February 27, 2013

Greek Salad

On New Year's Eve we spent some quality time with some good friends and friends of theirs who also have an almost-three-year-old child. We went on a horse-drawn sleigh ride (after Willem was assured that it was not going to fly) then celebrated in festive, family style with wine and homemade pizza in our friends' cozy, woodstove-heated cabin in the woods. (And, somewhat unbelievably, we DID stay up until midnight. Though we-- especially the parents among us-- were a pretty pathetic bunch at that point and said our goodbyes promptly at 12:02.) 

The family of the friend of a friend is from Greece, and she mentioned in chatting that evening that they eat a lot of Greek salads at their house-- "tomato, onion, cucumber"-- and that their toddler daughter likes it and even eats raw onion, sometimes like an apple, as a snack. I'm a firm believer that kids develop a taste for what they are raised on, but spicy raw onion was an impressive example.

Anyway, I didn't ask her about the dressing or any other details about how they serve their everyday family Greek salad or other dishes they enjoy, and I should have. But as soon as she said "Greek salad," my mind went to the place of forgotten recipes where I had this one stored away, and I then couldn't stop thinking about it until I made it a few days later. 

The original recipe was for a pretty traditional Greek salad (with the addition of olive-oil-fried croutons!), but I add the bed of greens as a base to make it a meal. I also decided to use the extra-flavorful oil in which I'd just fried the olives and bread in the dressing. 

I'm a sucker for a good dinner salad no matter what-- one dish, lots of veggies, beautiful on a plate, infinite yummy combinations-- but this one is just So. Darn. Good. I mean, I realize it's not all healthful, but it's just too wonderful to worry about that. It's one of those meals when I have to remind myself to slow down on shoveling it in long enough to look up, pause for a breath, say a few words between bites. Oily, salty olives, crispy fried bread, sweet baby tomatoes, generous bits of good feta cheese (we love Neighborly Farms of Vermont feta), those slightly spicy crunchy raw onions-- it's a delicious challenge trying to get all those flavors in every bite. 

Greek Salad 

adapted from Martha Stewart Living, May 2011 

Croutons and Olives
1 C olive oil
1/2 loaf olive bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes/about 2 cups (I used ciabatta)
1/2 C pitted kalamata olives 

1/4 C plus 2 T olive oil
2 T red-wine vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper 

2 C (1 pint) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber (I used a whole, long English cucumber), peeled and coarsely chopped
3 T fresh dill (omitted)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 block feta cheese (6 ounces), sliced 1/2 inch thick
salad greens 

Make the croutons and olives: Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet over high heat until it reaches 360 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer (I didn't measure heat, just get it hot enough that the bread and olives will fry not just sit in the oil). Fry bread and olives until bread is golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a paper-towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon.

Make the dressing: Whisk together oil (use the oil left in the pan, now flavored with olives and bits of bread) and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the salad: Combine all but feta and greens in a large bowl. Toss with dressing (or save dressing to drizzle over everything, last). 

Arrange salad greens on plates. Top with salad and croutons and olives, with wedges of feta on the side.

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