Almost Turkish Recipes

Shepherd's Salad (Çoban Salatası)

Shepherd’s salad (çoban salatası inTurkish) is the unchallenged center food of Turkish summer tables. When you go to köfte/kebab or a small scale neighborhood restaurant the waiter would bring this salad with water, ordering not necessary. Shepherd’s salad is made with easily accessible, summer’s usual suspects that even a shepherd can have tending their herd out in the country, i.e., tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, and parsley. Although these five are invariable (despite heated arguments over whether a “true” shepherd’s salad would have cucumber or not), there are also variations of this fresh summer salad, much to the purists’ dismay! Some add pitted black olives; some cannot have it without crumbled white cheese on top; and some add red peppers or some greens like arugula. Dressing is also quite simple: lemon juice or vinegar or both, olive oil and salt.

The most valuable part of this salad is the juice that sits at the bottom: olive oil and vinegar/lemon juice mixed with juice oozing from the fresh tomatoes and flavored with onions, peppers and parsley. It is customary to peel the tomatoes for maximum juice. And you have to have that bread! You have to soak that juice and finish the plate clean with who-knows-how-many morsels of bread. I’ve loved putting scoops of this salad on my plain rice as a kid and I still to this day love mixing my rice with shepherd’s salad. However, other people usually enjoy shepherd’s salad with grilled meats and veggies or basically anything. On really hot and humid summer nights shepherd’s salad along with slices of watermelon and white cheese makes the best dinner. The most loved shepherd’s salads are those chopped finely.

For 4 people
2 big or 4 medium size tomatoes, peeled if you bother and petite diced
2-3 green peppers, shishito peppers or sweet Italian peppers are good for this, thinly chopped
2 Persian cucumbers, peeled or not, quartered lengthwise and thinly chopped
1 small onion, preferably red for flavor, thinly chopped in half moon shapes, kneaded for a minute with ½ tsp salt and rinsed well
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 lemon and/or 2 tbsp vinegar, apple, white or red wine

Crumbled feta
Pitted Turkish black olives (Kalamata is fine but please never canned olives)

-Start chopping all and layering them in a slightly deep serving dish in this order: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, (cheese and olives) and lastly parsley. You have to knead the onion with salt and rinse it. You cannot miss this step since it’ll take the bitterness and crunchiness of the onions.
-Salt to your taste, ½ to 1 tsp salt.
-Add juice of half lemon (this depends on how juicy our lemon is. You might need juice of a whole lemon) or 1-2 tbsp vinegar. Some people like it with lemon juice whereas some like it with vinegar. I like them both and sometimes get acidity from both for my salad.
-Add 4-6 tbsp olive oil. In Turkey 4 would be on the stingy side. We’re very generous with our good olive oil when it comes to shepherd’s salad. You can think as 1-1,5 tbsp olive oil per person.
-Mix everything well and dig in!

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