Category Archives: Salad

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

This healthy and delicious Mediterranean yogurt salad goes by many names depending on the country. My Greek friend used to call it tzatziki. She grated her cucumbers and added lots of smashed garlic to hers and I mean a lot! In Turkey this salad is called cacik and the Indian version is called raita. You always see this salad in Indian buffets, because its cooling effect counteracts their spicy curries.

Regardless of the country of origin, the main ingredients in this salad are always yogurt and cucumbers. The Persians have a version that includes walnuts, fresh dill and raisins which is quite delicious. If you are not a fan of plain yogurt, you should definitely try this recipe.

Yogurt has a lot of health benefits. Some of its benefits include boosting immunity, helping in weight loss, and preventing gastritis and stomach ulcers, heart diseases and osteoporosis. More reasons to include it in our diets.

To make this easy salad, you first dice the cucumbers. I left the skins on the cucumbers because I like the texture and color they adds to the salad, but you can peel the skins if you like. Use Persian cucumbers because they have thin and tender skins and are not as seedy as other cucumbers. Besides, they have more flavors. If you can’t find Persian cucumber, use English cucumber.

The fastest and easiest way to dice cucumbers into uniform pieces is to cut them into slices lengthwise, stacking the slices and cutting them lengthwise again into matchstick pieces. Then lining up the pieces and cutting across them. My sister uses a small paring knife and cuts one slice at a time. I’ll go bananas if I do that! The only times I use a paring knife is to peel an apple.

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Once your cucumbers are ready, add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Make sure your garlic is finely chopped or better yet, use a grater or a zester to be on the safe side. There is nothing worse than biting into a piece of strong and spicy garlic! I have a stainless steel zester that I got as a gift over a decade ago that I use for grating. It’s inexpensive and works like a charm, a must for grating garlic and ginger.

I love the taste of dried tarragon with yogurt, but fresh tarragon, dill or mint would work great in this recipe. As for yogurt, use nonfat, low fat, regular or Greek as you wish. You can drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil over this salad and sprinkle chopped herbs over it for garnish. This Mediterranean yogurt salad makes a great appetizer with chips or pita bread. It can be served as a side dish with stews and rice dishes or as a soup. For the soup version, simply add enough water to thin it. You can also sprinkle some cayenne pepper over it, yummy! Another pretty garnish is using fresh edible flowers or dried rose petals.

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

Mediterranean Yogurt Salad

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 0
Ready in: 10 min
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

2 cups plain yogurt
3 Persian cucumbers peeled and diced
1 small garlic clove peeled and finely mashed (optional)
1 teaspoon dry French tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Combine the yogurt, cucumber, dried tarragon, salt and pepper in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve with chips or pita bread.

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Mediterranean Black-Eyed Pea Salad

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This Mediterranean black-eyed pea salad is my first attempt at creating vegan, gluten free and interstitial cystitis  IC friendly recipes, boy what a mouthful name! IC – also known as painful bladder syndrome, bladder pain syndrome, and chronic pelvic pain – is a chronic incurable bladder condition that consists of recurring pelvic pain, pressure, or discomfort in the bladder and pelvic region, often associated with urinary frequency and urgency. The three cardinal symptoms of IC are pain, frequency, and urgency. Some foods are known to trigger IC flares and an IC elimination diet is recommended to keep the symptoms at bay.

Okay, enough about the IC stuff and on to the fun stuff. After scanning the “bladder friendly” ingredient list and checking my pantry, I came up with this vegan, gluten-free and “bladder friendly” version of Mediterranean black-eyed pea salad.

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Before cooking any dried beans or peas, always inspect and remove any debris or dirt. I learned my lesson the hard way by chipping the edge of my front tooth on a tiny rock that was in my beans. Sometimes, these tiny rocks look like dirt, so be super careful and don’t skip this important step.

I love cooking black-eyed peas. They are not only delicious and nutritious, they usually cook in less than 30 minutes without presoaking. To prepare the peas, place them in a small pot using 3 to 4 cups of fresh water for each cup of peas. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until the peas are tender and stir them once or twice. Don’t cook them to a mush. You want to keep the beans whole. Once cooked, strain and set aside to cool.

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To add classic Mediterranean flavors to my salad, I used cucumbers, fresh dill and garlic.

