Turkish-Style Tomato Cucumber Salad (Shephard’s Salad)
Shephard’s salad is a tomato cucumber salad that is the essence of summertime eating in Turkey. Called çoban salatasi in Turkish, it is a light and refreshing accompaniment to any meal.
Spices to Use in Tomato Cucumber Salad
This Turkish-style salad uses two essential Turkish spices, sumac and Turkish red pepper. Sumac adds a tart flavor to the salad and complements the acidity of fresh lemon juice. Turkish red pepper (marash variety) adds a fruity tasting heat, but is not too spicy. Both spices can be added to taste. This salad also includes fresh mint and parsley, which add vibrant flavor to this summer salad.
I was born in the United States, but have visited Turkey seven times in the course of my lifetime. Growing up, we always visited during summer vacation to spend time with my dad’s family. I have a memory of this salad on the table with almost every summer meal. The key to this salad, because of it’s simplicity, is to choose ingredients at peak ripeness. Grocery store tomatoes and cucumbers aren’t going to cut it here–be sure to pick up some from the farmer’s market or from your neighbor’s garden.
How to Cut a Tomato
Either cherry tomatoes or larger tomatoes cut into chunks work for this tomato cucumber salad. I like to use this serrated tomato knife to make chopping a breeze. There is one specialty ingredient in this salad, the sweet Italian long pepper, which are hard to find outside of Turkey. In the summertime in California, I have found them at local farmer’s markets and in Turkish grocery stores, but if you can’t find one, substitute green bell pepper. The sweet Italian peppers are unique in that they are thin-skinned and mild, with no spice to them at all. They are ubiquitous in Turkish cuisine, and evoke nostalgia.
Turkish-Style Tomato Cucumber Salad
- 4 large tomatoes
- 2 large cucumbers (I like English, Persian, or Japanese varieties so they don't have to be peeled or seeded)
- 2 medium Italian green peppers (not spicy) or 1 green bell pepper
- 1 small red onion
- 1/2 bunch Italian parsley
- 1/2 bunch mint
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 2 teaspoons Turkish red pepper (Aleppo pepper)
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Coarsely chop tomatoes, cucumber, and pepper. Thinly slice red onion. Mince parsley and mint.
- Combine these ingredients together in a large bowl and add remaining ingredients, tossing well. Refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.