As anyone who has spent any time in Israel knows, a small chopped salad usually referred to in Israel as a “salat katzutz” (lit. chopped salad) or outside of Israel as an Israeli salad, is a staple which is served alongside pretty much every meal. Not all such salads are created equal however as anyone who has tried a day old mix of watery tomatoes and cucumbers will agree. Variations are endless of course – even the highly recommended “Jerusalem” by Ottolenghi has a variation of the salad in the form of Fattoush – which I’m sure is delicious but why complicate things?
Part of the reason why Israeli salad is so wonderful is the access to good quality, locally produced ingredients – even if produce has been trucked in from the other side of the country, when the country in question is the size of Israel that’s not very far! Tomatoes are absolutely delicious and particularly cheap at the moment and to my mind they are the most important ingredient in the salad. Select those which are firm and a good red colour and don’t refrigerate them.
Tomatoes and cucumbers are both fairly watery and I like to remove the wateriest parts of each – the seeds. For the cukes this is simply a matter of quartering them along their length and then slicing out the triangle with the seeds, tomatoes I also quarter and a quick cut removes the middle part.
Although there are variations involving lettuce, chili peppers, bell peppers, radishes and all sorts of other veggies I like to stick to the basics; tomatoes, cucumbers, onion (I like red onion), garlic, parsley and olives (I prefer black), liberally seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. My spice of the moment is sumac so that also gets a good sprinkle. The acidity of the lemon and the saltiness of the olives works well with the sharpness of the onion and garlic and the sweetness of the tomatoes. Be careful not to over salt – particularly as the olives are usually salty.
4 medium tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
2 medium cucumbers, de-seeded and diced
1/2 a medium red onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped
1/2 cup of parsley leaves (other herbs particularly mint work well in addition to or instead of)
12 black olives, stones removed, roughly chopped
juice of half a large lemon
good splash of extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
optional – 1/2 tsp of sumac (za’atar works well too)
Just mix everything together – serve alongside pretty much any meal that you can imagine – breakfast, lunch and dinner!