Wait! I know you’re probably not feeling super excited about a pile of onions. But don’t turn up your nose yet!
Here in the U.S., we’ve been conditioned to think of onions as an after-thought go-along, rather than a star of the plate, but trust: a sweet onion, tossed with tangy sumac, fresh mint, and smooth parsley becomes so much more than a garnish.
This salad has a light, bright taste, and it’s surprisingly subtle. It’s as if the strong flavors of the onion, sumac, and mint work together to make each other relax. It’s got a tangy taste, but the sumac mellows the onion-y bite. I like to use sweet onions (Vidalia), and I get my sumac from Penzeys.
A Few Words About Sumac
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania where summers meant avoiding poison ivy and poison sumac. This sumac is not that!
This sumac is a Middle Eastern spice that’s used as a tabletop condiment the way we use salt and pepper in the U.S. It has a lemony taste that’s bright and fresh, but less acidic than lemon juice and vinegar. Sumac is combined with thyme and sesame seeds to make the spice blend za’atar.
Fun fact! Sumac berries were used in medieval medicine, and today, the fruit is still used to tan Morocco leather and to dye fabric. It’s easy to see why; the berries are a deep, rich burgundy, even after they’re ground.
I hope you’re ready to give this somewhat unusual recipe a try. This salad perks up grilled chicken, steak, or burgers – try it alongside a lamb burger! It’s also a nice surprise tossed onto an everyday green salad. I like to make myself a Mediterranean Platter – like at a restaurant, only better – with a mound of Mediterranean Tuna or egg salad (or sometimes a can of sardines), cucumber slices with tahini dressing, a few olives, a serving of Onion & Parsley Salad, and some fresh fruit. If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the soft breeze and warm sun of a café on the Mediterranean coast.
Lebanese Onion & Parsley Salad
1 large sweet or Spanish onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon ground sumac berries
salt & black pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
generous pinch cumin
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a large bowl, toss onion with mint leaves, sumac, salt, and black pepper. Allow to rest for 10 minutes, ’til the onions soften slightly and become one with the sumac.
2. In a small bowl, mix the parsley, cumin, and lemon juice with a fork. Stir with the fork and slowly add the olive oil, stirring while you drizzle so the dressing emulsifies a bit. Pour the dressing over the onions and toss gently with a wooden spoon to combine.
This is wonderful chilled or at room temperature and will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. When it starts to look too wilty to be appetizing as a salad, sauté it in a hot skillet until the onions are tender, then add ground beef or lamb and your favorite vegetables to make a quick, one-pan meal.
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