Saturday, November 8, 2008

Greek Salad

I'm a big lover of salads. South Indian style, with finely cut vegetables, some soaked lentils, coconut, topped with a tadka or Western style, with a vinaigrette dressing. One of my favourite salads is the Greek style salad, with lettuce, cucumber, onions, tomatoes and feta cheese in olive oil and vinegar or lemon. Flavours, the Italian restaurant at Defence Colony in Delhi does one of the best Greek Salads I've ever had, fresh, bursting with flavour and plentiful in the vegetables. Last year, when we holidayed in Greece, I was really looking forward to having lots of Greek salad. However, much to my dismay, it turned out to be a real disappointment. The salads had an assortment of vegetables alright, but the feta cheese was just put on top of the vegetables in a huge, thick slab, rather than being cut into smaller cubes which then mixed with the vegetables and created a unified flavour. The olive oil too tended to be rather heavy.

I love making Greek salad at home through out Delhi winters. You get a great supply of salad vegetables and these days any good grocery store will provide Danish feta cheese in cartons. It makes a good, filling appetiser which is great since I'm always looking for healthy and low-cal recipes. The kids love it too and it's a versatile style of salad since it can accommodate almost any salad veggies you'd like to use.

Last night we had one of my variations on the theme:
1 head of lettuce, washed in icy-cold water, dried and hand-torn into bite-sized pieces
2 green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
2 tomatoes, cubed
2 spring onions, chopped fine
Walnuts, half cup, broken into halves
Raisins, quarter cup
Italian extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon
Juice of half - 1 lemon ( to taste)
Feta cheese, a 4 inch by four inch slab, about hald cm thick, cut into small pieces
Assemble all the vegetables, nuts and raisins together. Mix the oil and lemon juice in a cup, whisking well to ensure it's well-blended and pour over the vegetables. Add the feta cheese and mix everything together. In case the feta is extra-melty, as Danish feta tends to be, you can mix it with the oil and lemon juice and whisk all three together to make a smooth dressing.
You can ring any number of changes on this theme - replace the walnuts with pine nuts, use grapes instead of raisins, walnut oil instead of olive oil, add baby corn, red and yellow bell peppers, fresh green peas, steamed asparagus spears, even steamed green beans...If you find the feta too salty, you can also blend it with a bit of yoghurt.