Shepherd’s Salad with Za’atar

I’ve been doing a lot of teaching from my gardens. A couple weeks ago, daughter-in-law Courtney and her neighbors visited with their kids. We spent time down at the river near our home looking for crawdads and shells.  

By the time we walked back on my old country road, the kids were anxious to do 2 things: feed the chickens crawdads and pick veggies and herbs for the supper recipes. When you give kids free reign in a garden, it’s pretty amazing to see how adventurous they become with trying new foods. 

Tomatoes, peppers, basil, parsley, and mint were picked for tabouleh. Cucumbers and more tomatoes, along with oregano and chives topped a Romaine salad with pear balsamic dressing. Stevia and lemon verbena added a citrusy, sweet taste to the vitamin water. Edible flowers garnished everything.

This week I had a class here again, this time with my friends cooking from the gardens. My husband, Frank, grilled flat iron steak rubbed with an Italian herb blend I made, and my friends made the sides and dessert. 

Romaine lettuce starred again in one of the salads – this time with a Turkish twist. That’s the recipe I’m sharing today, and it goes by more than a few names, one of which is shepherd’s salad.

Shepherd’s salad with za’atar 

The request from a Northern Kentucky reader was for a Turkish type salad “with za’atar instead of sumac, a few olives and either feta or goat cheese”. I fiddled with a favorite recipe and adapted it. Now you’ll have to go to taste on most of this. 

1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped 

1 cucumber, diced small

Several tomatoes, diced small

Enough red onion, sliced very thin, to taste

Feta or goat cheese

Favorite olives (I like Greek)

Bell peppers? Up to you


About 1/3 cup each: olive oil and lemon juice

Cumin to taste

Salt and pepper

Za’atar for garnish (optional but good – can use sumac)


Just mix salad ingredients together except for cheese. 

Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over salad.

Add cheese and sprinkle with za’atar.

Tip: Sumac vs za’atar

First, let’s talk about sumac. (Last week I talked about edible wild sumac berries that grow on bushes here but the spice sumac for salad is completely different). 

Sumac is a spice native to the Middle East. The dark red berries grow on bushes. The berries are dried and ground. Sumac lends lemony tartness to dishes and the color is beautiful.

Za’atar is a spice blend with sumac and herbs, like oregano, thyme and marjoram. Sometimes it contains sesame seeds. The taste is complex and delicious. 

Brrr!  Store sumac and za’atar in freezer for longer shelf life.

No sumac or za’atar on hand? 

No worries, just add a bit more lemon juice. 

Try it, you’ll like it!

Go from simple to sensational with summer salads. Don’t be shy about add-ins like fresh corn, zucchini, different greens, sweet or spicy peppers, edible flowers and maybe a new herb.


What’s your favorite Shepherd’s or summer salad?

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