Simple Summer Tomato Cucumber Salad

tomato cucumber salad  food loves writing

Summer 2014 will go down in my mental history books as the summer when: Tim and I drove a friend’s beat-up truck to East Nashville so we could load my old roommate’s queen-sized mattress and box spring, strap it in as best we could with ropes and gravity, then truck it back down the highway like those crazy people you never want to wind up stuck behind, praying it wouldn’t fly off. It will be the summer both my old roommates moved away. The summer of days so hot, sweat layers on sweat. The summer I did things like look up the owner of a property on public records, cyber-stalk him and email a “Hey, have you thought about selling your place?” The summer of sweet old ladies like Edna, whom we met this week, who lived in her house for 50+ years and whose husband worked on airplanes and who is only trying to move now because he died last year. The day after I met her, I sat at Provence with my work buddies, thinking about people who can’t get out to coffee shops in the middle of the day, can’t even leave their house when their Realtor shows it, because their bodies are slower and older now. Alongside all of these things, because of these things, it will also be the summer of nights, so many nights, where Tim and I end up looking at each other, stomachs growling and bodies tired, realizing we’ve forgotten to eat and now we’re too tired to cook, so we wind up with episode #53 of Tomato Cucumber Salad, made the way Tim ate it as a kid.

cucumber tomato salad foodloveswriting
tomato cucumber onion salad
bowl of cucumber tomato salad
tomato cucumber salad collage
making salad 2
making salad 1
cucumber tomato basil salad
food loves writing cucumber tomato salad

A few weeks ago, a sweet blog reader named Katie was in town, and while we talked at Fido about kombucha and parasites and real food and moving across the country, the fact that Tim and I were looking at houses also came up. We’d made an offer the day before, and we were waiting to learn the result. I told Katie then what I’m going to tell you now: I’ve been trying not to blog about it. That’s mostly because I don’t really want to tell the world about the saga that is house-hunting… not because it is painful or difficult or hard but because, hello, the very idea of looking for a house to buy is a luxury, and yet it’s a luxury that can often feel like a part-time job that you don’t get paid for, especially when you never wind up buying a house at the end. Also and more significantly, looking at houses confronts a hundred things I don’t want to be true about my heart, namely that I’m selfish and I want and I fear and I get anxious and I, sometimes without even realizing it, buy into the lie that a house will fill me up. I get caught up in square footage and property values and start hearing thoughts like, “You have to get ahead” or “This house will make you happy,” and it is work to filter them and throw them out.

But the other thing I told Katie is the same thing I read in an article somewhere I can’t remember now, which is essentially that it is in the sharing of these moments—these embarrassing, unattractive internal arguments and conflicts and struggles—that we find actual connection with other human beings. We don’t see each other’s souls when we talk about our favorite kitchen backsplashes (much as I enjoy a good subway tile); we enter each other’s lives when we talk about what wanting a certain something is doing to our hearts. So this is me saying in black and white and to the Internet that we are nearing the end of (another) summer of house-hunting and we are walking into all the city-versus-country, suburbs-versus-city, Antioch-versus-Hermitage, Woodbine-versus-Donelson, big-versus-little-downpayment, big-versus-little-house conversations that come alongside. What I love about this process is what it reveals; what I hate is how disproportionate, from a value standpoint, the amount of time it takes to hunt and offer and go to showings takes. What I am sure of, despite whatever fleeting thoughts hit me day to day, is that no house or hardwood floor is going to give me something that satisfies me more than what I’ve been given now. I looked at our stock of CSA vegetables Monday night, grown by hands that are not mine and through sun and rain I do not send; I sat with my Tim Sunday night by a body of water that you almost wouldn’t believe people made; I talked tonight to a dear friend who starts our conversations by laughing with me about sending her Christmas cards eight months late. I have so much! We have so much! I hate every minute I spend not soaking that in.

ps: August 4 marked six years (!!) of blogging here. It also marked 15 years (unbelievable!) since my grandma passed away. Both shock me. But posting a simple, Italian-inspired salad that she would have liked seems just right. Happy summering, guys. House-hunting advice welcome.

