In this Mediterranean twist on classic Israeli salad, cucumbers and tomatoes are combined with sweet bell peppers and fresh mint. The salad is topped with feta cheese and dressed with olive oil, lemon, and a touch of cinnamon. It’s a symphony of regional flavors, light and tantalizing.
Many Middle Eastern salads feature the same basic components – Persian cucumbers (the small thin ones), tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice. What makes this salad Israeli, you might ask? While it is extremely popular throughout Israel, this salad actually evolved from a Turkish preparation known as shepherd’s salad – coban salatsi. It is also closely related to a Persian salad known as salad shirazi. What you call this salad largely depends on your regional connections.
My husband grew up in Israel, so in our home this is considered an Israeli salad – and there are a myriad of ways to dress it up. We always have a block of feta on hand, which is a natural topping to this fresh and crunchy salad. I like to add bell peppers to the feta version, and dress it with the usual lemon and olive oil. For the final twist, I add a touch of cinnamon. While it might sound strange, that hint of warm spice really helps the other flavors to pop.
Serve this salad as a side dish, or with toasted, buttered whole grain sourdough as a light vegetarian entrée.
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Israeli Salad with Feta Cheese and Mint
- 1 pound Persian cucumbers, diced
- 1 pound ripe red tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- In a large mixing bowl, combine diced vegetables and chopped mint.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and cinnamon.
- Pour dressing over the salad and toss until well combined.
- Pour half of the crumbled feta into the salad bowl and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle the remaining feta over the top of the salad. Serve.