Monday, August 2, 2010

Rethinking Greek Salad

Greek Salads in U.S. restaurants are chock full of cucumber, onions and bell peppers plus a hefty garnish of oregano-speckled feta cheese.   For a summer dinner with my parents, I adjusted a few of the key ingredients that are hard to digest raw and made sure the feta was a low-fat, lower-sodium variety.  All the flavor but no discomfort. 

Invitational Greek Salad
Serves 4

Salad Ingredients
2 small heads romaine lettuce
1 large yellow pepper
2 small zucchini, steamed whole for 5 minutes and cooled
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 red onion, sliced and marinated in 1 part apple cider vinegar; 3 parts water for 3 hours (up to several days)
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and rinsed of brine
2 ounces low-fat feta cheese, crumbled
optional: stuffed grape leaves (add if you can get them canned or at a salad bar in your area)

Oregano Dressing
2 ounces apple cider vinegar
6 ounces extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram (1 tablespoon freshly chopped)
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl or lidded jar.

Method
  1. Chop romaine into large, bite-sized pieces.  
  2. Roast pepper under the broiler turning several times to char the skin.  Place in a paper bag for a few minutes.  Peel away skin, slice into rings and discard stem and seeds.  (Rings will be limp.)  
  3. Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch slices.  Drain onions.  
  4. Arrange lettuce on a large platter.  Layer ingredients on top of lettuce so that each diner gets a good portion of each flavor from tomatoes to onion and zucchini.  
  5. Top with rings of yellow pepper and drained olives.  
  6. Sprinkle with feta cheese crumbles and pour about 2 ounces of dressing over cheese and salad.  (Serve remainder with salad for those who like more dressing.)

How does it work?
Even burpless cucumbers can present problems to those with delicate digestions.  They are replaced with quickly steamed and chilled zucchini.  Roasting the bell peppers mellows the flavor and the onion’s marinade draws out the onion’s bite. Rinsing the olives reduces a bit of salt without compromising flavor.  Feta is strong enough to cut the amount in half. Low-fat varieties taste great and crumble well.  While salads in Greece do not include lettuce, romaine or another variety rounds out and extends the salad for few additional calories.  By keeping the Oregano Dressing simple, guests can really taste all the pure flavors in the salad infused with the oregano flavor.  Dill is another option if fresh oregano is not on hand.