Israeli salad is a misnomer, but a tasty one

There is more to Israeli salad than chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. The salad, an accompaniment in Israel for breakfast, lunch and dinner, has a long history with versions made throughout the Mediterranean and the Mid-dle and Near East.

The dish was shaped by Israel’s years of austerity when cucumbers and tomatoes were plentiful and made popular by hotel buffets and kibbutzim. It is known by several different names in Israel including, salat yerakot (vegetable salad), salat katzutz (chopped salad), salat aravi (Arab salad) and salat turka (Turkish salad), but apparently it is never called Israeli salad.

My version is probably most like what the Israelis call hakol salat (everything salad) and can be made into a main dish perfect for summer’s warm weather. The recipe starts with a base salad and then suggests customizations, including a choice of dressings. The dressing recipes make enough to serve with the base salad with a mix-in or two. Adjust dressing recipes and add more chopped onion to taste as needed when using more of the add-in ingredients.

California Hakol Salat

Makes about 10 cups of salad

Base salad

  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 1 very large or 2 medium cucumbers, peeling optional
  • 5 medium plum tomatoes
  • 1⁄2 small red onion
  • 1 small jicama
  • 1⁄4 tsp. salt
  • 1⁄4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • choice of add-ins from list below (optional)
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • dressing of choice (see below) or fresh lemon juice and olive oil to taste

Chop the red pepper, green pepper and cucumber into 1⁄4-inch cubes. There should be about 1 cup each of the peppers and 3 cups of the cucumber. Slice the tomatoes in half from top to bottom and squeeze out and discard seeds. Chop into 1⁄4-inch pieces (about 2 cups). Dice onion into 1⁄4-inch pieces (about 1 cup). Peel and chop jicama into 1⁄4-inch cubes (about 2 cups.)

Mix all the vegetables in a large bowl with salt and pepper along with any add-ins. Just before serving, toss with herbs and either dress to taste with lemon juice and olive oil or use one of the alternative dressings below. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Suggested add-ins

(All chopped ingredients should be in 1⁄4-inch pieces)

  • 1 cup chopped red radishes
  • 2 cups cooked couscous, quinoa or bulghur
  • 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce or arugula
  • 1 cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 cups chopped avocado
  • 2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
  • 2 cups cooked, drained chickpeas
  • 1-2 cups crumbled feta cheese

Lemon-Zatar-Garlic Dressing

Makes 11⁄4 cups

  • 1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup canola or other neutral oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp. green zatar mix (see note below)
  • 1⁄8 tsp. sugar
  • 1⁄8 tsp. salt
  • 1⁄8 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs. minced garlic

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Taste and correct seasonings.

Note: If green zatar mix is not available, use 1⁄4 tsp. each dried ground thyme and oregano.

For a North African dressing, substitute 1⁄4 tsp. ground cumin, 1⁄4 tsp. dried ground oregano and 1⁄8 tsp. paprika for the zatar.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].