The breakfast nook at my parents' house is crowded with dishes: half-empty yogurt containers jostle for space with cut-up watermelon and whole-grain buns. Leftover cheeses intermingle with labaneh and cherry tomatoes. Cups of coffee and tea are in various state of consumption, enough to make you think that there are six people eating at the table instead of two. But the star of the show is the simple, humble Israeli chopped salad - though at my parents' house, it gets amped up with a generous helping of feta and a smattering of za'atar and sumac.
Each morning, my parents sit down to a hearty breakfast that centres around an unexpected dish: salad. The thing is, lunches at my parents' house also centre on salad. And occasionally, so do dinners. We're really a one-trick-pony sort of household.
I know salads are hardly the most shiny offering on the blogosphere. The simple Israeli chopped salad with feta doesn't even register among the most extravagant salads on this blog: between roasted carrots with harissa and goat cheese, spicy and sweet Russian Korean-style kohlrabi and carrot salad, or my favourite apple and beet salad, it's hard to make room for a humble salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, salty feta and za'atar.
But trust me when I say that if you only have 15 minutes to put dinner on the table, THIS is the salad to turn to. If you seek a meal to bring everyone together - the young and old, the vegan and the gluten-free, the simple eaters and the extravagant foodies - this salad provides the perfect blueprint for additions and subtractions. It's quick and easy, and as I've said before, sure beats a frozen pizza for dinner.
And though those are all worthwhile reasons to love this salad, I have to be honest and say that's not why, morning after morning, my parents go back to this salad. It's not why I, whenever I am looking for a simple dinner solution, the first thing that comes to mind is a bowl of neatly chopped tomatoes, onions and cucumbers with a generous helping of feta, za'atar and sumac. It's not why everyone who comes into my house during any family meal can't help but feel our love for Israeli chopped salad.
The reason we continue to swear by Israeli chopped salad with feta is simply because, after all this time, this salad feels like home. It's up there in the annals of my family's kitchen repertoire, along with my mother's stewed cabbage and my grandmother's syrniki. It's as familiar and loved as a chipped tea kettle, or the fork I've used since I was 14-years-old.
To us, Israeli chopped salad with feta feels like home.
And if there's one thing I do today, I hope it will be to help you remember a dish that feels like home to you.
P.S. - As I am about to embark on a weeklong trip into Berlin, updates might get a bit more sporadic on the blog. You can still find me on social media regularly, on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin’, or Twitter.
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Israeli chopped salad with feta, za'atar and sumac
- 2 medium-sized cucumbers or 1 large cucumber, finely chopped
- ½ red or sweet Vidalia onion finely chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- ¼ cup feta crumbled
- 1 TB za'atar herb mixture
- ½ TB sumac
- 1 TB sunflower seeds optional
- 1 TB pumpkin seeds optional
- ½ tablespoon hemp seeds optional
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced cilantro or chives
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- salt + pepper
- If using, toast sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Set aside
- Combine cucumbers, chopped onions and cherry tomatoes in a bowl. Top with feta, seeds (if using), fresh cilantro or chives, za'atar and sumac.
- Drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss to combine, taste, and add more salt or lemon, as needed.
- Serve with some warm pita, crusty bread, or a hard-boiled egg.