Salads have always been a key part of the Israeli diet, and summer veggies, now in season, can bring them to new heights. Ripe and firm summer tomatoes of all colors have the real flavor of, well, tomatoes, and the eggplants are sweet and beautiful. I managed to resist my Middle-Eastern instinct to mix them both in the same recipe (I have the rest of the summer for that), and gave each one of these beloved summer symbols a salad of its own.
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Any sweet tomatoes would work here but try the recipe with some combination of heirloom tomatoes for their variety of flavors and gorgeous colors.
Labneh is a strained yogurt cheese popular in the levant. It’s available at Whole Foods and Middle Eastern and Israeli markets. Alternatively, you can make it yourself by straining Greek yogurt in a cheesecloth tied on a faucet above the sink. Let it drip for about 8 hours then transfer to a container and keep in the fridge up to a week.
2½ lb. heirloom tomatoes
½ lb. labneh (see note above)
3 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons mint leaves
1. Slice tomatoes to wedges and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle generously with salt, mix and let sit for 30 minutes for the tomato juices to accumulate at the bottom of the bowl. that’s where the real flavor is.
2. You can serve the salad in four individual bowls or in one large serving bowl. Scoop labneh with an ice cream scoop and transfer to the center of the bowl. Add green onion and mint to tomatoes, drizzle generously with olive oil, taste and add salt as needed. Spoon around labneh and serve.
Heirloom tomato and Labneh salad. (Photo by Vered Guttman)
If you can’t find purple potatoes, use any young, small potatoes instead.
1 large or 2 Italian eggplants
1 lb. baby purple potatoes, skin on, washed
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ red onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 radishes, thinly sliced
3-4 oz. micro greens
12 pitted kalamata olives
For the dressing:
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup cilantro leaves
1 green onion, green parts only
Salt to taste
1. Wash and peel eggplant in stripes (like a zebra). Slice to ¾ inch cubes, put in a colander over a large bowl, sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and set aside for half an hour.
2. Oven to 425 degrees. Spray two baking sheets with oil. Mix baby potatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, sprinkle with salt and arrange in one baking sheet. If you’re using large potatoes, cut them in quarters, skin on, mix with olive oil and salt and continue as instructed. Wash eggplant in running water, transfer to a bowl, mix with 2 tablespoons olive oil and arrange on the second baking sheet. Roast both potatoes and eggplant at the same time. The potatoes will need about 30 minutes until tender. The eggplant will be ready after 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a 10 minutes and up to 2 hours, if you prefer to serve the salad at room temperature.
3. While potatoes and eggplants are roasting, prepare the dressing. Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender and mix. Adjust salt to taste. Set aside.
4. Slice potatoes to ¼ inch slices. Arrange potatoes, eggplant, red onion, radish, micro greens and olives in four bowls or one large serving bowl. Serve dressing on the side, not to ruin the beautiful color combination of the veggies.