I’m Miriam, and I’m here to share fresh, easy, healthy recipes, seasoned with occasional insights on life in Israel. I’ve taken the opportunity of maternity leave to create this brand-new baby blog. Personally, I think my baby’s yummier, but the recipes you can actually eat!
Why Israeli salad?
A few years ago, I was eating lunch at the Jerusalem home of friends I grew up with in the US. They served a beautiful lettuce salad with sliced mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic croutons, and a creamy dressing. While I was trying to maneuver a forkful of lettuce into my mouth without getting dressing on my nose, they were making fun of how small Israelis chop their salad vegetables. I closed my lips over the lettuce leaf, wiped my nose and nodded in agreement. Yes, Israeli salad is chopped so finely you hardly need to chew.
This was not the first time the topic of finely chopped Israeli salad has come up. When getting together with friends from NCSY for Shabbat or holidays during my single years in Israel, it was always the Israeli twins who were recruited to make salad because, “They’re Israeli, so they can make a salad b’chick-chock.” My sabra sister-in-law makes great salads, chopped “dak-dak,” but they are so finely chopped that my mother-in-law, who grew up in New York, says she feels like she’s eating the crumbs left at the bottom of the bowl.
To each his own. Or, like they say in Israel, Al ta’am v’reich, eyn l’hitvakeach. It’s a matter of taste, and there’s no right or wrong for how finely or coarsely chopped salad vegetables should be.
I consider myself American-Israeli. I spent my childhood in the US and my adult life in Israel. Americans call me Israeli. Israelis call me American. My taste is influenced by both countries. Often I come across new recipes that look delicious but are full of American (usually over-processed) ingredients, so I don’t even try to make them. I prefer to use fresh, local, seasonal ingredients, some of which (like pomegranate, persimmon, and avocado) might look exotic to many Americans. My first six years living in Jerusalem, before I had two kids, I did a lot of shopping in the Machaneh Yehudah market. Let’s hear it for fresh, seasonal, cheap produce! 🙂
Unlike in a melting pot, or a cholent, where the ingredients all blend, in a salad, the flavors complement each other, and you can pick out the things you like (Craisins? croutons?) or the things you don’t. Each ingredient is still distinguishable on its own. With Israeli salad, it’s a bit more difficult, since the vegetables are so finely chopped, but you can still tell a piece of cucumber from tomato. You get every veggie in one bite, but you can appreciate each of them.
Yes, I will always be somewhat American, and I appreciate my American roots and upbringing, but the longer I live in Israel, the more Israeli I become. So, here’s my Israeli salad, not quite as finely chopped as if it were made by a “real Israeli.”
I used three medium cucumbers, three tomatoes, one yellow pepper, one small onion, a handful of fresh parsley, juice of one lemon, a splash of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
I started with the cucumbers.
Then yellow pepper. It’s not in most classic Israeli salads, but I like the crunch bell pepper gives the salad. I used yellow instead of red to get more colors into one bowl. I love colorful salads!
I used white onion in my salad, because that’s what I had, and my husband prefers the taste of white onion over purple, but a purple onion has a slightly different flavor and will add even more color to your bowl. Eat the rainbow!
Parsley. I love parsley. Expect to see a lot of parsley on this blog because Israeli recipes tend to call for tons of cilantro, and I don’t like cilantro, so I always replace it with parsley. But Israeli salad really is supposed to have parsley.
FRESH LEMON JUICE. I used to replace bottled lemon juice for fresh because it’s cheaper, but the fresh stuff is so much better, it’s worth it. Isn’t she a beauty?
Drizzle on some olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, toss well, and you’re ready to roll.
Classic Israeli Salad
3 medium cucumbers
3 medium tomatoes
1 bell pepper, any color (optional)
1 small purple or white onion
large handful of fresh parsley
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Chop all of the vegetables as finely as you can.
Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.