflowing with inaccessible recipes that are far too complicated for every day cooking.
Thankfully, Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan is not that sort of cookbook. Yes. There are a few complicated and sophisticated recipes for those who have the time or the desire. However, for me, it’s the accessible recipes from local home cooks that really shine.
Many of the recipes in Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan are bright, fresh, and uncomplicated. They represent the sort of every day food most folks associate with Mediterranean cuisine.
Moreover, I love the fact that Duguid introduces us to the local cooks whose recipes she shares. She paints intimate portraits of individuals she’s met, which give us a real sense of the region and its lifestyles. This rich backdrop allows us to better appreciate her recipes and the food we create with them.
About the Recipe
In Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan, Naomi Duguid suggests using mint, sorrel, lovage, flat-leaf parsley and leaf celery in any proportion you desire. I have had excellent results using this formula. However, one of the liberties I’ve taken with the recipe is extending the list to include chives.
When you prepare cucumber and tomato salad, feel free to experiment. Try whichever herbs you have in your garden or your fridge. Your salad may be slightly less authentic, but it will be no less delicious.
Another liberty I’ve taken with Duguid’s recipe is to use unpeeled cherry tomatoes in lieu of peeled plum tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes at my market were too gorgeous to resist. However, if good cherry tomatoes are unavailable, do feel free to use an equal weight of peeled, diced plum tomatoes.
Whether you stick to my recipe or use some of the options presented above, I hope you and your family thoroughly enjoy it. Bon appétit!
Tangy Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Pomegranate Molasses
This crunchy, refreshing salad from Kurdistan is a welcome addition to any mezze platter or meal from the grill. It's light, cooling and delicious and can be made in under 15 minutes. An easy, every day dish which is made special by the addition of a drizzle of pomegranate molasses to finish it off.
- 1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) English cucumbers, peeled and cut into 4 cm spears
- 300 g (10 oz) cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half
- 15 g (about 1 bunch) fresh chives, finely chopped
- 15 g (about 1 bunch) flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- Step 1 Toss the cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh herbs and salt in a large salad bowl. Taste for seasoning and adjust, as needed
- Step 2 Drizzle with pomegranate molasses. Serve immediately or cover and hold for up to 30 minutes.
If you live in Johannesburg, pomegranate molasses is available at Thrupp’s in Illovo.