I was about to finish the final the draft of this Middle Eastern Tomato and Cucumber Salad when our dog, Kaya, ate a tree cone and all then all hell broke loose. I needed some time to recuperate, so my gastronomic achievements are nothing to brag about these past couple of weeks. I reached a particularly new low while scarfing down Chinese takeout in my car, in plus 30c, while still in the takeout’s parking lot. Such is life…
If you’re like any normal person who cooks, you probably own a few spices. Salt, pepper, a spice rack. At the back of your cabinet somewhere, you know there’s stuff you know you should’ve thrown out 5 years ago. That sorta thing.
I’m pushing the outer limits of “normal” here, because I collect spices like some girls collect shoes. I buy them in tiny amounts at Bulk Barn, basically the reason to visit Canada, then discard and refill if not used within a few months. Everything is stored in small airtight jars, which I sometimes stop to run my fingers over and admire.
My advice is simple: spices need to be fresh, top-notch fresh, otherwise you’re wasting precious time preparing a dish that won’t be anywhere close to its best. They don’t have to be a huge investment, either. I chuckle when I see those tiny jars at the supermarket, each priced at, oh, $7.99. Bulk, people. Find a store in your area, make sure they’re reputable and stock only top-notch quality products. Then go nuts! 60 cent turmeric? Sign me up. You don’t need a big .5 lb bag, either. It will be a flavorless powder by the time you’re done with it in 2 years.
Here’s a spice I refilled on to make this Middle Eastern Tomato and Cucumber Salad – sumac. It’s a powdered berry used in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. It goes well when sprinkled on yogurt and hummus. This is the sort of salad I love – simple to make, but feels special, not run of the mill. Here’s how:
- (adjust quantities as required)
- Tomatoes - quartered and sliced in half, cherry tomatoes are wonderful as well
- English cucumber
- parsley, chopped
- pinch of sumac
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil
- Prepare the vegetables and cover with yogurt - more than less. Garnish with sumac, salt, pepper and parsley, then drizzle a bit of olive oil on top.