August! Where to begin with all this produce? Nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers) are here in abundance, zucchini and cucumber and green beans are still going strong, and sorry, kale is going to be around forever. And the fruit! Peaches, plums, blueberries and blackberries? Honestly, it’s overwhelming.
Good thing there is salad. And not just any salad, mind you. My favorite salad from the Yemeni restaurant next door: the Village Salad. Read on for the recipe!
I’m sure you’re tired of my yammering on about how amazing it is to live in a Middle Eastern neighborhood in the middle of Detroit. But how could I not? It always smells like garlic and olive oil! As it turns out, we’re right next to one of the better Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, the Yemen Cafe. They have a lust-worthy pizza-sized flatbread, dimpled with charred bubbles and begging to be torn apart with your hands. And you can order “garlic” to up the ante with a potent paste of fresh garlic and butter that will ruin your breath for days. As far as I can tell it’s worth it.
I mostly watch my husband scarf this heavenly bread, which is unfair, but then my dinner comes and it’s all okay. Lamb kafta (giant spiced meatball!) and this drop-dead delicious village salad? Yes, please. Eating gluten-free isn’t so bad sometimes.
We’ve taken some friends to this restaurant and aside from the sweet cinnamon tea (help yourself from the giant carafe by the cash register), everyone raves about this salad. What makes it so good? It’s just lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon and dusted with a little sumac. That’s it, seriously. But there’s something so right about the combination.
I started making the village salad at home when a friend came to visit. Lucky duck, she’s a gate agent for Delta and gets to fly free anytime she can find a seat. We discovered that our weird Monday-Tuesday “weekends” aligned and suddenly she was here. Since a guest was coming, I cooked some chicken. We have a “kill the fatted calf” attitude toward meat around here–special occasions only, but then it’s consumed with gratitude and gusto.
Before we headed down to the beach at Belle Isle, I unloaded the contents of the vegetable drawer and started chopping, piling everything into a large container. Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, wisps of onion, a generous shake of feta, do you want walnuts? [shrug]…in they went, and half a can of chickpeas. We chattered happily as only old friends can as I absentmindedly juiced a lemon into a teacup and whisked up the dressing. A sprinkle of sumac and we were off.
It may have been the sunshine and the company, but damn, this was one satisfying salad. A perfect balance of crunchy-salty-juicy flavors, just right for jousting over with our forks. It may not be much of a recipe, but I wanted to remind you of this salad- and life-making maxim for the fleeting beach and picnic days of summer: simple things are best.
- 1 small head romaine or another crunchy lettuce, washed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tomato, quartered and sliced
- 1 spring onion or 1/4 of a medium red onion, sliced finely
- 1 Persian cucumber, sliced (or half a large cucumber)
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, plucked from their stems
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup garbanzo beans
- sliced grilled chicken
- toasted walnuts, chopped
- juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
- 1/3 cup olive oil*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sumac
- Whisk together lemon juice, salt, and sumac in a small bowl. While whisking with one hand, use the other to drizzle olive oil into the dressing in a thin stream. Whisk to emulsify and set aside.
- Toss salad ingredients in a large bowl (with or without the dressing). Plate and serve, with dressing on the side if desired.
- *Be sure to use a good tasting olive oil, as any off flavors will come through!