House Salad with Cucumbers and Tomatoes

I’d eaten at Tim’s approximately two times when I started to sense a theme. When that guy makes a salad, he makes it in a very particular way.

Maybe everybody does this?

Vertical image of a wooden bowl and wooden utensils tossing a salad, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

Over the following years and months, I’ve eaten this same basic salad with him alongside grilled cheese sandwiches, at fancy dinners we’ve thrown for friends, during Sunday night barbecues (when I’m not eating my Sunday Salad), on lazy weeknights, and in many spaces and at various times in between.

Vertical image of a plate and a wooden bowl of a salad mix on a wooden plate next to oil, a bowl of tomatoes, and a bowl of whole peppercorns.

I’ve eaten it so many times with him that it’s truly become our salad, the one we always make, the fallback, the standby, the one we’re calling The House Salad, with cucumbers and tomatoes.

The thing I like about calling this recipe The House Salad is that it takes what some might consider a bit of a repetitive rut and turns it into a tradition.

Vertical top-down image of a wooden bowl filled with a colorful mix of vegetables stirred by wooden utensils.

I mean, when you see “house salad” on a menu, you don’t think lame, you think specialty (or at least I do).

It’s a trusted, tested recipe, the specialty of the house, the sort of thing you can count on to work each time.

Vertical top-down image of a white plate with a butter lettuce, cucumber, and tomato mixture on a white towel next to a bowl of tomatoes, and a bowl of peppercorns.

In a world that prizes the new and the flashy, I suppose it’s our tendency to overlook anything we have in ready supply: daylight, gasoline, convenient grocery stores, time with our spouses or friends, everyday recipes, sleep.

But while of course there’s nothing wrong with finding pleasure in the extraordinary, finding pleasure in the regular is also no small thing. I mean, most of our lives are made up of the everyday.

Vertical image of wooden utensils mixing colorful vegetables in a large wooden bowl.

If we can find joy in those small moments, those standbys, just imagine how much richer our lives might be.

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Horizontal image of a white plate on a blue napkin and a wooden bowl with wooden utensils, both full of a colorful mix of vegetables, next to a bowl of tomatoes and a bowl of whole peppercorns.

House Salad with Cucumbers and Tomatoes


  • Author: Shanna Mallon
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings as a side salad 1x

Description

Nothing says weeknight staple like a go-to salad. These simply dressed greens are loaded with sweet cherry tomatoes and crunchy sprouts.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more for serving
  • 1 small head red or green butter lettuce, gently torn into bite-sized pieces (5.5 oz/4 cups packed)
  • 1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced seedless cucumber (about 1/2 small)
  • 1/2 cup broccoli sprouts (or alfalfa sprouts)

Instructions

  1. In the bottom of a large salad bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  2. Add the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sprouts, and toss to combine. Season to taste for additional salt, and then divide among bowls. Garnish with additional freshly cracked pepper if desired before serving.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: No-cook
  • Cuisine: Side Dishes

Keywords: house salad, balsamic vinegar, mustard, butter lettuce, tomato, cucumber

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Rinse the Lettuce and Chop the Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Garlic

Horizontal image of green butter lettuce on a towel.

Separate and rinse the lettuce leaves well to remove any dirt. Dry in a salad spinner. Gently tear into bite-size pieces.

Horizontal image of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes on a wooden cutting board.

Rinse the cucumber and tomatoes. Halve any smaller cherry tomatoes and slice the rest into thin rounds with a sharp knife and sturdy cutting board. Slice the cucumber into very thin rounds, and mince the garlic.

Step 2 – Make the Vinaigrette

Horizontal image of a whisk resting in a brown liquid mixture in a wooden bowl.

In the bottom of a large salad bowl, whisk together the oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.

You can also prepare the vinaigrette in a separate bowl or container, and coat to your liking.

Step 3 – Add the Veggies to the Bowl and Toss to Combine

Horizontal image of a wooden bowl with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and sprouts.

Add the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sprouts to the bowl and toss to combine, using tongs or your hands. Toss from the bottom of the bowl up, to make sure all of the veggies are lightly coated in the dressing.

