I have a favorite Middle Eastern restaurant that I’ve been going to for more than 20 years, even as it’s changed locations from a house on a street in a “bad” part of town to a stand-alone building that used to house a prior Middle Eastern restaurant. And I’ve always loved the salad, despite the fact that it’s certainly not organic, the lettuce is iceberg, and it’s nothing fancy…but something about the dressing just makes me want to eat it and keep eating it. In my mind, I called it a Greek salad. But it’s different from the red-wine vinegar, heavy garlic, and oregano flavor of a Greek salad—although I like that, too.
Then I read in the local paper that the family that owns the restaurant—Aladdin—is actually Syrian. I also learned that not only is the restaurant family owned, but the family makes everything from scratch. So the last time I was there, I asked the waiter how they make the salad dressing. It turns out he had made it himself the night before. So I got the recipe straight from the chef’s mouth. And like all the truly best things in life, it’s surprisingly simple to make.
As in all good recipes, the measurements are not exact, so feel free to experiment. The only requirements with the salad are iceberg lettuce and some feta cheese. Of course, tomatoes, olives, green peppers, and cucumbers are good options, too. But they are not required. And then…the dressing!
Syrian Salad Dressing
- ½ teaspoon or less of garlic powder
- Pinch of salt
- Juice of a half a lemon (or 1 Tablespoon lemon juice)
- About 3 Tablespoons good olive oil
Put the ingredients in a bowl and mix them up. Toss with the salad.
END NOTE: When I wrote my open letter to President Obama regarding Syria, I was very happy to get a note of support on my Facebook page from my town’s local Syrian community. But right after I wrote this blog, I sat down to eat my Sunday lunch and read in the local paper that the UN delivered food to 3.3 million people in Syria in October 2013. And that many more than that are inaccessible to help. While I’m glad we didn’t “go to war,” it’s important that we stay focused on helping people. We here are so fortunate to be able to eat good, clean food. Please do what you can to help or, at the very least, remember the preciousness of food whenever you eat it.