Living in New York City, I am lucky to be able to eat at some of the best falafel joints outside of the Middle East. At both Taim (Israeli restaurant) and Mamoun’s (Syrian Restaurant) in Manhattan, Middle Eastern salads are a delightful staple of almost every falafel sandwich and veggie platter. Whenever I am in need of a crunchy, refreshing, and slightly tart side dish or topping, I turn to my Middle Eastern Salad.
My very simple and zesty Middle Eastern Salad recipe was influenced by my family and our love for Arab and Israeli food. The Middle Eastern Salad is a staple in our home. Perhaps, it found its way into Guatemalan cuisine from Middle Eastern immigrants who have been welcomed into Latin America. I’m not sure exactly how this lemony salad made its way into my family’s table; but, I am eternally grateful for it!
Eating is universal – it unites us. Regardless of ethnicity, religion, or social class, we can all agree that a delicious and rejuvenating meal is one of the purest joys in life. If only we could unite through our shared love for food. To quote one of my favorite cookbooks, Jerusalem, by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi:
“Everybody, absolutely everybody, uses chopped cucumber and tomatoes to create an Arab Salad or Israeli Salad, depending on point of view.”
Once we notice our shared interests, passions, and enjoyment for food, we begin to awaken to the fact that we are not all that different from each other. We all have noses that tickle our appetite, taste buds that allow us to enjoy the five basic tastes (sour, sweet, salty bitter, umami), stomachs that growl when we are hungry, and intestines that digest and absorb nutrients!
When it comes to food we may have different culinary traditions, but in essence we all eat for the same basic reasons- to nurture happy and healthy bodies and minds and to connect to our friends and family. In times of social injustice and racial tensions here in the United States and globally, I find my kitchen to be a sanctuary where I am free to combine and experiment with diverse seasonings, herbs, and cooking techniques from all around the world. Food doesn’t show prejudice, it provides comfort and nutrients to all beings. All traditions and cultures are welcomed and beloved in the kitchen!
We can all awaken to the hope for unity when we become mindful of the food we eat. Notice where your favorite spices come from – chances are that they originated in the Middle East or Asia. Be mindful of the origin of your favorite dishes – maybe they evolved from Latin, African, Italian or French cuisine. Consider where your food was harvested – perhaps migrant farmers picked the avocado you are mashing on your toast today. There is hope for our future when we focus on our shared experiences, innate nature, and the similar biological function of our bodies and minds! Love for food may not be the answer for dissolving our divisions, but food is the most accessible and simple way to connect to other beings.
As with all my recipes, I always create them with your health and happiness in mind.
So… How will this recipe empower you to be happy and mindful? How will this salad nurture a healthy and blissful body and mind?
The Health Benefits of My Zesty Middle Eastern Salad
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are mostly made up of water, making them a low-calorie addition to your meals. In addition, they provide hydration to your body. Cucumbers are also an excellent source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is essential for circulatory (blood), heart, bone, and metabolic health (1). Cucumbers contain Fisetin, a polyphenol (antioxidant), that has been associated with delayed progression of prostate cancer (2). Other compounds in cucumbers have been associated with decreased proliferation of cancer cells when combined with proven cancer therapies (3).
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin A, C, and K, and potassium. Since they are mostly composed of water, they provided hydration to our bodies. In addition, tomatoes are high in numerous antioxidants such as lycopene (a type carotenoid antioxidant). Antioxidants in tomatoes have been shown to reduce biomarkers that signal cancer initiation and oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer. There is a strong association between increased tomato consumption and blood lycopene levels and reduced risk of stomach, prostate, and lung cancer (4,5). Carotenoids found in tomatoes have also been shown to prevent macular degeneration and promote eye and skin health (6,7). Stay tuned for an in-depth post exploring the health and beauty benefits of antioxidants.
- Onion: Onions are high in fiber, vitamin C (crucial for immune health and healthy hair), and Vitamin B6 (important for metabolic health) They also contain calcium, phosphorus and manganese which are crucial for healthy bones and nails.
- Oregano: This tasty herb has been associated with antimicrobial, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties (8,9).
Without further ado, let’s dig into the recipe
Remember to share your version of this unifying Zesty Middle Eastern Salad on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #aliceinfoodieland #plantcentered
Feel free to add your questions and feedback on the comments section. I love connecting with you! Happy Eating + Mindful Living!
- “Vitamin K.” Linus Pauling Institute. N.p., 03 Jan. 2017. Web.
- Adhami, Vaqar M., Rahul K. Lall, and Hasan Mukhtar. “Abstract 612: Fisetin, a Dietary Flavonoid and Novel MTOR Inhibitor for Treatment and Prevention of Prostate Cancer.” Cancer Research. American Association for Cancer Research, 15 Apr. 2012. Web.
- Alghasham, Abdullah A. “Cucurbitacins – A Promising Target for Cancer Therapy.” International Journal of Health Sciences. Qassim University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jan. 2013. Web.
- Basu, A., and V. Imrhan. “Tomatoes versus Lycopene in Oxidative Stress and Carcinogenesis: Conclusions from Clinical Trials.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61.3 (2006): 295-303. Web.
- Hasler, Clare M. “Functional Foods: Benefits, Concerns and Challenges-A Position Paper from the American Council on Science and Health.” The Journal of Nutrition. The Journal of Nutrition, University of Illinois, 5 Sept. 2017. Web
- Frederick, Khachik, Lorena Carvalho, Paul S. Bernstein, Garth J. Muir, Da-You Zhao, and Nikita B. Katz. “Chemistry, Distribution, and Metabolism of Tomato Carotenoids and Their Impact on Human Health.” Experimental Biology and Medicine. Http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/153537020222701002, 1 Nov. 2002. Web.
- Evans, Julie A., and Elizabeth J. Johnson. “The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health.” MDPI. Molecular Diversity Preservation International, 24 Aug. 2010. Web.
- Faleiro, Leonor, Graça Miguel, Sonia Gomes, Ludmila Costa, Florencia Venâncio, Adriano Teixeira, A. Cristina Figueiredo, José G. Barroso, and Luis G. Pedro. “Antibacterial and Antioxidant Activities of Essential Oils Isolated FromThymbra CapitataL. (Cav.) And Origanum VulgareL.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 53.21 (2005): 8162-168. Web.
- Shen, Diandian, Min-Hsiung Pan, Qinf-Li Wu, Chung-Heon Park, H. Rodolfo Julian, and Chi Tang. “LC-MS Method for the Simultaneous Quantitation of the Anti-inflammatory Constituents in Oregano (Origanum Species).” ACS Publications. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 24 May 2010. Web.