Simple Summer Tomato Cucumber Salad


Serving Size: 3 to 4

Simple Summer Tomato Cucumber Salad

The basic formula for this salad is equal parts tomatoes and cucumbers to quarter or half parts onion, with all of it dressed by a blend of balsamic, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and salt. Fresh herbs complete the picture, which is a bright, fresh salad with the crunch of cucumber and the tang of tomato juice. It's summer eating at its finest.


  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds (fresh summer!) tomatoes
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 small (i.e., 1/2 pound) yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (we like the short, squatty "from Modena" bottle at Trader Joe's)
  • 1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • Handful of fresh basil (maybe 10 to 15 leaves), torn roughly


Cut out the stem and any bruises of tomatoes; then slice them into pieces. Slice those pieces in half and slice those halves in half again. Place these tomato quarters into a large bowl.

Peel cucumbers (I find a paring knife works best and fastest for me with the tough cucumber skin) and slice into rounds. Add to bowl of tomatoes.

Peel onion and cut it in half. Slice halves into thin pieces, pulling apart the resulting half-moons and adding them to the tomato and cucumber bowl.

Toss vegetables with balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Add salt to taste. Add basil, toss again and serve.

While this salad is crunchy and refreshing on its own, it's also particularly nice with crusty bread, especially so you can use the bread to sop up the juices.


  1. says

    such a refreshing salad, I occasionally made something like this sans the herbs ( why did i not add herbs, dont ask me). And the point where you mentioned that we dont soak enough really hits home because i often complain or think of things i wish i had but forget about how much i have..thank you for the reminder.

  2. says

    Simple recipes are the best kind, and this salad looks very delicious!

    Although I was only in high school when we went through the house-hunting process, and I remember feeling so drained when I would find out we couldn’t buy the houses I liked. It was honestly quite a roller coaster, and I can only imagine how it is for you guys. Though I don’t have much house-hunting advice, I do have some encouragement: sometimes it is in the moments we are at our lowest that God can display his miracles to us the best. I remember my parents had practically given up the search when one day the realtor called so excited and told them “I have the house for you!” My parents were skeptical, even upon first glance. Little did we know that 5 years later we would be praising God for the decision to move to our beautiful home. It isn’t perfect, but we know that it was the perfect decision, led by our perfect God who loves us and knows the plans He has for us (Jeramiah 29:11). God has a hope and a future for both of you – he brought you together for a purpose, and he will continue guiding you for the rest of your lives as long as you ask him.
    Stay comforted, and keep posting these beautiful thoughts (and recipes!) on your blog.

    God bless,

    ~ Natalyn

  3. says

    1. I used to work in mortgage banking (the couple years between undergrad and grad school), so I know – all too well – the emotions that go into home-buying. SO much work. And not a decision you – very very wisely – aren’t making lightly.

    2. I am so sorry about your grandmother. Your site is an absolutely wonderful way of honoring her. It’s lovely.

    3. Congratulations on the blog-versary

    4. And this salad looks delicious!

    • says

      1. INTERESTING! One of the first job offers I got out of college was to be a mortgage loan processor. I still don’t even know what that means… and I almost took the job. Thanks for the reassuring voice saying it’s good to go slow. We are so green at all of this.

      2.3.4. You’re kind and thank you. : )

  4. says

    We’re new to Nashville and house hunting as well. We’re going through everything you are: schools, commute, price, square footage, land? Should we even pick a church if we’re going to move across the city? Might we move again before the kid starts school? Should we stay close to his day care? It’s almost too much to think about. If you ever wanted to get together and commiserate over the crazy that is the Nashville real estate market, I would love that.

  5. says

    Oh, Shanna, you get me every time with your beautiful words. I just finished reading Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”, so your thoughts about “finding actual connection with human beings” really hit home with me. Thank you for being willing to be real and vulnerable here– I only hope that one day I might be as lucky as Katie was to sit with you at a coffee shop to talk in person, not just online!

    Best of luck with house hunting!!

    • says

      Lindsey! I am 99% sure that the article I can’t remember was from Brene. Good ol’ Brene. She gets it. You get it! I hope very much we see each other in person one day, too.

