Middle Eastern Chopped Salad

 
Simple, healthy Middle Eastern chopped salad for hot summer days

Crunchy cucumber, tender cherry tomatoes bursting with sweetness, salty olives and fresh, pungent herbs all smothered in a creamy tahini dressing; this is everything I want in a summer salad. It’s perfectly refreshing on a hot summer evening and brings out all the goodness of produce at its prime.

vitality • salad • summer


 
healthy, easy Middle Eastern chopped salad for summer days

For me, a good chopped salad is all about contrast. Crunchy and tender. Salty and sweet. Pungent and creamy. Hot and cold. All of these opposing forces work together to create a sort of magical harmony of deliciousness in your mouth.

In fact, I could broaden that statement to include all salads…heck why not even include all of cooking, in general. So often, it is the delicate balance of opposing flavors that pushes something into the realm of the extraordinary. A slice of mango is good, but add a squeeze of sharp lime to balance its heady sweetness and suddenly the full range of its potential is unlocked, as surely as if you turned a key.

That’s what I love so much about this chopped salad. Each ingredients playing off the others; the crunch of cucumber against the tender bite of chickpea. The salty intensity of the olive against the candy sweetness of ripe cherry tomatoes. The pungent freshness of the herbs against the creamy dressing. It’s like a pinball machine lighting up all the tastebuds in your mouth.

 
easy, healthy middle eastern chopped salad for a vegan dinner
 

The proof is in the pudding; my husband absolutely despises cucumber. But even he begrudgingly admitted that he loved this chopped salad — and not only that he loved it, but that (wait for it) the cucumber played a pivotal role in his enjoyment and could not have been left out. I felt very smug. I always love seeing an under-appreciated vegetable have its moment to shine.

This particular salad is inspired by Middle Eastern ingredients and flavors; olive and tahini, fresh cucumber, chickpea and mint. If you are looking for a lesson on contrast, look no further than the cooking of this region. Thousands of years of experience have made them experts and as I see it, there’s no need to rewrite history. Only to be inspired by it.

This salad is particularly enjoyable when the weather is hot and balmy, as the fresh herbs and cucumber feel so cooling, and the saltiness of the olive oh so satisfying (is it just me that craves salt when the weather turns hot?). It’s substantial enough to be enjoyed as a meal in its own right, but can also be paired with hummus, falafal and pita bread for more of a mezze style feast. It’s the kind of food that makes me think, why don’t I eat like this all the time?

 
healthy, easy Middle Eastern chopped salad recipe
 

Middle Eastern Chopped Salad

Total time: 25 minutes

 

Serves 4 - 6

For the salad

  • 1 large or 2 small cucumbers, diced

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 300 g), sliced in half or quartered if larger

  • 2 shallots, minced

  • 1 cup (200 g) chickpeas

  • 2/3 cup (120 g) pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half

  • handful each mint, dill and basil, finely chopped

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • freshly ground pepper

For the dressing:

  • 2 tbsp tahini

  • 1/4 cup hot water

  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (use coconut yogurt for vegan)

  • juice of 1 lemon

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • freshly ground pepper

 
  • To dice the cucumber, first slice in half lengthwise. Slice each half into 4 slices lengthwise (producing 8 long, thin strips) and then, holding the strips together with one hand, slice the bunch into small pieces with the other. I don’t peel the cucumber or seed it, as I think both add flavor to the dish. But if you have an older cucumber and the skin has gone tough or bitter, or you dislike the seeds, by all means peel and scoop the seeds out before dicing.

  • Combine the cucumber in a large bowl with the remaining ingredients and mix well, ensuring all the vegetables and chickpeas are well coated with the herb mixture.

  • In another small bowl, combine the tahini with the hot water and whisk until it’s dissolved.

  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir well until smooth and creamy. Check for seasonings, adding more lemon, salt or pepper if you wish.

  • I like to serve the dressing separately and allow each person to drizzle it over the salad to their own discretion, as everyone in my family tends to have differing dressing amount preferences. Adding the dressing to the salad works just fine as well, if you are going to be eating it all at once — but note that it doesn’t keep very well once the dressing is added (the liquid from the vegetables will seep out over time and create a somewhat watery mess). So keeping the dressing separate not only maintains the family peace but also ensures that the salad will keep much better if there are any leftovers. Win win.


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my favorite tahini:

Mason cash mixing bowl

Typhoon Homewares Mason Cash Cane Mixing Bowls - Cane, Large

linen napkins:

Celina Mancurti Warm Tone Linen Napkins (Set of 4) - Nude