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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Our Favorite Party Salad - Shepherd's Salad

Long ago I wrote a post about the sad plight of the salad at barbecue or banquet-style events. Whenever you're cooking a big (and rich) party meal like a Super Bowl spread, it's easy to feel like you simply must add leafy greens to temper the gluttony.  In turn, guests will feel obliged to place a scoop or two of salad on their plates, though you're like to find the Mac and Cheese you serve goes a heck of a lot faster. The problem with standard salads is, at least in my experience, unless they are something very special, they just don't get eaten and often go almost completely to waste. As a fix, I try and keep banquet salads as interesting as possible by using irresistible (think: Prosciutto and Burrata) fun, or unexpected ingredients (for ideas, check out: this, this, this or this). 


Shepherd's Salad, Photo: NK

Nonetheless, if you need an exceptionally simple and satisfying make-ahead salad that most people actually eat, my go-to is Shepherd's Salad - a Turkish/Middle Eastern favorite made with chunky cuts of universally-loved veggies: cucumber, tomato and pepper, which are then tossed in a vinegar or lemon dressing. I don't know why diners seem to prefer Shepherd's Salad over traditional green salads, but I think it has something to do with the fact that people love crunchy things, and it's easier to serve and eat with one hand as you would at a buffet. Additionally, kids seem to be more tolerant of it than they are of leafy salads. 


Of course, this dish is at its best in summer when tomatoes are at their peak, but with a little careful buying, it can still be tasty in winter months. Just be sure to purchase whichever tomatoes (large or small) are the most ripe. Since today's recipe will accompany our Super Bowl spread, I opted for cherry tomatoes cut in half or thirds because they looked the best. 

Shepherd's Salad benefits from being dressed ahead and sitting for a bit, and you can serve it cold or room temperature, which I generally prefer. I recommend dressing it 3-4 hours before serving and giving it a few tosses. You can absolutely do the chopping the morning of or even the night before, and the salad will still maintain much of its crunchiness and freshness. Some of Shepherd's Salad omit the olives or include grated feta (or ricotta salata would be a nice choice too). I like mine with a small amount of olives and no cheese. It's tasty enough. 

Coban Salad / Coban Salatasi  (Shepherd's Salad)
Very Minimally Adapted from The Spruce
Serves 8 lightly, 6 generously

Ingredients:

2 Large Hothouse Cucumbers (Seedless) - one with the skin off, the other skin on (to create visual interest)
2 large Tomatoes or a big carton of small Cherry or Grape Tomatoes (go by what's the most ripe - in winter you may have better luck with smaller sized ones)
1 Green Bell Pepper, ribs and seeds removed
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley, finely chopped 
Chopped and pitted (non-canned) Black Olives such as Kalamata, Gaeta or even Cured Black Olives 
Optional - 1/2 Cup Dry Feta or Ricotta Salata 

Dressing Ingredients: 
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1.5 Tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar or Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Method: 
Chop all vegetables except the Parsley in relatively uniform bite sized pieces and throw them in a bowl. (If using small Tomatoes you may decide to cut them in half or thirds). If large, you'll want to scrape out the seeds as much as possible).

Toss in the finely chopped Parsley and Stir. If using chopped Olives, sprinkle a handful throughout. 

Mix dressing Ingredients, tasting and seasoning to your liking. Dress the salad and let sit in the fridge or at room temperature 3-4 hours, tossing 1 or 2 times if possible. Taste and adjust seasoning before you serve. Add optional grated Cheese. 

Enjoy! 

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