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While the peas are cooling down, peel and finely chop the cucumbers. I prefer Persian cucumbers because they are more flavorful and have thin skins that can be left on. If using other types of cucumbers, just scoop out the seeds before chopping them. Finely mince the garlic and chop the dill.

Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine. Stir in a good quality extra virgin olive oil and salt.

I was very pleased with the flavors in my salad. I could never imagine eating a salad without an acidic element like lemon juice or vinegar, but somehow this salad tasted good without it. I turned my salad into a complete protein meal by adding some cooked warm basmati rice and chopped avocado. Next time I will try it with brown rice.

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Did I say how yummy and healthy this salad tasted? The cucumbers gave it its freshness and the crunch element. The fresh dills added a delicious earthiness and the garlic somehow elevated the flavor combination making up for the lack of acid. And finally, the addition of warm rice and avocado made it heavenly delicious!

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Mediterranean Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup cooked black-eyed peas
3 small Persian cucumbers or 1 small English cucumber chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh dill chopped
1 large garlic clove minced
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

  1. Add black-eyed peas and 4 cups of water to a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium, cover and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the peas are tender. Strain and set aside to cool.
  2. Wash, peel and chop cucumbers and garlic. Chop the dill.
  3. Add the salad ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine.
  4. Stir in olive oil and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Lebanese Fattoush Salad

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The first time I had fattoush was in a Lebanese restaurant. Fattoush is a Lebanese popular salad that has as many versions as there are cooks. It’s normally made with fresh seasonal vegetables and herbs that are tossed with bits of crunchy toasted pita bread. What makes fattoush salad so unique and delicious is the addition of sumac and pomegranate molasses to the dressing.

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The version I had consisted of Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, green bell pepper, radishes, parsley and toasted wheat pita bread. The dressing was made of extra virgin olive oil, lemon and sumac. Whenever I try something new that I like at a restaurant, I take a mental note of the ingredients and sometimes even take photos of it and try to recreate the recipe at home.

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All the ingredients for this salad are readily available at most supermarkets or farmers markets. Make sure to use Persian cucumbers  which are small seedless cucumbers with thin and tender skin. If you can’t find them, use seedless English cucumber.

Chop all the ingredients and add them to a bowl.

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Sumac is the deep red berries of a wild bush native to the Middle East. The berries are dried and ground into coarse powder and range in color from reddish brown to dark red burgundy. Sumac has a tangy lemony flavor and is used in dry rubs, marinades and dressing.

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Make the salad dressing by whisking extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper and sumac in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix to combine the ingredients. Sprinkle sumac over the salad before serving (optional). I made my salad without pita bread to keep it gluten free.

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Lebanese Fattoush Salad

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 0 hr
Ready in: 15 mins
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

5 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber chopped
2 large roman tomatoes chopped
1/4 of a small red onion sliced
1/2 small green bell pepper sliced
5 to 6 medium radishes sliced
1 cup fresh parsley leaves chopped

Dressing
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or juice of 1 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground sumac

Preparation

  1. Add all the salad ingredients to a bowl.
  2. Whisk the ingredients for dressing.
  3. Pour dressing over the salad. Mix to combine the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Quinoa Salad

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Quinoa has become the grain of choice in vegetarian and vegan diets because of its high and complete protein content. Quinoa, pronounced as “keen-wah”, is the only grain that provides all 9 essential amino acids. It’s also a great source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, potassium, and fiber. Quinoa is actually a seed, but it’s considered a grain. It looks like couscous and is as versatile as rice, but has a much richer, nuttier flavor than either one of them. One cup of cooked quinoa has 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, 39 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of fiber.

Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 15 min
Ready in: 20 min
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 cup tricolor quinoa
2 cups cold water
½ teaspoon salt
1 to 2 celery stalks, inner softer parts
10 small sweet colorful bell peppers, deseeded and diced
½ jalapeno pepper, deseeded and diced (optional)
1/4 cup diced red onions (optional)
1 large garlic clove minced (optional)
½ cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
5 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

 Preparation

  1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly in a strainer under running cold water. Place 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups cold water and ½ teaspoon salt in a 1½ quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl to cool.
  2. Once the quinoa is cold, add the remaining vegetables and salad dressing. Mix to combine the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper.