Everyday Tomato and Cucumber Salad With Dad’s Salad ‘Whisky’

Everyday Tomato and Cucumber Salad With Dad’s Salad ‘Whisky’
(Caitlin Bensel)

For most meals at my parents’ house, my dad was in charge of the “extras”: the salad, the feta plate, the pickles or olives—all the things he loved that made the meal a little more special. His “three-ingredient Mediterranean salad” literally had chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley. He seasoned it simply with salt and pepper, lime juice or vinegar, and a good drizzle of olive oil. Baba loved it when the salad sat long enough for all the juices to concentrate in the bowl. He called this delicious liquid “salad whisky” because once everyone was served and the bowl was empty, he collected the liquid in a small glass and drank it like a shot of whisky! I inherited my love for “salad whisky” from Baba and passed it on to my girls, who now fight over who gets to drink it.

Serves 4 to 6
  • 3 vine-ripened medium tomatoes, cored and diced
  • 1 English (hothouse) cucumber, diced
  • 3 scallions, trimmed, white and green parts roughly chopped
  • 2 or 3 radishes, diced
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh dill fronds
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lime or lemon, plus more to taste (2 to 4 tablespoons)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, radishes, herbs, and garlic. Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Add the sumac and red pepper flakes (if using).

Dress the salad with about 2 tablespoons of the lime or lemon juice and a generous drizzle of olive oil (about 3 tablespoons). Toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a splash more lime or lemon juice if you like. Allow the salad to sit about 10 minutes before serving so the flavors meld and the “salad whisky” forms.

If you have any leftovers, keep in the fridge in a tightly covered container for up to one night (it gets nicely marinated, but it may lose a bit of its crunch).

Reprinted from “The Mediterranean Dish” copyright 2022 by Suzy Karadsheh. Photographs copyright 2022 by Caitlin Bensel. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.
This article was originally published in American Essence magazine.