My Grandmother, whom we all called Nannie, used to have a weekly family luncheon every Wednesday. Any and every family member who lived in town or happened to be in town or wanted to drive into town was welcome at her table on Wednesday at 11am for lunch. We all miss that tradition. It was such a great way to keep everyone in touch and to get to eat Nannie's cornbread, Coca-cola BBQ chicken, and Salisbury steak, not that we're a food-self-involved bunch or anything.
One of the summer staples of Nannie's table was was a bowl of cukes and onions fresh picked from the back yard that morning floating in a brine of sugared vinegar water. I loved the crisp snap, the juicy crunch, and the hot bite of those cukes and onions, but the one thing I didn't care so much for was the way the cukes didn't take long to get liquid-logged. The cukes didn't actually get mushy but they did lose their snap, my favorite part, after sitting out on the table and warming up a bit.
I haven't had those cukes in a long time but when Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina announced the virtual La Festa Al Fresca picnic the memory of those cukes came back to me and I started thinking about how to remake (everybody from the south's) Nannie's cukes and onions recipe into my own image, so to speak.
I knew I wanted to try a few things differently. For one, instead of a bowl of floating slices I wanted a composed salad. I knew I wanted color and I had a nice, ripe tomato handy. I knew instead of simply vinegar and sugar, I wanted to herb it up. Those were my starting points.
Dill seemed the obvious choice of herb. It goes so well with cukes and with vinegar but I had thyme already in my fridge and I love it. I felt I would be betraying an old friend not to pair it with my beautiful veggies, and to my delight, they all got along famously. As for the dressing, sugar dissolved in vinegar seemed woefully thin so I took the lesson I learned from my balsamic syrup (hmmmm....Homer Simpson drool....) and made a simple syrup, but this time in the microwave for convenience.
Thus was born my own little creation:
Cukes, Tomatoes, & Onions, with Thyme in a Bottle Dressing:
1/3 cup Rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar (or Splenda worked perfectly for me)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, bruised by hand or in mortar and pestle
1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
1 medium vine ripe tomato, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1. Combine vinegar and sugar in a microwave proof bowl and heat for approximately 3 minutes on high or until liquid reaches 200 degrees on a candy thermometer. This will make a simple syrup.
2. Allow to cool to room temp and then stir in thyme leaves. Drizzle over layered or chunked cuke, tomato, and onion. Chill for 1/2 hour before serving.
Serves a salad course for 2