During the hot summer months my mother had a few standard Shabbat-lunch salads. There was a Carrot Pineapple salad made with crunchy sweet carrots cut into matchsticks and mixed together with a syrupy can of crushed pineapple. Also in her repertoire; a leafy green salad with chopped chicken and a dressing that I swear tasted like lemonade. Looking back on it I can’t blame her for her haphazard combinations, she just wanted to get back to her beloved rest-day ritual of devouring a good book or two.
Like Mom, I recognize the merits of a thrown together Shabbat salad. For me it is a celebration of non- cooking, an opportunity for creative re-assigning, and an invitation to experiment. This summer of Saturday Salads began with a Southwestern Chicken Tortilla Salad, which featured leftover cornmeal crusted chicken strips on a bed of shredded lettuce, a scattering of minced chili peppers, cubed avocado and diced tomato and topped off with crushed tortilla chips. It was flavorful and full of texture, but not so impressive on the “lite ‘n healthy” scale.
Then there was the Sectional Salad. Which I boastfully assembled in an elaborate trifle bowl. It was a colorful layered composition of crunchy summer veggies like chopped yellow peppers, fresh cut grilled corn, diced red onion, torn green leaf lettuce on top of layers of cold pasta, garbanzo beans , sliced hard boiled eggs, and finally, glorified by a smattering of crispy fried onions. This salad was a light, fresh, and colorful meal. Bonus: it was gorgeous enough to double as a table centerpiece.
Not as successful ? The deconstructed hamburger salad that was composed of chopped iceberg, sliced tomatoes, grilled onions, dill pickle rounds, remaining barbecued burgers, and potato bun croutons. All tossed in a special sauce dressing. The idea was good, the taste…not so much. Hamburgers, even in cold salads, are better enjoyed hot.
The Sabich Salad was inspired by my Iraqi grandmother’s Shabbat table which always featured a platter of fried eggplant. Also a bowl filled with Shabbat eggs which were cooked overnight to a warm and nutty toastiness. And, there was usually a plate of Umba, a bright and slippery mango chutney. These are all the elements that go into the popular Israeli pita sandwich, Sabich. But Instead of frying the eggplant, I lightened it up by brushing it with olive oil, dusting it with za’atar spice, and then grilling it. And as it cooled I covered the eggplant in a layer of lemony tehina, which added even more Middle Eastern flavor. The 18-minute sliced hardboiled eggs provided protein and gave this salad (like the sandwich) some heft. Regarding the umba, here’s my guilty admission: I’d always been a bit freaked out by my Nana’s umba, the mango mixed with the turmeric gave it a neon orange hue and the thick-sliced fruit was too slippery and squidgy for me to stand. So instead I made a medium-dice mango salsa for a nice bright kick of flavor and for a bit of harif(spicy). To make amends for this umba defection, I tossed the chopped lettuce in the salad with a vinaigrette flavored by Nana’s herb-of-choice: parsley. All these elements made for a composed salad with a pronounced Israeli-Iraqi accent.
My most favorite salad was Grilled Tuna Bibimbap. To begin with, saying “bibimbap” is just fun (rivaled only by “Shakshooka”). I made this flavorful Korean dish as a Summer Shabbat Salad by using all the left-over takeout rice that cluttered the fridge, and spicing it up with a sweet and fiery gochuchang paste. In this Shabbat-friendly version the fried egg was switched out for make- ahead hard boiled eggs. In homage to Mom’s sweet summer salad a couple of carrots were cut into crunchy matchsticks, and the sweet soy dressing splashed across gave this salad its toothsome edge. The sweetness is well balanced by the salty and spicy flavors present in this filling salad. When all the elements come together in your bowl it’s nothing less than delicious. The make -ahead and left-over components of the dish allows for easy assembly and the continuation of another Shabbat day ritual of devouring a good book or two.
Grilled Eggplant with Tehina
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into half inch slices (about 10-12 slices)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons za’atar spice mix
½ cup tehina
1) Eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with za’atar.
2) Place seasoned eggplant slices on grill and cook approximately for 5 minutes, or until well-browned.
3) Arrange grilled eggplant on a platter and spread evenly with tehina. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Mango Salsa Umba (yields approx. 1 cup)
1 firm but ripe mango, peeled and diced
5 green onions, sliced thin
½ cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, minced (more if you like it really hot)
1) Combine all ingredients in a small non-reactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Parsley Vinaigrette (yields 2/3 cup)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Romaine lettuce, chopped or shredded (to toss with vinaigrette)
1) Shake up all ingredients in a jar or cruet. Toss over lettuce.
Grilled Tuna Bibimbap
Sweet Soy Dressing
5 garlic cloves, sliced thin
6 thin slices of ginger, from a 1” piece of peeled ginger
½ cup water
½ cup soy sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup brown sugar
1) In a small saucepan, combine the ingredients and cook over high heat until the sauce begins to boil.
2) Reduce to low and allow to simmer for approx. 5 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Strain out the garlic and ginger, and allow to cool.
Gochuchang Paste (this fiery paste adds a spicy aspect to otherwise bland white rice
1 tablespoon gochugaro powder or crushed red chili flakes
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1) Mix the gochuchang paste ingredients together in a small bowl.
2) Combine it with the prepared rice
2-3 cups prepared rice
1 lb. ahi tuna steak
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 red pepper, cut into matchsticks
2-3 spring onions, sliced
4 hardboiled eggs, sliced
1) Grill tuna steaks for approximately 90 seconds on each side, or longer if you like it more well done. Slice tuna to desired thickness.
2) Artfully arrange the bibimbap salad ingredients in a large bowl, giving each component its own section on top of the rice. Serve with the Sweet Soy Dressing.
Rachel Harkham is a writer, cook, chocolatier, and proud Celebrationist. For more recipes check out www.reciperachel.com. Her new cookbook, “Get Cooking! A Jewish American Family Cookbook” comes out October 15, 2012. For more info go to www.behrmanhouse.com/get-cooking