mains, salads, sides, Uncategorized

farmers’ market mondays: middle eastern salad.

This has been one of my favorite salads for a while now, but I especially love it in the summer, when my herbs are overflowing. I’ve grown my own fresh herbs for the past few years now, and sometimes I end up with more than I bargained for: a happy situation to be in, but one which requires some thinking in order not to waste what I’ve grown. Sometimes I make a quick pesto, and some herbs (like sage and rosemary) freeze really well; some things, however, need to just be eaten right away.

There are a few salads in my little repertoire of recipes I use when any sort of herbal crisis arises. Nigella has a glorious recipe for tabbouleh (in her Nigella Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home cookbook), which I’ve made more than a few times as both a meal and as a side. I’m always up for a simple caprese salad in the summer (in fact, the first year Panera Bread had their tomato and mozzarella salad, I probably ate my weight in them. I was working full-time back then, and I’m not kidding when I say I probably had it 4-5 times per week), which makes quick work of any excess basil. And there are endless things you can do with parsley – gremolata, chimichurri, parsley and walnut pesto – you name it, parsley will fit nicely into it.

This time, though, I needed to use a few things; mint was one of those things. Some of you have seem the garden photo updates on my Facebook page, and if you have, you know that things are really kicking right along. I’d love to say it’s due to my skills or innate knowledge of nature, but it isn’t. We have had some stellar weather here, and my garden is basically growing itself with little to no help from me. it’s been fun watching it take off, since this is the first year I’ve attempted a “big girl” garden and not only pots and window boxes with things in it. Which, by the way, I’ve had mixed results with it. If you’re a person who can grow decent herbs and veggies successfully using only large pots and window boxes, you’re a better person than me. IΒ need the big guns to get it right, evidently.

So here are the first fruits of my (not at all intense) labor; my herbs. They’re gigantic and beautiful and I fall in love with them over and over again each time I set foot in my backyard to tend to them. I’ve been waiting for a few weeks now because I had this salad in mind for all of you when I first planted them. It’s actually one of the reasons I planted mint this year. This week’s FMM post comes to you directly from my garden; truly the closest market there is. And, it’s free.

I ran to that little farm stand up the road from me for the other salad essentials; grape tomatoes, hothouse cucumber, scallions, and lemons. I already had some garlic, so all I bought from the store were the chickpeas and feta. This salad couldn’t be easier, by the way. A little chopping, a little whisking of the dressing, and done. Summer on a plate. I did this on the fly yesterday, so I grabbed some pitas from the pantry. If I was being shmancy about it, I would cut up either pita bread or lavash into triangles, sprinkle a littles sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and throw them in the oven for a few minutes with some olive oil over top. I’ve done it before with my curried chicken salad: if you’re in the mood, you can find the recipe for the toasted pitas here. If you want, throw some hummus on the side and you’ve got yourself a totally satisfying, completely divine little meal.

I enjoyed this for lunch and dinner yesterday. I’ll note, however, that this salad is best eaten immediately after putting together, so if you’re thinking you’ll have leftovers and you want it to be at its freshest, keep the veggies and dressing separate, and wait to chop the herbs you’ll be using until assembly. Don’t add the feta until the whole thing is put together.

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That? Fabulous Recipes and Easy Tips by Ina Garten. Which, being honest, I’ll admit is not my favorite ever cookbook. However: the salads/lunches, drinks/appetizers, and sides in it are really wonderful, and it’s worth the purchase just for those chapters.

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad

for the salad:

  • 10 scallions, white and lighter green parts, thinly sliced into coins
  • 1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes (I used grape), halved
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, sliced in half lengthwise, seeded, and chopped in a 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (julienned, sliced into tiny ribbons, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, either large crumbles or 1/2 inch diced

for the dressing:

  • 2/3 cup (or more, if it suits you) fresh lemon juice, 5-6 lemons
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup good, fruity olive oil

for the sides:

  • toasted pita bread or lavash, for serving
  • your favorite hummus (optional), for serving
Assemble your salad:

Place the scallions, tomatoes, cucumber, and chickpeas in a large bowl, and toss together to mix. Add chopped herbs and toss again to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking as you go, until everything begins to come together and the olive oil is emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: for this salad, i like to season my dressing with sea salt and pepper instead of throwing it directly on the vegetables. With that in mind, make sure your dressing is generously seasoned. If you’d like a guideline, I used about 2 teaspoons of sea salt and about 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground pepper to season mine.

Pour the dressing over the vegetables, reserving some to add as you feel the need; you don’t want to drown your salad. Toss gently to coat, taste, and season again if needed. Add your feta cheeses, tossing gently again, taste, and add more dressing or seasoning if needed. Serve with toasted pita chips.

makes about 4 generously sized salads. If you want to stretch that out a bit, you can do slightly smaller salads and serve this with a nice hummus to go alongside your chips. If you did that, I imagine you could get about 6 salads out of this.

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  • Reply natalie May 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    This salad looks delightfully refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day (110 here today and the last thing I want to eat is anything remotely warm). This looks delicious.

