Today, I am sharing another recipe that goes all the way back to my childhood. For as long as I can remember, my Dad made this salad that we ate alongside our dinner every night. As I grew older, I was so thankful that my parents got me in the habit of eating fresh food and having a salad every night. Continuing the Stromberg tradition, I now taught Eric how to make this salad so we can eat it with the dinners that I make every night for the 2 of us.
People ALWAYS asked how my Dad made the dressing. There is something about it that tastes so different from regular balsamic vinagrettes that you find in restaurants. I distinctly remember all of my friends and any other dinner regulars that we had gushing over my Mom’s home cooked meals and my Dad’s salad. One summer evening, there was a man who was installing a drain in our backyard to help with flooding. In Stromberg fashion, my Mom fixed him a plate of pasta and my dad made him a bowl of salad so he could eat something while he worked. We were watching him through the window as he sat down to eat the salad. His face was lighting up with each bite as he devoured it. A short while later he had a look of disappointment as he realized he finished the bowl and there was no salad left. He looked down at it momentarily, tilted his head back, and proceeded to drink every drop of dressing left in that bowl. He grinned like a child who just finished a bowl of ice cream.
While it made me laugh, his reaction to the salad is not that uncommon. To this day, we usually break out a few slices of crusty bread to sop up all the extra dressing. It’s just so good.
The big secret to the dressing? Tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. I know you’re probably thinking okay, a lot of salads have those ingredients… What’s the big deal? But the juices from those ingredients are essentially part of the salad dressing. You start by chopping up tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh herbs (usually basil and/or dill, depending on what we have on hand) and onions. A fat pinch of coarse sea salt and several cranks of freshly cracked black pepper helps them sweat and release their juices. Then, you add your oil, vinegar, cream, and blue cheese (which is optional, but it adds great flavor). I will also take a moment to go over my usual spiel that you should be using the highest quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar you can find. It’s really important to use the good stuff for a salad like this!
I remember peeking over my Dad’s shoulder as a child, wanting to learn the art of making this salad. He taught me to look at the color of the dressing as a gauge. He would take a spoon to the bowl and take a sip to confirm that it was just right. Measuring out ingredients for this recipe was particularly tricky, and in all honesty I’m not 100% sure the measurements are as good as the color test. If all else fails, look at the picture below and try and match your dressing to that color.
The dressing cannot be made separately in a jar or small bowl. The key is allowing the tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions to become the dressing. You leave everything sitting at the bottom of the bowl, top it with lettuce, and toss everything together just before you are ready to eat.
This salad is at its peak in the heat of summer, when we have our very own garden heirloom tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers. If you can get your hands on some heirloom tomatoes, they are perfect for this salad.
I mean, just look at how juicy and beautiful those garden tomatoes are! This is another one of those dishes where there are not many ingredients, so you want to use the highest quality of each ingredient that you can get.
This recipe is so simple, it’s barely a recipe. But trust me when I say that it’s an amazing salad.
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced in rounds and then quartered
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 Tablespoons fresh herbs, such as basil and/or dill
2 fat pinches of coarse sea salt
10-12 cranks freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 cup high quality balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
2-4 Tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
1-2 heads lettuce, depending on size (I used 1 1/2 heads of read oak lettuce), torn or roughly chopped
- In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, salt, and pepper.
- Add in the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, herbs, blue cheese, and heavy cream. Toss to combine. Allow to sit for a few minutes so all of the flavors can meld together.
- Place torn lettuce on top of the mixture. Toss salad together and serve immediately.
- Sop up remaining dressing with crusty bread. If you happen to have Gouda cheese on hand, a slice of toasted bread with Gouda and this dressing is out of this world!