Finally, summer is within reach! Barbecues, Shabbat picnics, and backyard dinner parties are just around the corner, and that means it’s the perfect time to hone in on your salad game. That’s the way I see it, anyway–every picnic needs salad, so why not make it a showstopper?
This seven layer salad is far from the cheese, olives, and iceberg lettuce chopped salad from back in the day. Packed with fresh, local produce and Israeli flavors, this one’s bursting with texture in every bite. In short, it’s bound to be the main event.
My approach to salads really changed after cooking my way through Yotam Ottelenghi’s “Jerusalem” and “Plenty“. In these books, herbs are used liberally, freed from the limited context of garnish. In learning how to cook Israeli salads, roasted chicken, pilafs, and tarts, I noticed how fresh herbs, particularly dill, mint, parsley, and cilantro, can go on pretty much anything. It tastes like summer, and brings a hint of sweetness and tinge of sour to every bite.
Below this fragrant, bright green layer of greens and toasted pistachios, you’ll dig into a layer of black lentils, which are shiny little bead-like lentils that hold their shape remarkably well. They’re also known as black beluga lentils for the caviar they resemble. Below that, you’ll find red cabbage, paper-thin slices of carrots, chopped sugarsnap peas, and cubed mango, all inspired by the locally-grown flavors of Israel.
For the salad:
1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup dried black lentils (aka beluga lentils)
1/2 head of a medium-sized red cabbage, chopped thinly
4 carrots, sliced thinly into rounds or grated
2 cups chopped sugar snap peas
2 mangos, peeled and cubed
For the dressing:
3/4 cups labneh
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 Tbsp honey
1 clove garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
fresh black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp poppy seeds
First, bring 4 cups of water to boil in a pot. Rinse the lentils under water and add to the boiling water. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside to cool and place in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a food processor or blender, blend together labne with the juice of one lemon, garlic, honey, salt, and pepper. When you’ve reached the consistency you prefer (if you want it thicker, add more labne and if you want it thinner, try adding more lemon juice or a splash of vinegar), transfer the mixture to a bowl and mix in 2 Tbsp. of poppy seeds. Set aside.
Next, assemble your salad. In a clear, large bowl, add a layer of mango to the bottom. Then add sugar snap peas, slivered carrots, shredded cabbage, cooled black lentils, chopped herbs, and toasted pistachios.
When it’s time to eat, let guests serve themselves the salad, making sure to get a little bit of every layer. Invite everyone to top with labne poppyseed dressing, and enjoy!
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.