In Ukraine, there are as many variations of lettuce tomato cucumber salad as there are cooks. I grew up eating this salad in summer and it was always different depending on what was in my grandma’s garden and fridge. This is my version of traditional Eastern European garden salad, and believe it or not, it contains no garlic, rather one secret ingredient that makes this salad SO MUCH better than any other garden salads.
I based my chickpea avocado salad on this lettuce tomato cucumber salad, and this shrimp avocado tomato salad. Possibilities are endless and depend on your personal taste, fridge contents and mood. Yes, sometimes I feel like a splash of vinegar and other days a dollop of Greek yogurt. No matter what you do, it is very hard to mess up this salad unless you add way too much salt.
This lettuce tomato cucumber salad is so good, simple and darn cheap, it is on our summer’s menu every week. For more crowd pleasing salads, check out my healthy potluck recipes roundup.
How to Make Lettuce Tomato Cucumber Salad
First, wash all vegetables, chop and add to a large salad bowl as you are chopping. Work through ingredients in order listed in the recipe. No extra step to make salad dressing separately is required.
Use garden’s bounty or winter store’s availability. This is a beauty of this salad, its year round affordability and availability, especially thanks to Costco, of course (see my healthy Costco shopping list). Summer version will taste much better, of course.
Cucumbers: Any type of cucumbers (pickle, dill, garden, long English, Persian), peeled or not, work. I definitely would peel garden cucumbers that can have bitter and tough skin. I wouldn’t buy field cucumbers because they are lifeless and flavourless. I definitely would wash long English cucumber after removing the plastic wrapping (I knew someone who didn’t).
Tomatoes: Any type of full-grown, grape or cherry tomatoes work. I love local beefsteak and Roma (not from Mexico) for a good garden salad. I love heirloom too but sometimes price isn’t justifiable, and tomatoes on the vine taste as good (especially in winter when all there is in stores plastic-y tomatoes from Mexico).
Lettuce: Boston, red leaf, romaine, butter, green leaf are great. Salad spinner is a must if you want to enjoy local veggies.
Herbs: I specifically love dill in a lettuce tomato cucumber salad. Italian parsley would work too but not the same as dill, try both ways and you will know what I mean. To remove thick stalks, the trick is to hold onto them, then “shave” off the top part with a knife, and then chop finely.
Onion: It’s optional. As a kid, I hated it (that’s why I cut it in large slices, so kids can remove), now I like to add a bit for a zing.
Spices: Olive oil, salt, pepper and a secret ingredient is toasted sesame oil. It gotta be toasted, you can find it in any grocery store or online. It is a staple in Asian cooking, and without it, sesame cauliflower and homemade Asian salad dressing wouldn’t be the same – the toasted kind makes all the difference.
What toasted sesame oil does for this lettuce tomato cucumber salad? It adds a flavour similar to unrefined sunflower oil we used in Ukraine for cooking and eating, one and only oil used in every single dish. Try it and you will never ever have an olive oil only garden salad again.
What Ukrainian would I be, if on a hot summer day, I wouldn’t serve garden salad with smoked salmon toasts?!
- 1 lb cucumbers, coarsely chopped*
- 1 lb tomatoes, coarsely chopped*
- 1 lb lettuce, coarsely chopped*
- 1 small bunch dill, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup white or red onion, sliced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp salt
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Garlic and vinegar, to taste (optional)
- In a large bowl, add all ingredients in order as listed and as you are preparing them (washing and chopping the vegetables). Stir well and gently, and serve immediately or within a few hours.
*Use garden's bounty or winter store's availability. Any type of cucumbers (pickle, dill, garden, long English, Persian), peeled or not, work. Any type of full-grown, grape or cherry tomatoes work. As for lettuce - Boston, red leaf, romaine, butter, green leaf are great. Just make sure to chop all vegetables in similar sizes.