Jerusalem salad is dead simple. You dice up cucumbers and tomatoes (with a few other veggies, depending on who’s cooking). You dress it simply, and you serve it. But there’s one small problem I’ve always had when making Jerusalem salad: moisture.
how to make sure your Jerusalem salad doesn’t end up soggy
The problem: These ingredients have a ton of water in them, and when you add salt and dressing, they start leaking everywhere. After about 5 minutes, the dressing is completely watered down and your veggies are swimming in a sea of diluted lemon juice.
You could add extra lemon juice to compensate, and just use a slotted spoon to serve it. Or you could leave the salt out until the last minute.
But my favorite solution is simple and extremely effective. Macerate the veggies with some salt for about an hour, strain them, and then dress the salad. The veggies maintain their crunch, but break down just the slightest bit, and the dressing stays in place and does its job effectively.
salads of the Middle East
If you’re looking for other Middle Eastern salads, don’t forget about tabbouleh, fattoush, beet salad, and many more. Tabbouleh is certainly the most popular Middle Eastern salad in the US, but don’t underestimate Jerusalem salad’s ubiquity worldwide. Israeli chef Yottam Ottolenghi and Palestinian chef Sami Tamimi, explain this dish’s ubiquity:
“It is impossible to count the number of cultures and subcultures residing in this city. Jerusalem is an intricate, convoluted mosaic of peoples. It is therefore very tempting to say there isn’t such a thing as a local cuisine. However, if you take a step back and look at the greater picture, there are some typical elements that are easily identifiable in most local cuisines and crop up throughout the city. Everybody, absolutely everybody, uses chopped cucumber and tomatoes to create an Arab salad or an Israeli salad, depending on point of view.”Print
- Yield: 6 servings
- 5 Persian cucumbers
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper (can substitute red or green)
- 5 roma tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup minced red onions (from about 1/4 of a medium onion)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- The juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tablespoons finely minced parsley, divided into 2 tablespoons and 1 tablespoon
- More salt to taste (optional)
- Small dice the cucumbers, bell pepper, and tomatoes, and combine in a big serving bowl.
- Toss together with the sea salt and refrigerate for an hour.
- After an hour has gone by, strain the salad through a fine mesh colander, discarding the liquid. Do not press the salad against the colander, but gently shake the colander a few times to drain away the excess liquid. *
- Place the salad back in the bowl, add the red onion, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons minced parsley, and more salt to taste (optional), and toss to coat.
- Garnish with the 1 tablespoon minced parsley.
* To make ahead, strain the salad after an hour, store in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours, and then strain again right before dressing and serving. You can even do this a day ahead of time, but the vegetables will soften significantly and the texture of the final dish will be very different.
If you’re looking for a variation on this salad, try my recipe for watermelon Jerusalem salad, which is prepared in much the same way. I’ve also got a lovely recipe for Jerusalem salad pico de gallo.
This salad is light, healthy, easy to make, and colorful. You couldn’t ask for anything more!
I’m so glad you’re enjoying it!
As a mom to a six year old, I always joke with my child that the only thing that unites all Israelis, but probably all Palestinian as well is that we fight over the salad "juice"! We have this salad every evening and for us the answer is to make it as close as possible to when we are eating (10 minutes or so before) and then drink the resulting "juice" straight from the bowl. Its a good day when there is enough "juice" for everyone. One Israeli top chef even made a molecular dish that encapsulated this salad "juice" and had people talking about it for days.
You know, now that I think of it, my Palestinian friends totally make their Jerusalem salad juicier than mine, and it’s super delicious! The juice is so wonderful for dabbing with some samoon or pita. I still prefer straining mine, but totally, totally get the appeal.
You need to add just a slight bit of mint! 🙂 Coming from an Iraqi family (Chaldean), your recipes are amazing! Super excited to try a few of these, especially the Gaimar which is usually listed as needing to be baked for way too long. Thanks for doing what you do!
Ooh yes, it’s absolutely delicious with mint! Dried or fresh, yum! Thanks so much for your very kind words–I bet your family has amazing food 🙂
Would keeping the veges in salt for some time to extract their water also extract some of the nutrients? Also when veges are chopped up and left for some time before eating, the nutrients also diminish very quickly, so how nutritious are they then I wonder? It is a tricky situation when we need as much nourishment as possible from our meals!
An interesting point! I’ve never had a vitamin deficiency and eat a ton of fruits and veggies every day, so I’m not worried for myself personally, but if you are worried about it, by all means feel free to skip the brine step! It’ll be delicious either way 😉