Salad and 'Piyaz'

Salads and marinated beans are especially popular in summer. And whatever the rules governing their assembly, they are easier to prepare than other dishes.

On the earliest times, before man had learned how to cook food, he consumed directly all the edible foodstuffs he found in nature. And it was perhaps this form of nutrition that constituted the original infrastructure of the salad. Maybe it was not called ‘salad’ but, in terms of its ingredients, its model of consumption was the same as that of the salad, because salad is the original bill of fare directly bestowed on man by nature.
Regional foodstuffs that can become the ingredients of salads are found all over the world. Consequently the number and varieties of salad will continue to evolve and proliferate as long as man exists. If we look at changing trends in nutrition today, we find that humans are tending to revert to the nutritional style of their earliest ancestors.  For salads are no longer just a ‘side dish’ but are also eaten as a ‘main course’.

Bean Salads
As for marinated bean salads (‘piyaz’ in Turkish), the first thing that comes to mind in Istanbul is the cold salad made of boiled white beans, sliced onions, and parsley marinated in olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar that is traditionally served with Turkish kofta (meatballs).  In Turkish culinary terminology, the word ‘piyaz’, which means ‘onion’ in Persian, is used to refer specifically to onions cut in half-moon slices.
In Turkey especially, a dish called ‘piyaz’ is encountered all along the Mediterranean coast from west to east. LIttle is known however about when and how piyaz, a word that entered the language from Persian, came to be the name of a dish. But the varieties of piyaz have a wide area of application in the salad culture. Just as they can be made from legumes and pulses, they can also be made simply of olives, parsley and/or eggs. But whatever else they contain, onions are usually essential. That said, there are some recipes that don’t call for onions. The traditional dressing for piyaz is a vinaigrette made of olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Indeed old-time Istanbulites will not tolerate lemon juice if vinegar is available. The piyazes prepared in the south of Turkey on the other hand are served with additions such as thick sesame ‘tahina’ paste, crushed garlic-and-walnut ‘terator’ sauce, or the juice of unripe grapes.

Mung Bean Salad
300 gr mung beans, 1 medium red onion, 2 green onions, 1/4 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine, juice of half a lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp sour pomegranate syrup, 1 tsp salt, 2 tomatoes, chopped fine, 1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Soak the mung beans overnight in water. Rinse well and place in a cooking pot. Cover with water and let boil. Skim off the foam and remove from the fire when done. Drain off the water and let cool. Place in a mixing bowl and add the chopped red onion, parsley, green onions, tomatoes, salt, ground white pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and pomegranate syrup and mix well. Arrange on a serving platter.

Pennyroyal Salad
2 bunches pennyroyal, 4 tbsp pomegranate seeds, 2 tbsp sour pomegranate syrup, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt.

Pick over the pennyroyal leaves, rinse thoroughly and dry with paper towels. Arrange the leaves on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and drizzle with olive oil, pomegranate syrup and salt. Ready to serve.