    I really miss Panera bread, I haven’t had their caprese but their chicken and tomato soups sustained me pretty much all winter long while I was in school (thank god we had one right around the corner from my apartment). I miss them so much >.<

    I've been trying to get the BF to build me a garden (or dig one…) since our soil out here is poor you have to either build a raised garden or dig several inches into the earth and replace the dirt with nice soil…. he doesn't seem to be a fan of those ideas (possibly due to my inability to grow anything in a pot)… maybe I can convince him since it seems to have worked so beautifully for you! OR I could just send you a few of my meyer lemons (if they make it to the grown-up stage) in exchange for a few of your goods πŸ˜‰

    • Reply shannon May 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      natalie, it’s perfect for your weather! i know AZ gets pretty “middle eastern” hot, so this one’s made for you. πŸ™‚ it’s very refreshing; i bump up the lemon juice in it too, which i think makes for a nice crisp dressing…not so heavy with oil. i’m happy you like it!

      i miss Panera too…it’s been forever since i’ve been there. i always liked trying their new offerings, and they had/have a nice rotation of soups and salads. i LOVE their tomato soup! Panera is totally habit-forming.

      Tell the BF that i’m horrid at growing things (normally) but this raised garden has really done the trick this year. And i mean, i can kill ANYTHING, believe me. So yes, please tell him it’s worth the effort, and just think of all the money he’ll save on vegetables (men love it when they can save money). πŸ™‚ If it helps, i actually have family down your way, and i believe my aunt and two of my cousins have really great garden luck from what i’ve seen. it can be done! if we could start an herbs/veggies for meyer lemons exchange, i’d SO do it. we really need to work on this mail system… πŸ™‚

  • Reply Jen @ Juanita's Cocina May 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Dear Shannon,

    I can kill weeds. I am not lying. Kill them dead. Which, you would totally think, “Oh, that’s good!” But, alas, no. My point is that I cannot grow anything…save for a now almost 16-y.o. boy.

    So, we need to hurry up with that compound. You’re in charge of herbs…legal kind only.


    • Reply shannon May 23, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      i’ll take on that responsibility. although I may have to temporarily bestow upon you the raising of my future 16 year old in, well, 14.5 years. i fear she’s way too much like me to listen to her mother when she’s that age.

  • Reply Willow May 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    This sounds wonderful! I’m loving your famer’s market posts. πŸ™‚

    I attempted to start my own herbs this year, but several unfortunate mishaps (pet related, I might add) killed them all. Hoping to buy some already started herbs at my own farmer’s market and plant them later in the week. Fingers crossed they handle the transplant well, because I am so excited by the idea of having my own fresh herbs on hand whenever I want them! So much better than paying such high prices for a little bunch of them at the store. πŸ™‚

    • Reply shannon May 23, 2012 at 3:27 pm

      willow, i’m so happy to hear you like the market posts! all of you have been great about it. you never know when you take a little departure from what you normally do if it’ll be well-received, but it seems like it’s been fun for people so far. that makes me happy, because it’s been fun for me too. πŸ™‚

      oh NO; that’s the worst when something goes wrong in the garden. it’s like you put out the effort and boom: game over. SO frustrating…it’s happened to me before, so i feel for you. Certainly i’ve seen some of my neighbors planting recently (like, i walked by someone yesterday putting things in), so i know it can be done. I wish you luck! fresh herbs are so nice to be able to go out and just grab instead of yes, paying ridiculous prices for them, i agree. And somehow when they come from your own soil, they taste ten times better.

  • Reply Brianne May 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I would love, LOVE to ask our landlord if we could plant some raised beds, but get this: His kids and their pals ride ATVs in circles around the house ALL summer. Meaning, there’s no place to put the raised beds. ATVs around the house, in the middle of TOWN! It drives me CRAZY! We have a rosemary plant and a basil plant inside, and that’s all we can do for now. I love getting the updates on your first big lady garden! But watch out for that mint. I’ve heard horror stories about its tendency to take over the world.

    This salad sounds scrumptious! We’re making Greek salad tomorrow night. Yum!

    • Reply shannon May 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm

      are. you. serious. ATV’s in circles around where you LIVE!?! GROSS. i mean, to each their own and all, but i’m not a big fan of motor noise when i’m trying to do…well…anything. I would have some sort of breakdown mid-summer if that were me, so bless you and your infinite patience. So ridiculous you can’t plant; i guess there’s no convincing the landlord they could have access to some of the produce?

      my big lady garden is my pride and joy right now: i need to get out there today and take more photos because everything is just zipping along. I have heard about mint; i made sure it had lots of room and i’ve read about how to trim it back should it get all crazy-like on my other things. I have to watch my yellow squash too, because i know it vines out and will attack the other things with it’s vine-ish nature.

      LOVE myself a good greek salad; it’s probably one of my favorite all-season things to eat. SO much good stuff in there, and i’m a feta fool. πŸ™‚

  • Reply movita beaucoup May 23, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I NEEEEEED to get to a market. Because, as it turns out, gardens don’t plant themselves, and I might have – MIGHT have – forgotten to plant our veggie patch. So our veggie patch might be – MIGHT be – a huge pile of weeds and forget-me-nots. And yes, I get that the forget-me-nots are ironic…

  • Reply TastefullyJulie May 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    This looks freakin’ delicious! I’ll be making it for sure. Love this new blog feature, looking forward to more πŸ™‚

    • Reply shannon May 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      Julie, it means something when the nutritionist likes your salad posts. πŸ™‚ thank you! you inspire me with your delicious, healthy cooking, so this series is a little shout-out to all of you who find ways to make good-for-you food i’m excited to eat. I’m having a lot of fun trying to put things together, and i’m excited for summer to heat up, because there will be TONS to choose from around here!

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