Well Summer is indeed here, in full swing, and the produce is beginning to beg for creative solutions to the wonderful problem of abundance! Ah, the troubles of the garden. And so the awesome challenge of “Salad Season” continues, yes!
I visited the Island of Evia once, off the coast of Greece, while some friends were building a magnificent home there on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. We lived simply in that time, with no electricity or running water, but we ate the best salads on that half-finished veranda, situated to soak in the breathtaking ocean view. Here is an excerpt from my book about that time in my life.
“Today we went into town and visited Cara. She was making bread outside in her big ancient oven, which I love. Then here, to the beach at Mille, and swam far out, far enough to see Patricia’s house, and it was so beautiful and afterward we took off our clothes and baked on the rocks and dreamed a bit. Now I am sitting here and I can feel the force of the water through the rocks beneath me. It is a strange, trembling sensation. The waves are big now and seem to be growing. I’m sitting in the very end of the sunlight and even as I write, the shadow of a mountain has slipped over this paper. The rocks all around are gray and red, covered with yellow flowers and green grass. The Mediterranean sings to me slowly and rhythmically, calling me back into her cold hands. I am mesmerized and relaxed under her spell.”
Somehow, since then, I have talked myself out of making Greek salads. Somewhere along the line, I had decided that I was not a fan of Feta cheese. Right now, I know, I can hear you gasping in disbelief. But with all of the amazing produce at my service at this time of year, I decided it was time for another try. And on to it.
What an easy, delicious, healthy(!) meal a Greek Salad is. The flavors are textured and layered with new surprises in each bite. They can be nudged in many directions, just by switching up the ingredients used. I do a lot of substitution when I cook, and although my recipes may depart from tradition, I’m always using what I have fresh and on hand.
If it has been awhile since you tried this leafless delight, be prepared to be delightfully surprised.
Greek Salad For One
One whole cucumber, peeled, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into bite sized slices
One or two whole tomatoes, chopped (or a 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry toms, sliced in half
One whole pepper, any color, chopped
Thinly sliced red onion, about 1/4 cup (I was out of red onion so used some scallions about 4 of them)
1/3 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Fresh Parsley about a tablespoon chopped
Fresh Oregano about a teaspoon chopped
Olive Oil, a good long drizzle to coat
Acid of some sort, optional (red wine vinegar, lemon juice, etc)
Just throw everything in a bowl and toss a bit to coat. I was out of lemon, so used red wine vinegar, and not much of it. I am in LOVE with the Olive Oil from Campovida right now, and used a generous glug of it. Honestly, I could drink this organic olive oil right out of the bottle like a sailor if no one was looking. Oh yea, I did drink it right out of the bottle. Eh. Worth it and good for the joints, too.
Another optional ingredient is capers. And on the subject of creative swapping… One could also sub mint or basil for the parsley. After a camp-stove stint with powdered Cream of Parsley soup on a soggy two week camping trek in the rainiest month in Ireland (July), I have a real love/hate relationship with the innocent herb. When it comes to Greeks, I would lean into basil or mint. Which ever way you go, enjoy the trip!