August 07, 2007

The Paula Kamen Cucumber-Tomato Salad, a recipe for cool

Like many good recipes, this one comes from a friend.

About a decade ago, DH and I were part of an informal chavurah, a group of friends who met for monthly vegetarian potluck shabbat dinners and discussion.

It was a hip group.

Intellectually and artistically hip, I mean. Our group included the creators of the (now) syndicated Edge City comic (which you can read in the Chicago Sun-Times), a woman who clerked for a Supreme Court judge, several writers, including this one, who is now also known for her CancerBitch diaries on Chicago Public Radio (click over for good news), and Feminist Fatale, Paula Kamen.

You may be wondering how the rather square DH and I, the only suburbanites in the group, wound up in such good company. I wondered that, too. I'm convinced it was a fluke, but that's fodder for another post.

On to Paula's amazing salad. This was her standard chavurah dish, and now it's my standard summer dish. It's healthy and refreshing, and the boys eat it! I make almost weekly.

6 plum tomatoes
6 pickle cucumbers
1/4 to 1/2 of a sweet onion
1/2 lb. of feta cheese (Go for the more expensive French or Greek variety; they are smooth and creamy. Consider using goat cheese if your only feta choice is the prepackaged stuff.)
1-2 large serving spoonfuls of kalamata olives, without pits
Seasoning to taste: basil, oregano, pepper, salt, olive oil, balsamic or rice wine vinegar

Chop first four ingredients into chunks. If you like them large, as Paula does, fine. You want to go small, that's okay, too. I usually keep the onions chunks large, so the kids can easily pick them out. If I don't have a lot of olive, I may slice them in half as well.

Adapt the ratio of ingredients to meet your tastes. I often wind up with a huge salad because I think, Oh, just one more tomato and then it looks to tomato-y so I add more cukes, then a bit more cheese, then back to the tomatoes, etc.

If you've got extra feta, cut it into cubes and enjoy as a chaser to watermelon slices. This delightful sweet/salty combo is perfect for a sultry summer night.

Paula has new book on women and mental health due out soon. I'll let you know when it's released.

1 comment:

Paula said...

Thank you, Kim. FYI, the recipe was adapted from the early 1990s cookbok, Lean and Luscious. They had another tip to be very heavy on the dried oregano and basil, a secret of the salad. I cake it on, with about 1/4 cup of each on a big salad (yes, that's 1/4 cup of each). I also subsitute balsamic for rice-wine vinegar and feta with fresh mozzarella to make it "Italian." I also use any kind of cucumbers, not just pickle cukes.


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