I bet a lot of people when told to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables picture in their head some iceberg lettuce covered with ranch dressing, or the ubiquitous Caesar salad with all the croutons and creamy cheese sauce.
In the Lebanese cooking, folks actually love their vegetables, which take up a dominant share in the repertoire of traditional dishes and are prepared in hundreds of ways.
We had salad every day growing up, for lunch and for dinner, which is fairly typical. Just a simple salad with seasonal veggies, always dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and a touch of fresh garlic.
My cousin and I used to race to see who would end up with the empty salad bowl and would be the lucky one to sop up the dressing with our pita bread ( the best part).
INGREDIENTS: Quantity should feed 4 people.
- 1 bunch of Italian parsley, washed and dried, stems cut off and leaves chopped as fine as possible.
- 1/4 bunch of fresh mint, washed and dried, stems cut off and leaves chopped as fine as possible.
- 4 Persian cucumbers or 1 English greenhouse cucumber, sliced or cubed.
- 1 avocado, cubed (optional)
- 1/2 basket of organic cherry tomatoes, washed and sliced in half.
- 1 jalapeno pepper, washed and cut in tiny cubes and seeds discarded (optional)
- 1/2 bunch of spring onions, washed and sliced in thin rings.
- 2 whole-wheat pita breads, sliced in half.
1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of white or black pepper
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, mashed
After washing, drying and chopping all the vegetables place them in a bowl. Prepare the dressing, first mashing the garlic then adding the lemon juice, spices and finally emulsifying with the olive oil. Start pouring the dressing, one tablespoon at a time, mixing all the salad ingredients real well. You should use only half the quantity of dressing, using the rest for another day of the week. Cut the pita bread in half, open it up and stuff it with the salad. Sahteyn!
Notice this salad has no lettuce in it. In Lebanon, parsley and mint are not used as a garnish, they are actually eaten in large quantities. And guess what? parsley has 3 times as much Vitamin C as oranges, twice as much iron as spinach, has been found to control high blood pressure and is a natural diuretic! mint on the other hand, eliminates toxins from the body, has anticancer properties (colon, lung and skin), helps in whitening teeth and in getting rid of headaches! So, forget about the iceberg lettuce or even romaine lettuce, next time you are at the store, pick a bunch of italian parsley and a bunch of mint!
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