When it’s hot, there’s nothing easier to serve or more satisfying than a great summer salad. The Mediterranean is a perfect inspiration for creating a salad that is also beautiful and incredibly healthy. For our roundup of Summer Mediterranean Salads, we looked to friends in Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Morocco and California (the most Mediterranean of any place in the United States). You’ll ﬁnd they are similar and each has a twist, a twist that makes it particular to that region or country.
Starting our tour in California, our friends at Valley Fig Growers remind us about how much dried fruit can add to a salad, in terms of taste, texture and nutrition. Amazingly, just four dried ﬁgs can boost nutrition to your salad, contributing ﬁber, potassium, and calcium. In terms of ﬂavor, Mission Figs add familiar ﬁg ﬂavor where Golden Figs contribute a delicately sweet nutty ﬂavor! There are many ways to bring ﬁgs into the salad bowl. Try peppery arugula or smooth spinach leaves, massage kale or shred cabbage, or forego the greens and go with whole grain salad bowls instead.
Crossing the Atlantic in Europe’s most western country, along the Atlantic Ocean in Porto, Portugal, we asked our friend at the University of Porto, nutrition scientist Nuno Borges, for a summer salad most representative of Porto. He told us that a typical salad from this marine region his family enjoys is octopus salad, with boiled octopus, cut into small pieces, chickpeas (also boiled), and a “sauce” or dressing made of onion, extra virgin olive oil (of course…) and parsley. He advises that the onion and the parsley should be ﬁnely chopped.
Traveling east of Portugal to Spain, nutrition scientist Marta Garulet recommends Ensalada Murciana (Murcian Salad) typical of her home in Murcia, between Granada and Valencia in southeastern Spain. The salad is a familiar one with tomatoes and onions, olive oil and salt, with the addition of canned tuna and black olives.
Also from Spain, from the region of Andalusia in southern Spain, is a favorite of Maria del Mar Villalba’s, a longtime friend and also the wife of Fausto Luchetti (see below). Mar is a wonderful cook and her favorite summer Mediterranean salad features a great combination of slices of orange with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
From France, Provençal native Marion Chantraine, who helps us ﬁnd fabulous hotels for our Oldways Culinarias couldn’t decide between two classic French salads—Salade Niçoise and Salad Chevre Chaud (Warm Goat Cheese Salad)—and so we’ve included them both. Salade Niçoise is named after the city of Nice, on the French Riviera in Provence. It is a salad comprised of fresh produce and the ingredients of the region—tomatoes, black olives, garlic and anchovies. Green beans and tuna are often included in Salade Niçoise. The warm goat cheese salad is not Provençal, but is a classic French salad, a standard of brasseries and loved by many.
In Italy, our favorite tour guide from Parma Alice Rossi suggests a salad with ingredients from her region of Emilia Romagna. You may think it is just a salad, but it’s the shaved Parmigiano Reggiano aged 12 months and Balsamic condiment that added with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, cantaloupe, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and basil that make it especially of the region of Emilia Romagna.
Further south in Italy, on the island of Pantelleria (part of the region of Sicily), former International Olive Oil Council Executive Director Fausto Luchetti sent us a photo of his version of Pantescan salad, with his local tomatoes, arugula and purslane, an especially healthy green that is actually a weed. Purslane is a common weed found around the world, but even though it is a weed, it is not to be thrown out. Purslane is rich in vitamins and antioxidants (A, C and E, beta-carotene).
As WebMD notes, “Purslane is also helpful for supporting your cardiovascular system. It is one of the few vegetables that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to support healthy arteries and can help prevent strokes, heart attacks, and other forms of heart disease. In fact, purslane has the highest-recorded levels of omega-3 fatty acids of any land-based plant.”
From the island of Kea in Greece, Aglaia Kremezi and her husband Costas Moraitis, owners of a wonderful Mediterranean cooking school, Kea Artisanal, suggested one of our favorite recipes— feta on barley rusks with cherry tomatoes. Aglaia writes that it is “inspired by the traditional Dakos/paximadia Salad from Crete, and is a somewhat diﬀerent, delicious summer treat, or even an ideal lunch for the hot days.” Here is Aglaia’s recipe, and also an adaptation on the Oldways website, since you might not have barley rusks on hand.
Moving east to Turkey, we contacted our friend Banu Ozden in Istanbul, who is helping us with the organization of the March 2022 Turkey Culinaria. She wrote that her personal favorite is what people in Turkey call Shepherd’s Salad. It is made with diced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. It could be red or yellow onions. Sometimes parsley and dried mint is added to it. And the dressing is grape vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil. Of course, a dash of salt always brings out the ﬂavor. (Her secret is to not dice the onions but slice them and massage them with salt. You can check out her Instagram post as to how she does it!). Banu notes that this is also a common method used for onions in salads. She says green peppers can be added to Shepherd’s Salad. For more information on Shepherd’s Salad, please see Chef Ana Sortun’s recipe on the Oldways website.
Banu also loves the onion salad that in Turkey accompanies grilled meat. For this onion salad, salt is massaged into sliced onions, and mixed with ﬁnely chopped parsley and sumac.
A North African salad typical of Morocco comes from cookbook author Paula Wolfert. This carrot salad comes from her winning book, Couscous and other Good Food from Morocco and was served at the ﬁnal lunch at Oldways’ 1st Mediterranean Diet Conference in 1993. Paula helped us design the menu, and was ﬂuttering around as the buﬀet was assembled. She needn’t have worried. The lunch was a huge hit! You’ll see from the directions that this salad is perfect for summer—the carrots should be chilled!
With half of August still to go, you have plenty of time to take a full summer salad tour around the Mediterranean and California and try them all, as well as create your own salads. Use your local farmers’ market and the leftovers in your refrigerator as inspiration to make your own healthy, delicious, and beautiful summer salad to beat the heat!
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