Story and photography by Michael C. Butz
Summertime activities in Tel Aviv, including dining, are at times dictated by the daytime heat. When traversing the city and its arid desert air work up Israelis’ appetites, they turn to light bites, like salads filled with fresh market produce.
Cleveland’s summer heat is different but eating light and healthy is no less advantageous here during the warm-weather months. And salads offer the same benefits – they’re easy to make and won’t slow you down – on the shores of Lake Erie as they do those of the Mediterranean Sea.
So, why not eat like an Israeli this summer?
One Northeast Ohioan willing to take that approach is Scott Hersch, who along with his wife, Jamie, co-owns Munch, a salad-centric eatery in Solon. He’s traveled to Israel on multiple occasions, and his must-get dish when there is, perhaps not surprisingly, an Israeli salad.
“I just loved eating there,” Hersch says. “Last time I went – I’m not a vegan, but I went and I ate vegan the entire trip and it was so easy. That’s a good thing. Menus there, while there are a lot more burgers than there used to be, you can find lots of vegan stuff on every menu.”
One of Munch’s regular menu items is a salad Hersch says fits the bill for eating Israeli: “The Falafel,” made with romaine lettuce, Israeli salad, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh and falafel with tahini dressing.
Hersch also likes to experiment and offered some non-menu suggestions for salad lovers to try:
• A fattoush salad made with romaine lettuce, radishes, English cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and garlic with dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice and sumac.
“It’s a Lebanese salad but you find it in Israel as well,” he says. “It has some of the classic (ingredients) you find in Israel.”
• A salat yirakot made with tomatoes, green and red peppers, cucumbers, olive oil, red onion, scallions, parsley, mint and dill with dressing made of lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, sumac, salt and pepper.
“It’s a little like the Israeli salad we already make, only it’s a little more complicated,” he says.
• A Middle Eastern bean salad made with chickpeas, black beans, tomatoes, onions, parsley and mint with dressing made of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.
“You really don’t find (black beans) in Israeli cooking, but I think it’s a more Sephardic dish than it is an Ashkenazi dish,” he says.
The benefits of salads are many, Hersh says.
“For one, they’re super fresh. You’re cutting all the vegetables (and) you’re going to eat them right away. They’re refreshing,” he says. “Even the spices we’re using – the sumac, the mint – make them very refreshing.”
There’s beauty in their simplicity, too, whether one is eating on the go, meal prepping for the week or making something that’s both delicious and a feast for the eyes to entertain guests.
“There’s not a ton of ingredients, (and) they’re all similar ingredients because they’re just the things they use there (in Israel),” he says. “They’re easy to put together.”
Simple though they may be, there’s room for creativity – particularly with dressings.
“If you’re going to look these up and make the dressings, for me, I like dressings with only a little bit of oil. These dressing recipes call for lots of oil and very little lemon juice – that’s not how I ended up making them. I reduced the amount of oil,” he says. “Make sure before you marinate (a salad), you like the dressing.”
For those making a bean salad, Hersch advises skipping the can if your schedule allows.
“You’re better off using, instead of canned beans, dry beans,” he says. “Soak them overnight, refrigerate them and it’ll taste much better.”
Middle Eastern bean salad
Recipe provided by Scott Hersch, co-owner of Munch in Solon
• 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
• 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
• 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
• ½ red onion, diced
• ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
• ¼ cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
• 1 lemon, juiced
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or to taste
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• salt and fresh coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1) Stir chickpeas, black beans, tomatoes, red onion, parsley and mint together in a large bowl.
2) Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and ground pepper together in a bowl. Pour over chickpea/bean mixture and toss to coat.
3) Cover and refrigerate salad until flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
Lead image: Left: Fattoush salad with romaine lettuce, radishes, English cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and garlic with dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice and sumac. Center: Salat yirakot with tomatoes, green and red peppers, cucumbers, olive oil, red onion, scallions, parsley, mint and dill with dressing made of lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, sumac, salt and pepper. Right: Bean salad with chickpeas, black beans, tomatoes, onions, parsley and mint with dressing made of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper.