Greek cucumber and tomato salad

Re the play: under no circumstances whatsoever are we to eat food while wearing our costumes. If we do, we run the risk of the (normally bubbly and happy-go-lucky) costume designer suffering an apoplectic fit.

Even so, there is often food in the green room anyway: bagels, cake, bread and jam, pie, crackers, and the like. We eat while walking around in various stages of undress or after the play is over. I usually don’t eat anything, partly because of nerves, partly because I don’t need to, and partly because the corset doesn’t allow for breathing, let alone food.

However, four and a half hours is a long time for the little kids to go without eating, so their mother often packs them something more substantial. They put on full-body bibs (the plastic smocks that we wear while we’re getting our hair done) and dig in. One night I spied them huddling over a big container of cucumber and tomato salad.

“What’s in that?” I asked, bending over to get a closer look.

The mother rattled off the list: tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, feta, and black olives.

“And the dressing?”

“A garlic clove mashed up with some salt and olive oil.”

“Vinegar, too?” I suggested.

“No, lemon juice. I always use lemon juice for the acid when making Greek food.”

I love it when people have particular food prep habits. It’s indicative of style, flair, an informed opinion. I never knew that lemon juice was preferred over vinegars when making Greek food (I am flair-less!), but I’m all for learning.

I made the salad this morning, mashing up a bit of garlic with some salt in my mortar and pestle, just like she recommended. I never use my mortar and pestle, but that’s all changed now. It transformed that clove into a pungent, salty paste. A couple glugs of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon later, and I had a smooth, authentic (yes? yes!) Greek dressing.

The salad was as good as I imagined it to be. Maybe even better. Come August, when tomatoes and cucumbers are at their peak, this salad will make a frequent appearance at our table.

Greek Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Inspired by my friend MAC

1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and then sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
2 green onions, minced (optional)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
½ – 1 cup black olives, quartered
½ cup feta cheese
1 small clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients.

Mash the garlic with the salt until creamy. Whisk in the olive oil and lemon juice.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss to coat. Taste to correct seasonings.

P.S. My younger daughter was washing the dishes and came upon the mortar and pestle. “Can I have this when you die?” she asked.

I didn’t answer right off—there were so many things wrong with this statement. First, she’s planning my death already? Second, a mortar and
pestle is the best she could come up with? Seriously?

“Can I? Can I?” she pressed.

“We’ll see,” I finally answered, shaking my head.

This same time, years previous: microwave flower press


  • Anonymous

    I have been a long time reader of your blog, but not a frequent poster. This post makes me laugh because I just had a similar conversation with my (6 year old) daughter. Only her request was for a tiny little plastic wind up rabbit. The next day she made a point of telling her older brother that "mommy said I can have this when she dies". Staking her claim 🙂 Of course, having just lost both my grandparents two months ago, and bringing home treasures from their home, I suppose the concept is on her mind.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Andrea, kids say the oddest things, don't they? I'm sorry about your grandparents—loosing two so close together must've been hard.

  • Melodie Davis

    And the kids were eating this? I'm amazed, impressed, embarrassed. Oh well. I'll give it a try. I think they'll love it as adults.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Her kids were, not mine. Her kids are much more sophisticated than mine. (But honestly, I didn't offer any to them either. I wanted it all for myself.)

  • dr perfection

    I'm betting your daughter heard you say "when you die" to your mother.

    So what does your mother have that you want?

  • Margo

    I dearly love a good story with my recipes. And this looks like a special recipe, too. I only use my mortar and pestle for spices, so I like having another use for it.

  • Kathy

    When my Mom was writing her will, she asked us all what we wanted. I told her that I wanted her pepper mill. She laughed & said she was NOT going to put that in her will. That is all I really wanted.

    When she did pass, me & my 2 sisters got our $$, and then were dividing up her stuff. Tina wanted the pepper mill, but I told her that I wanted it & mom had refused to put that in her will. Tina insisted she wanted it, until I told her that she can have my $15k, I only want the pepper mill. I was digging through my purse to give her the check, when she handed me the pepper mill & told me I could keep the $$.

    The pepper mill reminds me of my mom standing over the stove cooking. The times I would sit at the kitchen table talking with her, and she would explain how she knew there was enough pepper in something (when you can smell it from where you are standing. If you are congested & can't smell it, you probably need more pepper in your food anyway.) We would laugh in the kitchen, and talk about our problems. That is why I wanted to pepper mill.

    It is still my favorite pepper mill to use. I like the way it fits in my hand. I like the way the handle is slightly bent. I even like the way I have to refill it every 3 weeks, and I remember sitting in the kitchen filling that pepper mill with my mom as we talked about everything & nothing.

    Don't discount the mortar & pestle as nothing. Sometimes the simplest things mean the most.

  • KTdid

    When you die?! Having just divvied up the last of my parents' estate (at the age of 62) it impresses me that that daughter of yours is certainly far-thinking!! kbs

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