Monday, August 31, 2009

Jerusalem Salad, Houston-Style

David and I love middle-eastern food. We have a great collection of cookbooks devoted to the topic. Our favorites include:

Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij
The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert
Spice by Ana Sortun
The Arab Table by May Bsisu
The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan

We cook often from these books, and have rarely been disappointed. Each book is particularly strong in certain areas. For example, Batmanglij's book has the best stews and Sortun's book is excellent when you want to focus on particular ingredients.

Our favorite recipe this summer has been the Jerusalem Salad from Bsisu's book. David has adapted it a bit to utilize the vegetables we have in our garden, with great results. The salad is very flexible, enabling you to change the salad components to accommodate the vegetables that you have on hand. But, you must not deviate from the dressing recipe. It's the critical component that pulls the salad together, regardless of which vegetables you choose to include.

Jerusalem Salad (Salatat Kudsiyeh) adapted from Mary Bsisu

1 1/2 pounds firm tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped (we use our cherry tomatoes)
3 small cucumbers or 1 large cucumber, finely chopped
1 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 cup feta cheese (this is not in Bsisu's recipe, but it's a great addition)
2 cups fresh greens, finely chopped (we use a mix of whatever greens we have, and always include our arugula; the original recipe calls for romaine)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup tahini
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

1. Combine all the vegetables and the cheese.

2. Whisk together dressing ingredients until creamy and pale. If too thick, add a bit of water. If too thin, add more tahini. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Add dressing at last minute or salad will become soggy

4. Serve with warm pita bread

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