Every cuisine has its classic salad -- sometimes more than one -- that embodies all its cooking flavors and perfectly complements its main dishes. Whether its ingredients are raw or cooked vegetables, dried beans or grains, or fish, shellfish, poultry or meat, the salad immediately pops into mind the minute that style of cooking is mentioned.

Think Middle Eastern food and you think of hummos and baba ghanouj, the most common components of a mezze appetizer assortment. The chickpeas or the roasted eggplant, mashed with sesame tahini and spiked with garlic, become spreadable salads.

Think again and you remember tabbouleh and fattoush. Made with bulgur wheat, tabbouleh is healthful as well as delicious and has the advantage of being easily produced in large quantities, a big help when you're asked to bring the salad to a barbecue bash. Fattoush at first glance may seem like nothing more than a tossed salad, but the addition of crisp toasted or deep-fried pita bread and the use of a lemony dressing make this peasant dish distinctive.

In Istanbul, fresh cucumbers slathered in yogurt are a popular street food. Passersby line up as street vendors use a sharp knife to peel the vegetable in a flash and hand it over for a few lira. Cucumbers are no less ubiquitous in restaurants, where they are served in salads, chopped and tossed with acidic tomatoes, a little lettuce, maybe some onion and black olives, then dressed with lemon and oil flavored with parsley and mint.

An ancient Persian salad mates cucumbers with yogurt, and in India, where cucumbers originated thousands of years ago, people call the same combination a raita. Appreciated for their ability to cool down palates heated up by curries, raitas also may be made with cooked vegetables, but they taste better with raw ones, especially in summer.

Greek salads are another toothsome combo of cucumber and tomatoes, made special by the addition of piquant feta cheese as well as onions, green peppers and salty black Greek olives. Served with triangles of warm pita bread, Greek salad becomes a summer meal in itself. Taramasalata, smoked fish roe bound with soaked bread and a little olive oil, is another Greek salad specialty.

Along with their couscous and tajines, Moroccans serve orange salads, mixed either with onions, carrots or tomatoes and sprinkled with orange flower water. In Tunisia, where chefs top many dishes with red tuna fish, the favorite is salata meshwiya, which combines the tuna with hard-cooked eggs, capers, tomatoes and peppers. Modern Egyptians, like their ancestors, dote on ful medames, a salad concocted of fava beans pure'ed with oil, lemon juice and parsley.

Far Eastern cuisines, while not renowned for their salad dishes, can boast some of the most interesting creations. Nothing tastes quite like a crunchy, fermented Korean kimchee, usually made with cabbage or turnips reeking of their garlic and hot red pepper sauce. Summer kimchee, called water kimchee, is a lighter version, with the vegetables floating in a salt and water solution.

A few Chinese salad dishes are familiar to frequenters of Chinese restaurants: tangy marinated cabbage, dan dan noodles flavored with a peanut-sesame paste sauce, and crunchy jellyfish bathed in sesame oil. The Japanese equivalent of salad dishes fall into two categories: sunomono, or vinegared dishes; and aemono, or "dressed" dishes. Spinach with sesame aemono is the favorite.

In Indonesia, gado gado, a salad of cooked vegetables and lettuce flavored with coconut milk and peanuts, appears on every menu, while in Thailand it's the yum -- made of vegetables or meat or fish piquant with chilies, onions and lemon grass.

Russian and Romanian grandmothers chop baked eggplant and roasted peppers with raw onion, lots of fresh black pepper and a few spoonfuls of oil and call it poor man's caviar. In Mexico, it's avocados mashed with onions for guacamole. And Mexicans also marinate fried fish fillets in vinegar dressing for escabeche.

Some of the best known salads hail from western European countries. French potato salad made with oil and vinegar is almost as familiar as salade nic oise, a cousin to the Tunisian tuna mixture. Spain contributes not only the "liquid salad" gazpacho but also tapenade, a paste of olives and anchovies that is served as a salad course or as part of a tapas selection. For a treat in Italy, take a trip to Naples to eat fresh tomatoes with buffalo milk mozzarella cheese sprinkled with fresh anise-like basil and drizzled with the local fruity olive oil.

Though pasta is also Italian, pasta salads are American. So is the waldorf salad and the chef's salad. And of course, who can forget coleslaw or American potato salad with mayonnaise?

A salad buffet that balances cold vegetable, meat and fish combinations solves the problem of what to serve at a hot-day party. Or let an unusual salad transform an everyday meal into a special occasion.

Wherever you find your inspiration, late summer -- harvest time -- is ideal for exploring the intriguing world of traditional international salads.

RUSSIAN EGGPLANT CAVIAR (6 servings)

My grandmother and mother chopped the eggplant, pepper and onion in a wooden bowl with a hand chopper. For a long time, I resisted trying to prepare this salad in a food processor. But when I finally did it that way, I found that it works perfectly as long as I do not process it so long that it becomes too smooth. Add lots of freshly ground black pepper to give this dish the right pizzazz. In my family we spread the "caviar" on rye bread, but it also tastes wonderful on pita bread or crackers.

1 medium eggplant

1 large green bell pepper

1 medium onion

1/4 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Tomatoes for garnish

Place eggplant and green pepper on a rack in a baking pan and bake at 400 degrees, turning once, for 30 minutes or until the skins are wrinkled and the vegetables are soft. Place them in a brown paper bag and let them sit 15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop onion coarsely in the bowl of a food processor or in wooden chopping bowl. Peel eggplant and pepper, discarding seeds, and add to onion. Process briefly, only until vegetables are chopped but not smoothly pure'ed. Add oil, salt and pepper. Chill. To serve, spread mixture in a flat serving dish, garnish with quartered tomatoes, and pass additional oil.

