jerusalem salad

Jerusalem salad

Tabbouleh has become so popular in the United States, it's easy to forget about all the other classic Middle Eastern salads. And that's a shame, because as much as I love tabbouleh (and I really do love it. I recently revisited classic tabbouleh and shared my recipe for ruby fennel tabbouleh, and later this summer, I'll introduce two more variations: tabbouleh verde and tabbouleh mergherita), there are many more Middle Eastern salads out there, some named and some unnamed.

Don't forget about classic fattoush (or my kale fattoush), beet salad, carrot salad, lentil salad, and many more (if it's something you could eat in a salad, then there's probably a Middle Eastern salad for it). But if I had to pick one that's really essential to most Middle Eastern cuisines, it would be Jerusalem salad. Israeli and Palestinian chefs, Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, explain this dish's ubiquity:

“It is impossible to count the number of cultures and subcultures residing in this city. Jerusalem is an intricate, convoluted mosaic of peoples. It is therefore very tempting to say there isn’t such a thing as a local cuisine. However, if you take a step back and look at the greater picture, there are some typical elements that are easily identifiable in most local cuisines and crop up throughout the city. Everybody, absolutely everybody, uses chopped cucumber and tomatoes to create an Arab salad or an Israeli salad, depending on point of view."

cucumbers
tomatoes

Jerusalem salad is dead simple; you dice up cucumbers and tomatoes (with a few other veggies, depending on who's cooking), you dress it simply, and you serve it. But there's one small problem I've always had when making Jerusalem salad, which is moisture. These ingredients have a ton of water in them, and when you add salt and dressing, they start leaking that water everywhere, and after about 5 minutes, the dressing is completely watered down and your veggies are swimming in a sea of diluted lemon juice. You could add extra lemon juice to compensate, and just use a slotted spoon to serve it, or you could leave the salt out. But my favorite solution is to macerate the veggies with some salt for about an hour, strain them, and then dress the salad. The veggies maintain their crunch, but break down just the slightest bit, and the dressing stays in place and does its job effectively.

Jerusalem salad

Jerusalem salad

yield: 6 servings
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 1 hour 20 minutes
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  • 5 Persian cucumbers

  • 1 yellow or orange bell pepper (can substitute red or green)

  • 5 roma tomatoes

  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1/4 cup minced red onions (from about 1/4 of a medium onion)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • The juice of 1 lemon

  • 3 tablespoons finely minced parsley, divided into 2 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon

  • More salt to taste (optional)

  1. Small dice the cucumbers, bell pepper, and tomatoes, and combine in a big serving bowl.

  2. Toss together with the sea salt and refrigerate for an hour.

  3. After an hour has gone by, strain the salad through a fine mesh colander, discarding the liquid. Do not press the salad against the colander, but gently shake the colander a few times to drain away the excess liquid. *

  4. Place the salad back in the bowl, add the red onion, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons minced parsley, and more salt to taste (optional), and toss to coat.

  5. Garnish with the 1 tablespoon minced parsley.

* To make ahead, strain the salad after an hour, store in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours, and then strain again right before dressing and serving. You can even do this a day ahead of time, but the vegetables will soften significantly and the texture of the final dish will be very different.

If you're looking for a variation on this salad, try my recipe for watermelon Jerusalem salad, which is prepared in much the same way. I've also got a lovely recipe for Jerusalem salad pico de gallo.

Jerusalem salad

shakshuka | beata't tdamata

eggs and tomatoes

Last month, my husband and I were getting ready for a big move. While I've always been a little on the fence about minimalism, we took this as an opportunity to dramatically pare down our belongings to just the essentials, and just things we really love.

It turns out, I really only need 4 pairs of jeans, 30 shirts, 3 skirts, 6 dresses, 5 jackets, and 5 pairs of shoes (hah! only...). It's not exactly a capsule wardrobe, but it comes out to just a couple boxes, and it makes choosing outfits absolutely effortless. We've donated our CDs, DVDs, old paperbacks, old furniture, and so much more. But the one thing I just cannot part with is every single thing in our kitchen. Literally half the moving boxes are full of kitchen things.

eggs

I've always aspired to have the kind of kitchen that is a no-nonsense, well-stocked, practical and efficient, yet aesthetic space. But these boxes are seriously questioning whether I actually practice this ideal in my daily life, and I'm not entirely ready to admit that this is a problem.

Yesterday, we finally finished moving (now, just to unpack), but right before the move, we were stuck in limbo, since most of our stuff was packed in boxes, ready to be loaded on the moving truck, with nowhere to go for a couple more days. But at this point, I started to remember how silly and unnecessary most kitchen equipment is when you're cooking really simple, delicious food. For instance, to make eggs and tomatoes, "beata't tdamata" in Assyrian, all you need is a knife, a cutting board, a skillet, and a wooden spoon.

eggs and tomatoes

Beata't tdamata is the Assyrian name for shakshuka, a delicious North African and Levantine dish that many Americans know about through Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. There are many different ways to make eggs and tomatoes, bur according to Tamimi, the crucial factor is that you cook the eggs in the tomatoes instead of frying them on the side. But everything else varies from dish to dish. My take on beata't tdamata has you fry the eggs in a thin layer of chunky tomato sauce, so that there is nothing left over after serving. But eggs and tomatoes—whether poached in a bucket of tomato sauce or fried on a thin layer of tomato chunks, whether tempered with spices or sizzled with garlic and onion, whether braised with greens or simmered with little meatballs—are always a perfect match.

For more shakshuka, visit my recipe for succotash shakshuka.

eggs and tomatoes

shakshuka | Beata't Tdamata

Yield: 3 eggs *

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon Lebanese spice blend (or equal parts black pepper, paprika, and cumin) + 1 pinch for garnish
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
Salt to taste
3 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons crumbled feta
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Serve with bread (your bread of choice, or samoonpita, or lawasha)

  • Pre-heat a 10-inch frying pan over medium-low heat for two minutes.

  • Add the tablespoon of oil, swirl it around in the pan, and add the spice blend. Cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes.

  • Add the chopped tomatoes and some salt to taste.

  • Turn the heat to medium-high and stir the tomatoes around for about 4 minutes until they start to break down and turn into a chunky sauce.

  • Spread the chunky sauce into one even layer (about 1/2 inch) and lower the heat to medium. Crack the eggs directly onto the tomatoes, sprinkle them with some salt, don't disturb them, and immediately cover the frying pan with a lid.

  • Set a timer for 4 minutes if you prefer very runny egg yolks, or 5 minutes if you prefer slightly runny, custardy egg yolks.

  • Check the eggs by poking the white near the yolk with a knife and gently poking the yolk with your finger. If the whites do not ooze and the yolk still feels jiggly, they should be perfect. Once they are done, remove from the pan immediately. If the whites are not set, continue cooking them covered, checking every 45 seconds to see if they are done.

  • Garnish with feta, parsley, and a pinch of spices.

* You can easily make more or less, but make sure to use a wider or smaller pan accordingly. It should be just wide enough that the cooked tomatoes will cover the bottom by about a half inch. Here are the proportions for a single egg:

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon spice blend
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 egg
1/2 tablespoon crumbled feta
1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley

eggs and tomatoes