Eight years ago, my family and I fulfilled a longstanding dream of mine to visit Armenia. Forty-eight parishioners from our church travelled together and experienced a trip of a lifetime as we explored our tiny country of origin and in the process became a big extended family. I cannot do justice to the trip without the benefit of the pictures I took which unfortunately are on a computer out of my reach right now. However, I am sharing a recipe with you today that I developed when I returned home to capture one of the signature dishes we ate nearly every day. It’s one that I continue to make today and is open to variations galore.
On most days during our visit to Armenia, we went on day-long excursions to visit historical churches and monasteries, museums and other landmarks. Around early afternoon, we sat down to a large meal together as a group. Without fail, there was a platter consisting of cucumber & tomato salad, herbs, cheese and lavash bread on the table which we could eat as meze until the main course arrived.
My husband and I really loved this daily treat. Each restaurant prepared it a little differently, but they were all tasty just the same. What was so interesting to me was the prolific use of cilantro in the salad, an herb that I really don’t associate in any way with Armenian cooking or at least my grandmothers’ kitchen. But we happen to love cilantro so in creating a recipe that was reminiscent of the dish, I knew it had to be included.
Right this moment is the perfect time to be making my Armenian Cucumber and Tomato Salad. Pickling cukes and all sorts of tomatoes are bursting out of the farm stands. The salad is best made using smaller pickling cucumbers which have fewer seeds and have much better flavor than bigger varieties. You could use an English cucumber I suppose, but it’s the earthy flavor of those fresh pickling cukes that I really love here. The recipe calls for traditional tomatoes but get creative and use whatever you have on hand. A colorful selection of cherry and grape tomatoes would look gorgeous. The only limit is your imagination. Add feta to the salad if you want or perhaps some avocado. Of course then it won’t be Armenian, but it will be delicious!
I am also posting this recipe today because it needs to get on the blog in anticipation of some exciting news I will share with you all in a future post in about a month. I’ve noted that some of the photos of the salad below were taken by my friend, the photographer Matthew Mead who visited my home this past Spring. More on that in the aforementioned future post!
Here are a few of my photos:
Served with hummus, grilled flatbread and some sliced feta drizzled with olive oil and za’atar.
Now for Matthew Mead’s gorgeous shots…
Until next week…