A vegetable salad, coarsely chopped and liberally dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, was a favorite dish of Israel’s late first lady Nechama Rivlin, despite and perhaps because of its simplicity. This version, which combines elements of classic Arab and Greek salads is particularly captivating because of the unusual addition of crisp grape or vine leaves and pickled capers. Nechama grew vines at her home and at the president’s residence in Jerusalem.
5-6 fresh or preserved grape leaves, washed, drained and dried
1 small red onion
½ head romaine lettuce
4 Persian cucumbers
2 tablespoons large capers, rinsed and sliced in half
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
250 grams / ½ lb feta or Hameiri cheese
Place the oil into a skillet over medium-high heat and add the grape leaves. Fry the grape leaves for about 5 minutes, flipping the leaves until they are crispy on both sides. Transfer the leaves from the pan, leaving the oil behind, and store them in a container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Place the onion slices into a bowl and sprinkle them with a bit of salt. Set the onions aside while you cut the vegetables for the salad.
Cut the lettuce into wide strips and transfer to a wide bowl. Cut the tomatoes into large chunks and place into the bowl with the lettuce. Cut the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and then cut the cucumber slices crosswise into 1 ½-in / 3-cm wide pieces. Add the cucumber into the bowl with the remaining vegetables.
Wash the salt off of the onions with a bit of water and place the onions onto a paper towel lined plate. Pat the onions dry and add them into the bowl with the other vegetables.
Dressing and serving the salad: Add the olives and fried grape leaves into the bowl. Pour the vinegar and olive oil onto the salad. Season with salt and pepper and toss the salad until the vegetables are mixed and coated well with the dressing. Crumble the feta or Hameiri cheese on top and serve.