FATTOUSH (6 servings)

1 large (8-inch) piece pita bread

1 head romaine lettuce

1 head red leaf lettuce

1/4 cup chopped coriander

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 medium sweet onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Separate halves of pita bread, place on a broiler rack and toast in a 500-degree oven until very brown and crisp but not burned. Turn and toast other side. Break into small pieces. Place in a large salad bowl. Add lettuces, coriander, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint and garlic. Toss to combine.

Beat together oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour over salad. Toss and serve immediately.

MIDDLE EASTERN TABBOULEH (6 servings)

The secret to making your tabbouleh taste better than the kind you can buy at the carryout shop is to toast the bulgur first in order to bring out its nutty flavor and to go heavy on the bulgur and light on the parsley.

1 cup bulgur wheat

3 cups water

8 scallions, chopped

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Lettuce leaves for garnish

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped

8 black oil-cured olives

Pour bulgur into a dry skillet. Toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bulgur is lightly browned and releases its aroma. Pour into a bowl, add water and soak 30 minutes. Drain well and squeeze out remaining water to make the bulgur as dry as possible. Add scallions, parsley and mint. Beat together oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and chill. To serve, arrange lettuce on a platter and mound tabbouleh in the center. Outline with the tomatoes, cucumber and olives.

TUNISIAN SALATA MESHWIYA (4 servings)

1 small head romaine lettuce

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 small sweet onion, chopped

12-ounce jar roasted peppers, sliced

2 tablespoons capers

1 clove garlic, finely minced

2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

3 1/2-ounce can tuna in water

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)

Salt and black pepper to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Tear lettuce into a salad bowl. Add tomatoes, onion, peppers, capers, garlic and half the egg slices.

Break up tuna with a fork and add to salad. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper. Beat together oil and lemon juice and pour over salad. Toss well. Garnish with remaining egg slices and parlsey.

INDIAN CUCUMBER-YOGURT RAITA (6 servings)

2 large cucumbers

1 small onion, chopped

2 jalapenåo peppers, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt to taste

2 cups yogurt

Peel and seed cucumbers. Place in a bowl with onion, peppers and coriander. Sprinkle with cumin and salt and toss. Add yogurt and mix well.

ITALIAN TOMATO MOZZARELLA SALAD (4 servings)

This salad requires the best fresh ingredients: vine ripened tomatoes, fresh basil and either buffalo milk mozzarella cheese or the kind of fresh mozzarella cheese made daily in Italian grocery stores.

4 large tomatoes, sliced

1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

4 tablespoons olive oil

Black pepper to taste

Divide tomatoes among four flat salad plates. Top with cheese. Sprinkle with basil, drizzle oil over top and grind black pepper over all.

JAPANESE SPINACH AEMONO (6 servings)

1 1/2 pounds young spinach

6 tablespoons sesame seeds

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

3 tablespoons chicken broth

Cook spinach in a large pot of boiling salted water until barely tender. Drain, cool and chop. Place sesame seeds in a dry skillet and toast over medium heat, stirring constantly, until lightly browned. Transfer to the work bowl of a food processor and process 30 seconds. Add soy sauce, sugar and broth and process until smooth. Pour dressing over spinach and toss well.

INDONESIAN GADO GADO SALAD (6 servings)

3 medium potatoes

1 small head cabbage, cored and finely shredded

1/2 pound green beans, halved

2 carrots, sliced lengthwise

2 cups bean sprouts

2 squares firm bean curd

Peanut oil for deep-frying

1 cucumber, sliced

2 hard-cooked eggs

FOR THE SAUCE:

7 fresh chilies

1 teaspoon shrimp paste, or substitute anchovy paste

4 tablespoons peanut oil

3 cloves garlic

1 cup unsweetened coconut

1 1/2 cups hot water

1/2 cup roasted peanuts, crushed, or substitute 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Salt to taste

1/4 cup tamarind juice, or substitute 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 large onion, very thinly sliced

2 scallions, finely chopped

Shrimp chips (optional)

Boil and slice potatoes. Blanch cabbage for 2 minutes. Steam green beans and carrots in separate sauce pans just until tender. Blanch bean sprouts 1 minute. Deep-fry bean curd in peanut oil. Arrange drained vegetables on a large platter along with cucumber, hard-cooked eggs and bean curd.

For the sauce, grind together chilies and shrimp paste. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan, add garlic, brown. Add chile mixture; cook 5 minutes. Combine coconut and water in a blender or food processor and process 30 seconds. Squeeze out milk. There should be 1 cup. Add to sauce pan and blend. Add peanuts, sugar, salt and tamarind juice; simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. If it is too thick to pour, add water to make it the desired consistency. Cool. Heat remaining oil in a skillet. Add onions and brown until crisp. Pour sauce over vegetables. Garnish with fried onions and sprinkle with scallions. Serve with shrimp chips.

MEXICAN ESCABECHE SALAD (8 servings)

1/2 cup olive oil

2 pounds flounder fillets

1 onion, sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

4-ounce can green chilies

1/4 cup wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 lemon, thinly sliced

1 head red leaf lettuce

1/2 cup sliced ripe olives

2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced

Heat oil in a skillet, add fish and saute' until brown. Transfer to a shallow covered casserole. To skillet add onion and garlic and saute' until tender but not brown. Add chilies, vinegar, cumin, bay leaves, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Pour over fish and marinate, add lemon slices and refrigerate overnight. To serve, place lettuce on a large flat platter. Arrange fish over top and garnish with lemon slices, olives and egg slices.