After college we spent some time traveling in Greece. One of the tastiest and cheapest ways to eat on a post-college budget was Greek salad for lunch. Greek salads always came with a complimentary loaf of bread, which we of course used to sop up all the dressing, leaving us full and satisfied. On the island of Crete, they also give you a complimentary shot of raki (high-test grape booze) with every meal: breakfast, lunch or dinner. More like oofa than opa ;)
Unlike most versions of you see in the states, real Greek salad has no salad greens and is served without dressing. Instead they provide fresh olive oil and vinegar at the table for you to dress it yourself. Plain, simple and delicious!
Greek salad is a seasonal celebration as most of its ingredients naturally grow during the same season. Summer is the best time to make it, when tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are all growing locally. We went away from traditional for this recipe and added some crisp romaine along with grilled chicken to make a meal of it. Opa!
For the chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
For the salad
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 head of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
2 medium to large sized tomatoes, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 block of feta
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (cider vinegar also works)
1 cup kalamata olives
1 tsp dried oregano (optional but traditional)
For the chicken
Set oven to 375F. Squeeze lemon and drizzle olive oil over chicken. Liberally (seriously, don’t be shy) salt and pepper all sides of chicken. Place in a baking pan with 4 whole, peeled cloves of garlic and the lemon from which you just squeezed the juice.
Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the juices in the thigh run clear. Remove from oven, then squeeze the remaining lemon juice from the now roasted lemon over the chicken (be careful, its hot). Set aside.
Option: If potatoes are on hand, you can quarter some, toss them with oil, pepper and salt, and place under the chicken before roasting. The chicken drippings help season the potatoes.
For the salad
1. Slice onions; put in salad bowl. Add the vinegar to onions. Letting the onions sit in the vinegar while you chop the other ingredients makes them a bit more mild and adds flavor to the dressing.
2. While your onions sit, rinse and chop tomatoes, peppers and romaine. Everything should be chopped to a similar size. Add all to onion mixture.
3. Drizzle mixture with olive oil and toss.
4. Add feta (traditionally added in 1 or 2 large chunks, but break it up however you like). Do this right before serving; if you mix feta in to early, it changes the consistency of the dish. Sprinkle feta with dried oregano and top with another drizzle of olive oil.
Serve alongside chicken or cut the chicken from the bone and put in the salad.
This dish pairs well with dry white wines. If you are feeling extra traditional, look for a bottle of retsina (Greek white wine aged in pine barrels) or some ouzo for after the meal.