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There is one salad that has been a staple on our summer tables throughout my life whenever we’ve had guests to come: my mother’s Israeli Salad. Our people are Eastern European Jews, we’re all about pickled fish, heavy kugel puddings and cream cheese bagels, but this simple salad of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, fresh herbs, lemon juice and your very best extra virgin olive oil transcends geographical boundaries.
Traditionally served as part of the breakfast spread – but really it is good at any time of the day (it would also be good as a dip spooned over hummus sort of like this) – on kibbutz, I can often be found standing in front of the open fridge door spooning it right into my mouth from the bowl whenever it is around. Made with the very best fresh ingredients it’s fresh, vibrant, super refreshing, perfect for making ahead, and the salad you’ll want to be making on repeat this summer.
This recipe comes, as the title of this post indicates, from my mother, who follows the recipe in – but also does her own thing as she goes along – Mother and Daughter Jewish Cooking by Evelyn and Judi Rose. So many recipes we eat every day come from that book, though good luck getting your hands on a copy – a hardcover edition on amazon is currently running at over £200.
However, when it comes to making an Israeli salad, there are no right or wrong answers – I myself in halving the recipe to scale it down (I’m the only person at home who’ll eat it) instead of halving a pair of peppers I use just one red one, eschewing green, a pepper I’m never much of a fan of, even if it is very good when my Mum puts it in the salad. My mother also told me, via text as she walked around Waitrose this morning, that white wine vinegar should be used, whilst the recipe just calls for ‘wine vinegar’. Just do what feels right for you.
I need no excuse to make a batch of this Israeli Salad, but today I have one: I want to show off my fancy new chefs knife. It was about time, wasn’t it, with two cookbooks under my belt I actually upgraded to one, and thanks to the team at Katto who kindly gifted me one of their London-made chefs knifes (they’re based in Battersea) I’ve finally got a knife that not only looks beautiful, but is the right size for me, is actually sharp and can be sharpened properly. and is comfortable to hold and chop with – which, for a salad like this which involves a much chopping, is perfect.
I went for their santoku knife, slightly smaller and lighter than their classic chefs knifes as I have very small hands and I’m quite petite, which is perfect for me, in ‘Henry’ (you can choose different wood colours) and whilst you can choose to have it monogrammed (I opted not to) I’ve got my eye on one of their leather scabbards to protect it in the kitchen drawer for once the cardboard one it came in finally wears out. Honestly I’m beyond impressed.
A few tips for salad sucsess:
Choose tomatoes that are ripe, but still a little firm as they’ll be easier to chop. Remove seeds where you can, but you don’t need to be too fastidious about this as this salad is quite juicy anyway.
Keep in mind this is a juicy salad, and don’t throw any away. It really is it’s own dressing, and keep any leftovers with the salad in the fridge. You’ll only get as much of it as you want when you’re spooning it onto the plate anyway.
Make a big batch. It lasts really well in the fridge, and the chopping will take longer than you think it will!
Use a good sea salt – I break out my Breton Fleur de Sel for this one!
A traditional Israeli Salad recipe made with finely chopped tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, lots of fresh herbs and your very best extra virgin olive oil – the ultimate summer side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
For the Salad
1/2 large cucumber
1 red pepper
4 medium tomatoes (approx 200g / 7 oz), see note
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 tbsp finely chopped mint
For the Dressing
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 small garlic clove
Finely dice the cucumber – don’t bother peeling it – and toss it with the 1 tsp sea salt. Set aside in a colander to drain.
To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and the garlic clove, peeled and crushed. Set aside.
De-seed the pepper, and slice away any white ribs. Along with the tomatoes, dice as finely as the cucumber.
Toss together the drained cucumber, chopped pepper and tomatoes, the dressing and the herbs. Leave to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
For the best results, use ripe, but still slightly firm tomatoes.
Be sure to store the leftovers, in the fridge, in their juice.
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