  6. says

    Happy blog birthday, friend! And happy house hunting! I have a love/hate relationship with homeownership. On the one hand, I hate how it forces me to think about grownup things that I don’t fully understand, and makes me feel as though I know nothing at all in this world. On the other hand, I love how it teaches me new things all the time, and makes me stop and notice details of a home differently now because I know the kind of work and time and effort and thought was put into every decision. You guys are going to build a beautiful home together, I know it.

  7. says

    Goodness…I am just starting the process of selling a home after 7 years and learning that I can not gain fulfillment from life with a house full of things… and struggling with so many feelings that come with that…realizing that to be unhappy in something doesn’t mean to be ungrateful. This house has shown me so many things and taught me so many lessons … which is the name of the game. Anyway, that is a bit of a ramble….anywho! Love this salad and it reminds me of a salad my grandparents would have at their dinner table nightly during the summer months…alongside squash blossoms and wilted greens. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      You know what’s crazy when I read your comment, Mallory, is this site just turned six, which feels so loooooong to me, and then there you are, talking about a house you bought a year before then. 7 years is a long time to fill a house with things. I can only imagine! (of course, times a million for the people like my grandma who lived in her house for 45+ years. Oy!) I like your thoughts. Ramble here anytime.

  8. Katie Bazzel says

    Wow- Your constant pursuit of thankfulness, having contentment in today, and acknowledging the abundance around you is so so beautiful. When I think about your posts and about you, the words humble, thankful and authentic are always there. I got chills reading this post, partly teenage girl chills because I feel like meeting you was like meeting taylor swift for most girls, and partly because I can feel the truth in your words and the Holy Spirit nudging me saying “hey listen up, this girl knows what she is talkin’ about” :)
    So thank you. Thanks for the shout-out that made me feel super special. Thanks for running after what it means to be authentic in this crazy blog world. Thanks for meeting me like you’d know me for the rest of my life.
    I sure don’t know anything about house-hunting, but I do know the Lord has hemmed you in, behind and before and I pray His truth will be enough.

  9. says

    Four years!! Four years of wise and elegant writing and truth for all of us. Thank you for being here and doing this.

  10. says

    Oh my goodness, Shanna! This just sounds incredible. I’m from IL and no one in my family ever made anything like this growing up. It wasn’t until I moved to TN that I discovered this incredible dish. Have you ever tried cucumber watermelon salad? OMG. I tried it at a restaurant up on Nolensville Road a few weeks ago and I MUST find a recipe like that. Thanks for sharing and can’t wait to try this! :)

  11. says

    Oh how I feel you on everything you said! I remember when Joe and I were house searching, and we were living with his sister and brother-in-law and we didn’t have a ton of time to not find a house, and we did find one fairly quickly/easily. And I look at how God orchestrated every detail of our move to Minneapolis, from jobs to a house to new friends and it was all so seamless. And now, as we’re preparing for our next doctor’s appointment, I find myself filled with fear and anxiety and feeling so helpless and out of control and doubtful. It’s amazing to me how quickly I can forget that God really does have it covered. There was a time when we wanted to move to Minneapolis and God kept closing doors until the time was right, and he opened every door. And the same holds true for growing our family, it’s just hard to see sometimes when you’re in the thick of it.

    All that to say that I hope the timing is right for you two and your house. And even if it’s not, God knows those desires and I believe he’ll fulfill them in the perfect way, with the perfect house.

    • says

      You are so right, and we are seeing that even as I type in the way God is so obviously in control of houses on the market and bids that are accepted… thank you for the reminder and testimony. That is exactly what I need to hear and what we need to keep telling each other!

  12. eliz says

    I love reading your blog; so much encouragement to remember the things that really matter, to be grateful where you are, to see things honestly. Thanks for writing and sharing.

  13. says

    Hey there lady. Thank you for sharing this simple yet beautiful summer salad…and thank you for sharing your heart. We were in the house-hunting process last April, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Painful, confusing, and often exhausting. I trust that God will lead you exactly where you need to go…for the purposes that only he knows. Sending you lots of love right now!

  14. says

    Shanna! I’m so late in reading this post – I’d been on holidays in Italy (Rome, Naples, the beautiful Amalfi Coast)…and now that I’m looking at this post, and seeing your heart and your thoughts, I’m thankful for your words, for reminding us of all the richness that is around us. Plus, for this summer salad the way Tim ate it growing up.

    Sending you much love,

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