Surprising Salads from the Middle East

To satisfy my curiosity and passion for Mediterranean food, I have been working my way through a favorite cookbook, Claudia Roden’s The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. Along the way, I’ve been able to eat lots of delicious, colorful foods that were also remarkably healthful.

What did I learn by immersing myself in this feast of Turkish, Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian cooking? Perhaps the most surprising lesson was that most meals in the Middle East, even breakfast, include what we would call a salad.

In Turkey, for example, a salad made of tomato, onion, chile pepper and some feta cheese, accompanied by warm pita bread drizzled with olive oil, may be the entire morning meal. Most often, you find two to four salads served at a typical Middle Eastern meal. When served as what we would call a first course, these combinations of vegetables usually remain on the table to accompany kebabs and other main dishes. They are also served as light meals, what are called mezze, which translates from Arabic as “to savor in little bites,” according to Roden.

What has intrigued me most is how some ingredients are used in Middle Eastern salads. Most are familiar foods combined in ways we do not expect, like thinly-sliced radishes mixed with orange segments, dressed with lime juice and salt, then sprinkled with fresh mint. This makes a succulent salad that goes especially well with grilled fish.

Not one salad I came across was made with leafy greens. This startled me until I realized the climate in the Middle East doesn’t suit growing lettuce, arugula, or other delicate greens. It is perfect, though, for parsley, mint and other flavorful herbs.

This Lebanese salad shows how combining green herbs and using cabbage as the main green makes a Middle Eastern coleslaw that is perfect served with burgers, roasted chicken, or broiled fish.

Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Soy Sauce

Lebanese Cabbage Salad - Makes 4 servings (4 1/2 cups).

1 lb. green cabbage (1/2 medium head)
2 ripe large plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup diced scallions, white and green parts
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly-ground black pepper

Cut the cabbage in half. Cut away the hard core and slice the cabbage crosswise into 1/2-inch strips, then crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. There should be 4 cups; if there is extra, set it aside to add to soup or another salad. Place the cabbage in a mixing bowl. Add the tomatoes, parsley and scallions, and toss with a fork to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, garlic and salt until the salt dissolves. Mix in the oil. Season the dressing to taste with pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss for 1 minute to coat it well, then let sit 10 minutes for flavors to meld. Serve immediately.

The Author:

“Something Different” is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR’s Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.

AICR offers a Nutrition Hotline (1-800-843-8114) Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. This free service allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides a wide range of education programs that help millions of Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. It has provided more than $82 million in funding for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR 's Web address is www.aicr.org.

Article Source: Aicr.org

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