Season to taste for additional salt, and then divide among bowls. Garnish with additional freshly cracked pepper if desired before serving.

Give Your Greens Some Life

Having a colorful, go-to salad you can throw together in minutes means never having to scramble for a side dish again.

Horizontal image of a white plate on a blue napkin and a wooden bowl with wooden utensils, both full of a colorful mix of vegetables, next to a bowl of tomatoes and a bowl of whole peppercorns.

No cucumbers or juicy tomatoes laying around? No worries! The best part about a “house salad” is being able to personalize your bowl – based on what’s in your kitchen, and your own favorite specialties.

Customize your glorious greens with whatever components make your stomach sing. Well, or whatever’s in your fridge.

Need even more salad inspiration? Try these healthy little numbers next:

What other simple vinaigrettes do you like to whisk up in your kitchen? Asian-inspired with toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar? Warm, cozy flavors like orange zest and maple? Share your must-have mixes in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on May 24, 2013. Last updated: July 8, 2020 at 8:51 am. With additional writing and editing by Fanny Slater and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

22 thoughts on “House Salad with Cucumbers and Tomatoes”

  1. We never ate salad with dinner growing up. Or bread. There was the main dish, always with rice, often with a bowl of some other leftovers, sometimes a side of generously salted tomato wedges. A culture thing, I suppose — Filipino food doesn’t include traditional salads. Now, I eat salads mainly for lunch. Lately, mixed greens or butter lettuce with some kind of bean, radishes, avocado, whatever else I can find in the fridge, and a honey mustardy dressing. I like the idea of you guys having a house salad.

    Have a great weekend!

    Reply
  2. we didn’t have salads growing up, but there would always be a plate of pickled vegs of some kind to go alongside the main dish, with rice, and always a brothy soup (think miso) to help wash down the food (we also did not drink water with our meal, as it made you full. this is still something i struggle with now as an adult.) i will say that i have a massive appreciation for random leafy greens like cilantro, chives, and watercress which were usually picked at as we ate. salad dressing was not something i had much of until i was in college.

    Reply
    • Interesting! I especially like the idea of pickled vegetables on the side — I just saw a recipe in Bon Appetit for “marinated vegetables,” which are sort of a quick version of the same idea, and I thought how good those would be with main courses. Also, love that you have a massive appreciation for those leafy greens.

      Reply
  3. Ha! Yes, I so hear this. I had one of those small but powerful kitchen revelations once where I–standing knife in hand, chasing carrot rounds about the cutting board–finally asked myself why I was doing this. I hate carrot chunks in salads and we had been eating them that way for years. The next time I was visiting family, I looked down at my mom’s salad, still the same lettuce, tomato, black olives, croutons…still the same carrot rounds. Goodbye to all that. House salads here are now green and crunchy: lettuces, celery, peas, avocado, cucumbers, chick peas, and pumpkin seeds. Lemon tahini dressing or mustard vinaigrette if I’m feeling motivated.

    Reply
    • Ha! You know, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we had carrots in our salads, too! Your current house salads—particularly the description of them as “green and crunchy”—sound just wonderful.

      Reply
  4. Oh I love this! I’m starting to get in the groove of creating a house salad of my own, and I like the way you put it, that ‘house salads’ imply a specialty or a tradition. So very true.

    Reply
  5. We had salad a lot growing up–usually romaine or mixed greens–almost always with cherry tomatoes, but what made it our “house salad” was my mom’s toasted almond slices and either fresh feta or grated parmesan. To this day, people ask my mom to bring salad to dinner not for the greens, but for the toasted almonds and cheese.

    Reply
  6. Yum! This looks fantastic. My mom does a pretty similar salad with many meals – either lettuce or baby spinach, tomatoes, feta cheese, sometimes cucumbers, and these amazing croutons from a bakery near my Dad’s work. I don’t think I really have a house salad, but I want to be better about incorporating more salads into my meals! Probably what I make the most often is grated carrot with lemon, oil, salt, and pepper, and maybe some other stuff stirred in (feta, fresh herbs, shaved fennel are all awesome add-ins).

