Although a Greek salad is often thought of as a lunch, it makes a superb dinner. It contains a variety of tastes and textures and fully succeeds in reminding us of the sunny Mediterranean while pleasing our palates.
One of the books I would recommend on this subject calls it "Dionysian." This perhaps is stretching it a bit, since Dionysus (known as Bacchus to the Romans) is not only the god of wine but of ritual ecstasy, followed by wild females and bearded satyrs. You are unlikely to be followed by either wild females or bearded satyrs when preparing this most delicious salad, but perhaps you could let your mind wander in that direction when you are eating it.
If for dinner, just make sure you have enough of the stuffed grape leaves and feta cheese in there to make it substantial. Some books are devoted solely to Greek Salad and these can be recommended. These of course have sections treating the Greek salad as the main course for dinner, just as we are doing here, and these books, too, require enough of the key ingredients to make the salad substantial.
The recipe shown here contains the classic ingredients, but you can of course add your own embellishments, like grilled onions or marinated artichoke hearts, for example.
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Two kinds of stuffed grape leaves are shown here. Feta cheese, of course. Kalamata olives, of course. These are all anchor posts in the composition of the classic Greek.
The relative merits of each of the kinds of stuffed grape leaves is discussed below, but whichever kind we choose stuffed grape leaves of some sort are essential ingredients. Without one or the other kinds, we do not have a Greek Salad. We might have a good salad of some sort, but not a Greek Salad and the promise it holds for visiting the sunny sea in classic mode.
The option for lettuce here is Romaine lettuce, a traditional favorite, a crunchy favorite.
Featured Players 2
Here the option is, instead of Romaine, lettuce which is a mix of baby varieties of Mediterranean lettuces, including rmesclun and arugula. They give a somewhat lighter, softer taste, and maybe a bit more flavor.
This is the option we are going to use here.
The two kinds of stuffed grape leaves
Stuffed grape leaves are called dolmas, sometimes dolmades.
Here we have freshly made ones, available in the refrigerated section of specialty stores.
And we have canned ones, packed in olive oil and available from stores like Whole Foods. (Trader Joe's used to carry them, and should do so again!)
In they go
These are the fresh ones. It says "Vegan" on the container. They are very good.
But so are the canned ones, surprisingly so.
Two or three can go into an individual salad if you are serving salads for dinner, or a big lunch.
Add the feta cheese.
A couple of slices will do for a single salad. Crumbled feta can also be used, of course.
A few slices of tomato add a little color.
Capers are rather like small, soft pieces of salt -- in some ways. In other ways, they have a fresh delicious flavor all their own.
There's a piece of grilled artichoke* in there, too.
* See "Artichokes - Grill 'em!" for that.
Kalamata olives, pitted of course.
Those soaked in olive oil are best., but any genuine Kalamata will do.
You can even be daring and put some green olives in there, too.
For olives and EVOO, click here.
A bigger picture
This one is made of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea salt and coarse ground black pepper. For EVOO, click here.
Lemon juice is an excellent substitute for the red wine vinegar. Various types of balsamic vinegar can also be used, of course. A dab of soy sauce is another possibility.
Spread this ethereal mixture, praised by the gods of cuisine, generously over the salad just before serving.
The beautiful thing about a Greek Salad is the diversity of tastes it offers -- each one delicious individually. Pick them out separately, combine one with another, keep experimenting. All in a salad bowl!
Some rounds of sourdough bread should go with this and can be used to sop up the dressing at salad's end.
Highly recommended: "Olives: the Love and Lore of a Noble Fruit" (2000) by Mort Rosenblum. Mort's book is a perfect read after eating this Greek Salad -- or read it before if you want to heighten your appetite to its highest height.
Rings from a slice of red onion are a good addition to a Greek Salad. Thin slices of cucumbers are also a good addition, and indeed are found in most Greek Salads. Peperoncini, slices of red, orange or green bell peppers, mushrooms, dill and radishes are further possible additions, so long as the basics are there. There is no such thing as a Greek Salad without feta cheese, for example. But then you knew that.
Other possibles -- cabbage, garlic, beetroot, anchovies, potato salad, chickpeas, parsley -- are best thought of, in my view, as major ingredients around which to build other types of salad. The Greek Salad has a special identity, and we can only stretch that so far.
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