Nope, I'm not swearing at you--this is the name for a delicious, peasant-style salad from the Middle East.
It's healthy, inexpensive, and simple to make. The ingredients are all things you can easily find in your local grocery store--or even grow in your backyard for that matter--so it passes the five easy questions test quite easily.
You'd think there would be nothing special about a salad made from the plain-jane list of basic ingredients below, but once you combine everything, you'll find that you've created an unmistakably exotic dish. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
(adapted from Taste of the Middle East by Soheila Kimberly*)
1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped into strips
1 cucumber, chopped (peeled if desired)
4-5 tomatoes, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, either pressed or finely minced (I suggest using a garlic press)
2-3 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional--I know some people just can't stand cilantro!)
2-3 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of two lemons
black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
pita bread (optional)
1) Coarsely chop the pepper, cucumber, tomatoes and scallions and place them into a large salad bowl. Use a garlic press to add in the garlic. Add in the chopped parsley, cilantro and mint (note: you must use fresh parsley, cilantro and mint here... dried greens here just will not get the job done).
2) To make the dressing, combine the olive oil and lemon juice and season liberally with black pepper (and if desired, crushed red pepper flakes as well). Pour over the salad, reserving any excess dressing, and toss well.
3) Serve with optional pita bread or as a standalone salad. Serves 4-5 easily.
Laura took some beautiful photos of the ingredients and process as I was making the dish, so I'm going to take advantage of her talents and show you a bit of a pictoral how-to in this post. Let me know if it's helpful to you!
First off, whenever you are cooking, it really helps to have some good music playing and a glass of wine within easy reach. Helps ease the pain.
Chop up each of the ingredients and add to a large salad bowl:
I like to cut the greens lengthwise...
...and then crosswise--it's an easy way to make them well-chopped and uniform:
With the mint, I suggest investing a little extra time selecting out only the best leaves:
Using a garlic press will save you a lot of time in this recipe. The garlic really infuses the entire salad. Delicious!
Pour the dressing on top of everything else...
...and then serve and enjoy!!
A few final notes:
1) The dressing is oh-so-simple to make and laughably cheap--why not make a big batch of this and use it on other salads too? I'm wondering now why I even buy regular overpriced salad dressing at the store.
2) This salad will keep well in your fridge for a week (the lemon juice acts as a preservative).
3) Another strength of this dish is its flexibility. The last time we made it, I totally flaked and forgot to buy the cucumber. It didn't matter, the salad still turned out great. Just don't try and leave out the fresh parsley or mint, as those are probably the two most important ingredients because of the smell and flavor they impart to the dish.
4) Sorry about a bit of extra prep work here, but it's well worth it, believe me. I encourage you to try and find a way to outsource it if you can.
Taste of the Middle East: Over 70 Enticing, Aromatic Dishes from This Fascinating Cuisine (Creative Cooking Library Series) (Amazon link)
Eight Tips to Make Cooking At Home Laughably Cheap: The Economics of Cooking, Part 2
How to Tell if a Recipe is Worth Cooking With Five Easy Questions
Seven Ways to Get Faster at Cooking
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