Thursday, November 7, 2013

Greek Salad Like You've Never Had It Before

Greek salad, let's face it, can be boring. It's not as bad as Caesar salad, or iceberg lettuce, but it can still be fairly bland, especially when made by guys at a diner who really have no interest in salad. A lot of Greek salad, it seems, is an afterthought placed next to a big gyro or sub sandwich, and it goes uneaten.

Enter now a wholly different Greek salad. Greek salad like you've never had it before. I picked this recipe up from the book Spice by Ana Sortun, chef at Oleana in Cambridge, MA, and while I've made some minor alterations to it, I'm giving credit where it's due. This salad, hearty and heavy, is practically a meal unto itself, and can easily stand alone.

The primary alteration I've made is to recommend to steam the vegetables, rather than roast or boil them. This is partially because steaming veggies is easier to clean up than roasting, not to mention more energy-efficient, but also because steaming preserves the nutrient content of vegetables, whereas boiling (even briefly) causes nutrients to leech into the water. It's also easier to moderate how "done" the veggies are when steaming, rather than boiling or roasting. Steaming is the way to go, in my book.

1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
8 Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium bulb fennel, cored and julienned
1 Granny Smith apple or D'Anjou pear, cored and chopped
16 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
8 oz feta, crumbled or cut into small pieces
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
2 tsp dried oregano
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil

Instead of cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, you can use broccoli.
The original recipe calls for 16 oz of feta, but I find this to be too much.

Steam the squash until tender; you'll want it to maintain its shape, but still be soft enough that it falls apart on forking.
Steam the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts (or broccoli) until just tender, making sure not to overcook.
Mix the veggies in a bowl, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and coating them in 2 tbsp olive oil.
Mix in the fennel, apple/pear, olives and feta.
Mix the red onion, oregano, lemon juice and 4 tbsp olive oil, and allow to sit a few minutes. When ready, use to dress the salad.
The salad can be served warm, immediately after making, or cold (after flavors have married).

The result should be hearty, chunky, and taste a lot differently than you might expect. The oregano will lend a surprising pizza taste to the mix, and the olives will become little bites of delight that will jewel the mixture. This hearty combo makes a great meal in the fall.

Here's the salad served alongside lamb köfte, pickled peppers, and a dry white wine. As you can see, I've substituted broccoli for the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.