Here are some new twists on old favorites to try today.

Jerusalem Beet Salad

Jerusalem Beet SaladI first tasted this refreshing salad at the Jerusalem home of my friend Chani, who often makes it during Israel's hot summers.

  • 4-5 large beets
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup toasted, salted pistachio nuts, shelled
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 T sugar, or to taste
  • 1/2 t salt

Peel and boil beets until tender (or buy ready-cooked beets, if you can find them in your supermarket.) Drain and cool beets, then dice into half-inch cubes.

Thoroughly wash and dry parsley and cilantro, then finely chop and add to the beets. Mix vinegar, oil, sugar and salt together then toss with the beet mixture.

Stir in pistachio nuts just before serving.

Serves 6.

Cooked Tomato and Pepper Salad (Matbucha)

Cooked Tomato and Pepper Salad (Matbucha)Cookery writer Joan Nathan explains she loves the Israeli saying about this wonderful salad: "Ata margish et ha esh" – you feel the smoky fire when you eat it. Colorful and deeply flavored, this popular Israeli salad goes well with fresh bread for a light summer meal.

  • 4 green bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 lbs. very ripe fresh tomatoes (about 8), peeled, seeded, and diced, or one 32-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t sugar
  • 2 t sweet paprika
  • 2 t salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Put the whole peppers on a baking tray under the broiler, turning frequently with tongs, until they are charred on all sides, about 20 minutes. Place them in a tightly closed plastic bag for 10 minutes to allow the skins to loosen. Peel the charred skin from the peppers, discard the seeds, and cut into 1-inch squares.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet, and add the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper to taste. Simmer over a low flame, stirring occasionally and mashing the vegetables with a fork until the liquid begins to evaporate. Continue cooking until the salad has a thick, sauce-like consistency.

Drizzle with olive oil and serve at room temperature.

Serves Six

From The Foods of Israel Today by Joan Nathan (Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 2001).

Chilled Japanese Noodles

    Chilled Japanese Noodles
  • 1/2 lb Angel Hair noodles
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 3/4 cup chicken soup (can use instant vegetarian chicken soup flavored powder to make soup)
  • 6 T soy sauce
  • 1 T dry sherry
  • 1 1/2 t grated fresh ginger

Cook noodles according to package directions. When finished cooking, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water, then drain again. Combine noodles and green onions; set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients, then toss with noodles with. Chill until serving.

Serves 6.

Cracked Wheat and Nut Salad (Bazargan)

Cracked Wheat and Nut Salad (Bazargan)In researching Jewish cooking around the world, cookbook author Claudia Roden came across this old Syrian dish which has died out in Syria itself – and is kept alive by immigrant communities around the world. This intriguing salad has a delicious sweet and sour flavor, and can be served as a side dish or a main course for a light meal.

It is traditionally made with sour pomegranate concentrate or tamarind paste. I've found that sour cherry concentrate – which also has a deep, sweet-and-sour flavor and is easier to find in American markets – also works well in this recipe.

  • 2 3/4 cups (350 g) bulgur (cracked wheat)
  • Salt
  • 6-8 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 T sour pomegranate concentrate, or 2 T tamarind paste dissolved in 4 T boiling water, or 3 T sour cherry concentrate
  • Juice of 1 lemon or to taste
  • 5 T tomato paste
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1/2 t ground allspice
  • 1/2 t cayenne or chili pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 1/4 cups (150 g) very coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup (100 g) very coarsely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • A large bunch of flat-leafed parsley, finely chopped (1 cup)

Put the cracked wheat in a large bowl and cover with plenty of cold, slightly salted water. Leave to soak for 1/2 – 3/4 hour, or until it is tender (the coarsely ground one takes much longer). Drain in a colander with small holes and press the excess water out.

In a serving bowl, beat the olive oil with the pomegranate concentrate or dissolved tamarind paste or sour cherry concentrate. Add the lemon juice, tomato paste, cumin, coriander, allspice, and cayenne pepper and beat well. Pour over the cracked wheat and mix very well. TAste before you add more salt if necessary. Add the nuts and flat-leafed parsley and mix well.

(Another particularly tasty version includes 2 large chopped onions fried in oil.)

Adapted from The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York by Claudia Roden (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.: 1996).

Serves 6-8.

Israeli Cabbage Salad

    Israeli Cabbage Salad
  • 3 cups shredded cabbage
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt, or to taste
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T chopped parsley or cilantro

Mix lemon juice, garlic, salt, sugar and oil, then toss thoroughly with the shredded cabbage. Stir in parsley or cilantro, and let stand at least an hour so the flavors can mingle.

Serve chilled or at room temperature. This makes a wonderful, refreshing accompaniment to grilled meat.

Serves 6.

Sushi Salad

Sushi SaladThis colorful dish captures the flavors of sushi in a delicious, unusual salad.

  • 2 cups uncooked, long-grain white rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2-3 T mirin (Japanese rice wine) or sherry
  • 6 T unseasoned rice vinegar or sherry
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can use more or less, to taste)
  • 1 1/4 t salt
  • 6 T peanut or canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 medium carrot, minced
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and minced
  • 2 scallions, minced (use both white and green parts)
  • 1-2 cups fresh or frozen green peas (steamed lightly if fresh; if using frozen, just defrost)
  • A few green beans, cut in 1/2 inch pieces and lightly steamed
  • A few snow peas, lightly steamed
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, minced and lightly steamed
  • 3-4 T minced sushi ginger (available in Asian markets)
  • 3 T sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Rince the rice, then place in a saucepan with the mirin or sherry. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove the pan from the stove, and let stand – uncovered – 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl, and stir until the sugar dissolves. (This is easier if you heat the vinegar first.)

Scramble the egg in a little of the oil. Transfer the egg to a plate, and cut into small pieces.

Add the egg and all the remaining ingredients to the rice. Mix gently until combined, then transfer salad to a serving bowl. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Serves 6.

Adapted from Still Life with Menu by Molly Katzen (Ten Speed Press: 1988).