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. I 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
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.