Israel has a green thumb for fresh and savory salads

A trip to Israel always supplies me with a bounty of new recipes from friends, relatives, chefs, and even strangers I meet at the market. All are tempting to try and the perfect souvenir of my trip.

The ones I covet the most are salads, as they remind me of early morning walks through Israel’s gorgeous “salad bar” — better known as the shuk, or outdoor market, which exists in every city and town. Here you can get the most exquisite, picture-perfect produce, spices, meats, poultry and fish as well as sweatshirts, underwear and even some new miracle face cream.

It’s the fruit and vegetables that are most inspiring for me, and the chitchat with my fellow shoppers that reveal useful culinary tips. From the standpoint of versatility, salads are the ultimate. Israelis eat them either as a first course, light meal or festive fare for entertaining. They even eat them for breakfast along with cheese, fish and bread.

No longer are cucumbers, tomatoes and onion the limit for the national dish known as Israeli Salad. A cornucopia of fresh produce has expanded the salad repertoire to include nuts, cheese and fruits.

Whether in small portions to spice up one’s appetite as a first course, or tastefully arranged around wedges of fresh, warm pita bread for a light meal, this fresh, healthy course has become an Israeli way of life.

Bell Pepper and Apple Salad | Serves 4-6

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green pepper, cut into strips
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 green apples, cored, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs. honey
1⁄4 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
salt and pepper
In a large bowl combine peppers, onion, apples and sprouts.
In a small bowl whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss with vegetables.

Seasonal Greens with Strawberry Dressing | Serves 4-6

4 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
8 cups seasonal greens
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1⁄2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
Mash enough strawberries to measure 1⁄2 cup and set aside for dressing.
Place remaining strawberries in a small bowl. Add remaining dressing ingredients and whisk until well blended. Add dressing to greens mixture and toss well.

Beet and Orange Salad | Serves 4-6

6 beets, cooked and sliced
1⁄2 cup toasted almonds or walnuts
3 oranges, peeled and sliced
4 cups arugula or baby spinach
zest of 1 orange
1 Tbs. fresh orange juice
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. honey
salt and pepper
In a large bowl combine beets, nuts, oranges and arugula. In a small bowl combine dressing ingredients until well blended. Toss with salad and serve.

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].