This salad is served all over the Mediterranean, with all sorts of versions. The main ingredients – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onion – are also used in a Greek Salad, and star in the gazpacho of Spain. The big difference is the vegetables in an “Israeli Salad” are diced very small and the dressing often uses sumac powder or Zaatar* seasoning. The salad is eaten throughout the day in Israel – breakfast to dinner – and can also be stuffed inside pita bread.
In Israel, this dish is just called “salad”.
There are no rules here. Try adding a chopped jalapeno, cabbage, carrots, radishes. Use dill, or a little cheese, nuts, grains or use two cloves of garlic. For lunch, serve Israeli salad over a bed of greens – yes a salad on top of salad! Or mound the salad over avocado halves. It is also great with grilled meats, or with eggs. (I like it over a little plain Greek yoghurt at breakfast.
I used one red and one yellow heirloom tomato, so the salad was especially pretty.
3 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, best quality you can find
1 teaspoon Zaatar*
A few turns of the pepper grinder, or to taste
1 clove minced garlic
2 large firm-ripe tomatoes, chopped fine, about 2 cups
Half an English cucumber, do not peel, chopped fine, about 1 cup
One red bell pepper, seeded and chopped fine, about one cup
1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine
3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
One large handful flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside. Chop the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion and herbs. Place in a salad bowl and pour the dressing over and gently toss to evenly coat the vegetables with the dressing. Serves 4.
*About Sumac & Zaatar
Sumac powder is the crushed berry from the sumac flower and is a very common spice in the Middle East and Mediterranean – especially Turkey and Lebanon. Sumac is also found in Zaatar (also spelled zatar and zahtar) a seasoning mélange of sumac, thyme/oregano, sesame seeds and salt. Zaatar can be found at better supermarkets, Middle Eastern markets or you can order Spice Jungle or Penzys Spices – but it is easy to make at home.
Make your own Zaatar seasoning blend. Place it in a little glass shaker (like one used at a pizza joint for dried chili flakes). Ground sumac is often packaged with added salt, so check/taste the sumac before adding salt to the mixture.
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup dried thyme
1/4 cup dried oregano
4 teaspoons ground sumac
1 teaspoon Kosher salt (optional)
Mix all ingredients together and whisk to blend. Sprinkle with abandon. Makes about one cup.