In Tel Aviv or Palo Alto, salads help beat the heat

In a recent phone conversation, my sister-in-law, who lives in Tel Aviv, complained that this is the hottest and most humid July ever. (This weather report is a predictable annual event.)

I remember those steamy summer days in Israel only too well. A morning dip in the Mediterranean followed by a light breakfast always seemed to be a restorative solution for some, while others headed for a picnic under the Jerusalem pines. Everybody has their own remedy to deal with the heat and keeping cool but the kitchen solution seems to be universal.

Today air-conditioned restaurants in Tel Aviv are a cooling respite from the heat, serving what Israeli cuisine does best: refreshing, fresh salads that are perfect warm-weather fare. Given the abundance of fruits and vegetables, it’s a no-brainer to turn them into palate- and eye-pleasing dishes. For example, the classic Kibbutz Salad, with ripe sweet tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and pungent onions, is a delicious combination that can be altered with the addition of a few simple ingredients to make a sumptuous summer supper.

Kibbutz Salad | Serves 6

1 red bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 Tbs. olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Taste for salt and pepper.

Israeli Couscous Salad | Serves 4

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous
1 tomato, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. chopped fresh basil
lettuce leaves

Combine the couscous, tomato, pepper, chickpeas, green onions, olives, oil, lemon juice and basil in a bowl. Toss, and serve on a bed of lettuce.

Fatoush (Lebanese Pita Salad) | Serves 4

1 head Romaine lettuce, torn into small pieces
3 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large red onion, diced
2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
4 radishes, sliced
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 loaves 6-inch pita bread, toasted and torn into bite-size pieces
pinch of salt
pinch of black pepper
1 Tbs. zatar (optional)
juice of 2 fresh lemons
3 Tbs. olive oil
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Place vegetables and pita in a salad bowl. Add lemon juice into bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add zatar and olive oil; mix gently. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

Chicken-Peach Salad | Serves 4

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup peach preserves
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ripe, firm peaches, diced
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
6 cups mixed greens

To make dressing, combine first six ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, toss dressing with the next 4 ingredients. For each serving, place a handful of mixed greens on a plate. Top with chicken and peach salad mixture.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].