a gorgeous gaza salad

It’s almost time for Eid al-Adha, the Islamic holiday that commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. It is surreal to think that the first Eid I really truly celebrated was in 2007, because it seems like a lot longer ago than that. Last year I spent the week of Eid in Palestine and filled an entire journal with stories. One of them was about a trip to Yaffa to witness a family reunion between the friend I was staying with and her aunt and uncle, whom she hadn’t seen for a decade while she’d been living in the US and they in Gaza.

For medical reasons the aunt & uncle had long traveled to Cairo for doctors’ appointments from time to time, but around this time last year they were headed to Tel Aviv for an appointment and had just enough of a window to meet us for lunch by the sea (the permit the Israeli government had granted them to leave Gaza required that they return within a matter of hours). Over mezze my friend asked her uncle casually how things were in Gaza. He deferred to his wife: kif ghaza? – how is Gaza, dear? Without missing a beat, she replied in a wry tone: a7san min masr – well, it’s better than Egypt, and we all laughed.

The fish we ate by the sea that day was delicious, but I was told that to get the really good stuff I had to go visit the family in Gaza. You simply won’t believe how good the seafood is there, they assured me.

I haven’t made it to Gaza yet and am still mildly surprised to find myself spending Eid this year in a very uncertain Egypt (not the original plan). But over the summer I did manage to get my hands on a copy of The Gaza Kitchen cookbook by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt, and so this post features one of the most simple and beautiful of the book’s many excellent recipes: Salata Khadra Mafruma, or Minced Salad. It’s fresh and gorgeous on account of its ingredients, a perfect side to round out any meal and add a splash of color to the table – whether you’re adding vegetables to a meat-heavy Eid feast or just adding a bit of brightness to your dinner.

Salata Khadra Mafruma (Gazan Minced Salad)
Adapted from The Gaza Kitchen, by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt

You will need:

3 good tomatoes
(if you’re in an American supermarket, my rec is Romas)
4 small or 2 regular cucumbers
1 orange and 1 red bell pepper
3 scallions (if you don’t have any, try half a red onion)
1 cup red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped parsley
3 green chili peppers

1 garlic clove
Zest from one lemon

Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of two lemons

From here, it’s fairly straightforward: mince all of your herbs and veggies as finely as you can (probably not following my example, owing to my negligible knife skills and the fact that I was making this & taking photos while way behind schedule, catching up with neighbors, and working on this, this, and this too (was there a theme to this dinner? You decide). Fortunately if your ingredients are fresh it won’t matter too much, but yes, as the cookbook authors put it, “the dedication of the cook is revealed by how finely she chops her salad.”

Next, you’ll mince the garlic and lemon zest together (if you don’t have a mortar & pestle see some ideas for improvising here). Just before serving, dress with the oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper, adjusting to make sure it’s not dripping but well-covered, not too oily and with plenty of lemon for bite.

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2 thoughts on “a gorgeous gaza salad

  1. Did you see the Aramco World Magazine issue in the past year or so that had a whole article n Gazan food? Lots of good spicy stuff.

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