Tuesday, July 3, 2007

israeli salad + pita chips

israeli salad

First I talked about madeleines, and although they’re lovely (though mine were less so), they don’t exactly have a high originality quotient. Then I totally side-stepped my week of non-cooking by throwing some “new feature” at you, and now, well now I’m going to tell you that you can make a salad out of cucumbers, tomatoes and onions. And I know you’ve got to be thinking: you don’t say!

Although on another week–perhaps one without heaps of barbeques for all that red, white and boom spread about–I might skip over the simple Israeli Salad, I know that if you’re still looking for that easier-than-pie dish to bring to a pot-luck barbeque tomorrow, we really need to talk. Israeli Salad isn’t just as dish, as much as it is a palette to build your salad dreams upon.


Aside from tiny cubed cucumbers and tomatoes, the base salad recipe includes red or green onions, finely minced parsley, a bit of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and if you’re me, or you just want to trust me on this, you’re going to run out this afternoon and buy some sumac powder. Not only is it the most phenomenal rusty red, adding a bold hue to any everyday salad, it’s flavor–I always think of it as a cross between sour lemon and smoked paprika–is so wonderful, it’s a shame we don’t see it in more non-Greek, non-Mediterranean dishes.

But from there, let the salad be your canvas, as the possibilities are endless. Some of my favorite additions include a can of drained chickpeas, diced bell pepper, a handful of crumbled or cubed feta or roughly chopped olives. Finely chopped fresh mint leaves are also common, but that doesn’t mean you should try dill instead, if that’s your thing. Yet if you really want to show off, my absolutely favorite addition to this salad is some broken up pita chips that have been toasted with olive oil, sea salt and either sumac or za’atar. If you make the chips, leave them separate until the very last minute because they’ll get soggy shortly after they’re tossed in. Alternately, you could make larger chips that people can use to scoop the salad directly into hungry mouths. Finger food is always the most welcome guest at barbeques. Well, after you, of course.

israeli salad

More Pot-Luck BBQ Ideas Here:

Inspiration Elsewhere:

Israeli Salad

2 medium roma tomatoes, cubed
1 1-pound English cucumber, cubed
1/2 medium red onion, cubed, or 4 scallions, finely sliced
3 tablespoons finely minced fresh, flat-leaf parsley
Juice of half a lemon
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sumac powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

You can either toss all of the vegetables in one large bowl, and pour over it the parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and sumac mixture you whisked separately in a small bowl, or if you’re in a hurry just toss everything all at once.

Other additions: 1/2 to 1 cup crumbled or cubed feta, 1 bell pepper, cut into cubes, 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained, 1/2 to 1 cup coarsely chopped olives, 1 to 2 tablespoons finely minced mint or dill or pita chips (see below). You could also whisk a couple tablespoons of tahini into the dressing for a thicker, sesame-coated flavor.

Pita Chips

We use these for lots of things: hummus, other dips, tossing with the Israeli Salad at the last minute (so they don’t get soggy) or for scooping it up. I find it a relief to be able to eat crunchy, tasty chips without the deep-fat fried guilt.

6 large pitas, cut into eight wedges each, then each wedge split into two layers (for small chips) cut into six wedges and split (for large, scoopable chips)
Olive oil cooking spray or 2 tablespoons olive oil
Flaky sea salt
1 tablespoon za’atar or sumac

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, arrange all of the pita slices so they do not overlap. Either brush or spray with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and your spice of choice. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they begin to color. Let them cool completely before using, or bagging for later.


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