Tag Archives: arugula

Middle Eastern “Caesar” Salad

8 Apr

A few weeks ago some friends and I threw a baby shower lunch for a wonderful mom-to-be. We put out a delicious spread, including some hummus that I quickly jazzed up with a sprinkling of za’atar. I couldn’t believe how many people actually made a point of asking me what it was or why the hummus tasted so good! Multiple people commented on how delicious it was and hardly any of them had heard of my incredibly handy ‘secret ingredient’.

If you haven’t tried za’atar, take a look for it next time you’re in a spice shop or specialty food store. It’s a blend of herbs including oregano & thyme mixed with sesame seeds, sumac and salt. It’s often used in Middle Eastern cooking and it’s a truly divine spice mix to add to your spice collection.

One of my favorite ways to eat it is just simply sprinkled onto lightly olive-oiled pita bread, warmed and toasted in a toaster oven. It makes a great accompaniment to salad.

But an idea came to me that builds on that idea and brings the za’atar and bread right into the salad itself. Enter homemade za’atar croutons.

I never think to make croutons myself and I don’t particularly like store-bought ones, but after proving to myself how easy and painless it is to make them at home, I have a feeling I’ll be adding them to my repertoire. It was so easy and they tasted so good without being too buttery or overloaded with oil and grease.

I didn’t really know how this salad was going to turn out, but the flavors of tahini and lemon were no-brainers when I was dreaming up what would blend well with my za’atar croutons.

Putting this whole salad together took very little time, effort and amount of ingredients. I made it as a side dish to accompany fish, but I think it would make a killer main dish salad with the addition of baked falafel balls or grilled chicken.

The dressing is so creamy and rich and the croutons are so decadent and flavorful, that upon taking the first bite, I immediately thought “Middle-Eastern Caesar!” In reality, it has nothing to do with a true Caesar salad, but it’s reminiscent of one in it’s own special, spiced-up way.

Middle Eastern “Caesar” Salad

Dressing:

1 big Tbsp tahini

Juice of half a lemon

Onion powder to taste

Cumin to taste

Olive oil

Hot water

Sea salt

Croutons:

Good quality bread (fresh or day-old), cubed

Olive oil

Za’atar

Sea salt

Salad:

Arugula

Cucumber, chopped

In a bowl, toss bread cubes with a few drizzles of olive oil and a little bit of sea salt. Add about a teaspoon of za’atar (or to taste) and toss to coat.

Heat a frying pan on medium heat and add in the bread cubes. Toast for approximately 10 minutes, constantly turning the pieces of bread until all sides are nice and golden.

Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the tahini with the lemon juice. It will firm up quite a bit. Add in small amounts of hot water, a little bit at a time, until you get a nice smooth consistency. Drizzle in a little bit of olive oil and mix. Add some onion powder, cumin and a little bit of sea salt. Whisk everything together and set aside.

In a large serving bowl, add the arugula and cucumber. Dress it with the tahini dressing and toss well. Add in the za’atar croutons and give it one final toss before serving.


Simply Assembled: Watermelon and Feta Salad with Pickled Onions

25 Aug

Some recipes are almost non-recipes. You know, the ones that are so easy it’s really more about assembly and not so much about cooking?

I love those recipes. I’m really quite good at making them. Because the truth is, in our house Neil is the real ‘chef’ and I’m just a food-lover who likes to bring flavors and textures together in interesting ways and assemble dishes that taste and look amazing.

This is one of those dishes, but it’s not just the ease of making it that makes it so good. The flavors in this super-quick salad come together beautifully and simply, really showcasing each ingredient. And with watermelon in season, it’s the perfect time for it. Not to mention the fact that it looks great on the plate.

I can’t take any credit for this salad. I didn’t come up with the recipe (in fact, I stole it from Neil’s mom who is both a ‘chef’ like Neil and an ‘assembler’ like me) and I don’t even know where it originally came from, but it’s so uncomplicated and flavorful that I had to share it.

I made this the other night to bring to a dinner party with our friends Paul & Lisa (of The Hip and Urban Girl’s Guide) and it was a hit. It was a great prelude to Lisa’s delicious Paella and white sangria.

The salad looks great plated individually (as pictured above) but for a party, it’s just as easy to plate it on an oversized platter and let people help themselves. Just make sure not to toss this salad, it needs to be served in layers, without blending it all together. The flavors need to stand alone to work together.

Watermelon and Feta Salad with Pickled Onions

Arugula – for this salad I like the spicier wild version instead of baby arugula

Watermelon cut into chunky cubes

Feta cheese cut into chunks or crumbled – I used a firm Canadian feta

Homemade Pickled onions (recipe below)

Balsamic drizzle – I use a store-bought balsamic glaze. Definitely an ingredient worth keeping in your pantry and you can find it at most grocery stores.

Pickled red onions:

1 medium red onion, sliced

1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. sea salt

2 Tbsp. white sugar

1 Tbsp. yellow mustard seeds

1 tsp. black peppercorns

1 bay leaf

Bring all but onion to a boil over med-high heat.  Remove and stir for one minute to dissolve sugar completely.  Immediately add onion slices.  Let stand 15-20 minutes until onion is bright red.  Once cooled, store the onions in the fridge until you’re ready to top the salad. Remove the onions from the liquid but don’t rinse them off. You can remove the peppercorns with your hands as well as some of the mustard seeds, but I like to leave them in and add them to the salad along with the onions.

To assemble the salad:

Line individual plates with arugula.  Scatter watermelon pieces overtop, then the feta.  Top with a good amount of pickled onions and drizzle with balsamic glaze.

There isn’t any other dressing – the onions and the balsamic create all the flavor that you need and the feta adds that hint of salt and richness.

I love these pickled onions and will definitely make them again for other salads and to use as a condiment. They’d be great on burgers or sandwiches!

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