Recipe Corner: Blanche Shaheen’s Egyption Balela Salad


This dramatic salad gets its inspiration from North Africa, particularly in Egypt. The unique additions to this salad include: cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and basil, as well as protein-packed chickpeas.  Olives add a dose of healthy fats, and apple cider vinegar adds a tangy addition to the olive oil-based vinaigrette. Cherry tomatoes add a burst of sweetness, and are best at summer peak ripeness.  The addition of basil is unique as well, as generally Arab cuisine focuses more on mint or parsley rather than basil.  “Altogether, the olives, olive oil, black beans, and chickpeas create a mix of hearty textures and flavors, rendering this a simple weeknight meal for anyone, even vegans,” she adds.

“You can also add sumac for a lemony tang and beautiful color as well.  Sumac has a citrus fruitiness and virtually no aroma. An essential ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, sumac is used in spice rubs, marinades and dressings, and is also served as a condiment. Sumac comes from dried and coarsely-ground berries which have a sour, citrus-flavor. Try sprinkling sumac over your salads, yogurt, vegetables, dips like hummus, as a rub for chicken, or to garnish rice.  You can also combine sumac with fresh lemon juice and olive oil as a salad dressing, as demonstrated with this salad.” (

“Serve this salad in warm pita pockets with a drizzle of fresh tahini or yogurt.  Or add it to an impressive vegetarian mezze platter with baba ghanoush and roasted red pepper hummus.  It’s easy to put this salad in a pita or sandwich wrap for a healthier meal,” adds Blanche.


1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 medium bell pepper, (red, orange, or yellow), seeded and chopped

3/4 cup canned black beans (rinsed)

3/4 cup canned chickpeas (rinsed)

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley


1 teaspoon sumac

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, to taste

1/4 cup good quality olive oil, to taste

6-8 basil leaves, finely sliced

Serves 4.


In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, pepper, black beans, chickpeas, parsley, salt to taste, and basil.  When ready to serve, put the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake together.  Pour some dressing over the salad, as desired. Sprinkle with more sumac.

Note from Blanche: Parsley is a brilliant all-round herb that is used in many cuisines throughout the world. It adds a clean, green, slightly peppery favor to many dishes and it’s used a lot in Middle Eastern cuisine.  Once assembled, this salad will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for four to five days. Take it out an hour before you want to serve it, as it’s best enjoyed at room temperature.

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Photo courtesy: Feast in the Middle East

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If you have a product you think would be a good fit for the thousands of viewers of Feast in the Middle East, please feel free to email Blanche for more information.  She works with brands she is passionate about, and companies she’s worked with in the past include: Ziyad, Cortas, Ridha Naturals, Harvest Peace Olive Oil, Levant Blends Coffee, Sadaf, Sea of Herbs, Antler Farms, Ambrosiac Salep, MVMT, Draeger’s Markets, Thrive Market, Keto Box and Wilton Armetale.

Blanche specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond.  You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American at: Her recipes can also be found at She has been featured on NBC’s “California Live,” BBC World News, KQED’s “Check Please” program, NPR radio, the Palo Alto Weekly, the Los Altos Crier, the Mountain View Voice, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Rumi Awards show she hosted for an international audience.

ORDER: Feast In The Middle East – A Personal Journey of Family and Cuisine by Blanche Araj Shaheen, go to:





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