Tomato salads are a classic of Mediterranean cuisine, each one made unique by the addition of regional ingredients such as feta cheese, Kalamata olives and basil. Recently our friend Suzi introduced us to Israeli salad, a simple combination of diced fresh tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and parsley.
I was intrigued by its name and later when I Googled it, I discovered that along with pita and falafel, Israeli Salad is considered to be one of the national dishes of Israel.
I’ll be making some version of this all summer, but it’s vitally important to remember that when dishes have few ingredients, quality is paramount. The tomatoes should be the best you can find (you can use grape tomatoes until the height of tomato season), the cucumber should (at least in my opinion) be the burpless variety that doesn’t require peeling or seeding and the dressing should be applied with a light hand.
If you meet those criteria you can create a stellar tomato salad with your own favorite ingredients. Green pepper? Mozzarella cheese? Capers? Use your culinary imagination.
2 tomatoes (you can substitute halved grape tomatoes)
1 English or burpless cucumber
1/2 red onion, chopped
Italian parsley, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Dried sumac* (optional)
Optional add-ins–fresh slivered basil, crumbled feta cheese, halved Kalamata olives, capers
Cut tomatoes and cucumber into 1/2″ cubes. Combine in serving bowl with chopped red onion and drizzle with the juice of one fresh lemon and extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.
*Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that has a bright, lemon flavor and a brick red color. I found it at Penzey’s Spices. You don’t need it, but I use it to add a lemony tang to salads, chicken and seafood.