    Reply
    • Sara, There is this French restaurant near where my parents live, and with the bread that comes before the meal, they bring a carrot salad. I LOVE THAT SALAD! I even remade it here on the blog (it’s somewhere in the archives) and thinking about it now has me craving it all over again.

      Reply
  7. A house salad! Loved that you and Tim have a salad that’s uniquely yours. Like Lan & Jaqui, I grew up in an Asian family for whom rice was a staple. In my house growing up, if ever we had an Asian salad, it was bak choi either stir-fried or steamed.

    But my mum loved salads, and while we didn’t eat much Western-style raw veggie salads at home, I’d watch her relish fresh greens and other raw vegetables tossed in various different salad dressings whenever we went out for an International buffet. If was only till I re-located to Argentina that I understood her love for salads.

    Now, one of my favorite, salad staples is this – a really simple combination of all the loveliest flavors, using the freshest of vegetables, straight from the market. Imagine this: the spiciness of dark green arugula leaves intertwined with the tastes of the forest from sliced button mushrooms, then mixed with the sweet, juicy pulp of freshly cut tomatoes and crunchy rich wholesome walnuts. On top of all these, add warm, toasted croutons just out of the oven, and then toss all the ingredients with salt, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

    Happy Friday!

    Reply
  8. Shanna, I had never realized how many family memories could be evoked by thinking about “house salads” but these memories are flooding in as I sit here reflecting on your post…

    I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, but in my house growing up (pre-high school, really), the go-to salad was usually the pre-made bag that included romaine, carrots, and purple cabbage, usually topped with ranch dressing. Later this evolved into something much more like your recipe here.

    My aunt has always made the most beautiful salads because she focuses on “color balance.” I can remember her glancing over my shoulder to look at the salad bowl I was preparing and saying “Oh, we need a bit of red/yellow/other color to balance it out!” and then digging in the fridge for a vegetable of the appropriate color.

    My grandmom always threw in some kumquats from her neighbors trees. The first night we arrived in town when we visited them in Tampa, FL, we almost always ate lasagna and salad, always with kumquats. Grandmom would sneak bites from her plate to her dog, Babette, a white standard poodle, who was always waiting under the table.

    I have not yet developed my own “house salad”… a goal, perhaps, for my husband and I to explore?

    Reply
    • Ha! No embarrassment here, Lindsey. (I don’t think I even knew what avocados were until I was 20, and I was eating bagged salads, too.) Premade bags are a great gateway salad. : ) I love your aunt’s idea for color balance, and I’m SO JEALOUS of anyone near anyone with a kumquat tree. It’s funny how these house salads evolve over time: We keep doing something over and over until, one day, we look back, and it’s ours.

      Reply
  9. It was Caesar Salad at our house! My brother didn’t like all the “extras” but he loved cheese and croutons. So it would be iceberg lettuce, tossed with parmesan cheese, Cavendar’s seasoning, lots of crunchy croutons and a big dollop of Neuman’s Caesar dressing. When everyone had served themselves, my brother just dug into the serving bowl and finished it off. It is indeed a picture of growing up – my mom knew us kids like the back of her hand and loved to fix things the way we liked them. But she always challenged us to try new things – we had to have at least one bite of everything she had made. (Like the time we were at someone else’s house and we were served tomato sandwiches, which we HATED – and she discreetly gave us the death glare 😉 until we politely choked it down for our host) Now every time I eat a great big spinach salad with lots of “extras” (now my favorite), I think of my brother, my family, our dinner table. Thanks for a thoughtful post!!

    Reply
    • I love the rule that kids have to try one bite of everything — it’s very French! Your mom is very wise!

      Reply
  10. I’m loving being able to read about everyone’s house salads! Shanna, I think you’re absolutely right that each person’s recipe reveals a little bit about them. So interesting! As for me, our house salad varies quite a bit by the season, but it nearly always starts with a base of mixed baby greens, roasted pepitas, and chopped olives with a garlicky lemon-olive oil vinaigrette.

    Reply
  11. Our house salad is very similar – sometimes subbing in lemon juice for the balsamic depending on what we’re having. I particularly love olive oil and lemon with peppery leaves like arugula. So fascinating reading about other people’s traditions too.

    Reply

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