Greek Salad

I shared my brother-in-law’s tzatziki quite a while ago, so it’s about time I share another of his great recipes – Greek salad.  This is my go-to when I’m asked to bring a side dish to a cookout or party… I feel like there’s never enough healthy food at those types of gathering (just lots of chips, macaroni, buns, and sweets), so I love bringing this colorful salad chock full of veggies to balance out the meal.

I’ll start off by saying that I don’t actually make the original recipe.  The dressing is perfect the way it is – I don’t recommend any changes to that, other than doubling it for a larger salad!  But you can adjust the actual salad ingredients based on your taste.  I’m not a fan of raw onion (even purple, even using the soaking in ice water trick) or roasted bell peppers, so I just leave them out.  My sister doesn’t like cucumbers, but likes the onions, so she makes her own version.  So feel free to use the salad ingredients that you like, and leave out the ones you don’t – make it your own!

Dressing ingredients:

  • 6 tbsp olive oil (12 tbsp = 3/4 cup)
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced finely

Combine ingredients by whisking in a bowl or shaking in a Mason jar (my preferred method).  If you can let it stand at room temperature for a few hours before use, it tastes better, but if you don’t have time it’s still OK, just not as flavorful.  You can also make it the night before and store in the fridge, just put it on the counter to warm up to room temperature a few hours before use.

Salad ingredients, in proportions you’d like:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Roma tomatoes, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • English cucumbers, sliced and quartered
  • Purple onion rings (can be soaked in cold water to decrease potency)
  • Roasted red pepper, sliced (from a jar is easiest)
  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half or sliced

My perfect salad has 2-3 heads of Romaine, about 6 Roma tomatoes, 1/2 an English cucumber, 1 tub of pre-crumbled feta, and 1/2 jar of sliced Kalamata olives, tossed with a double recipe of dressing.

IMG_3584

This is my giant 4 quart Pyrex mixing bowl, which conveniently comes with a lid for easy transport to a party

As with most salads, dress right before serving so it stays crisp and not soggy.  However, 2nd day Greek salad is also a favorite in our house – I’m not exaggerating when I say the dressing gets better as it sits!  Even though the lettuce starts to get wilted the next day, our family definitely doesn’t let it go to waste!  I know you will love it as much as we do 🙂

Tzatziki

My sister’s husband’s mother (think about that… got it?) makes the world’s best tzatziki with home-made Greek yogurt.  I mean, it’s probably one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted in my life, it’s that good!  My brother-in-law and his family are from Albania, so they know good, home-made tzatziki!  He taught my mom, who taught me, how to make our own so that we aren’t always asking them to make it.  We cheat and use store-bought yogurt, but it still turns out pretty tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 24 oz plain Greek yogurt (nonfat or low fat are both fine)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic (about 4 large cloves)
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Stir up the yogurt and drop into a mixing bowl.  Finely mince the garlic and add it in.  Peel the cucumber and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds, then dice into cubes about the size of a pinky nail and drop it in the bowl.  Pick the dill off the stems, give it a quick chop, and add it to the mix.  Then add the oil, salt, and pepper.  Stir it up really well, and enjoy your fresh tzatziki!  Store it in the fridge for up to a week, if it lasts that long!

IMG_2756

It should fit right back into the original yogurt container for easy storage

A couple of tips: first of all, I know that English cucumbers aren’t supposed to have seeds, and their skin is edible.  But the seed-like stuff in the middle will make the tzatziki watery as it sits, so it’s best to remove it.  The skin also changes the texture of the finished product, so we prefer to remove it.

IMG_2755

The half on the left has the “seeds” scooped out; I’m about to do the one on the right

Also, if you don’t want to buy fresh dill and chop it, you can get the dill in the squeeze tube as an alternative.  My mom uses that kind, as she has some crazy allergies that push her into anaphylactic shock when she chops dill (she can eat it, just not cut it).  You can find it near the fresh herbs in the grocery store.

As far as how to enjoy it, well, that’s entirely up to you.  One of my favorite ways to eat it is instead of sour cream on a baked potato.  Talk about bumping up the volume on something generally very bland!  My mom makes a lamb roast every time I go home, and it’s great with that, too.  But I have to say my favorite application is instead of ranch dressing for dipping raw veggies in – yum!

IMG_2757

Snow peas and tzatziki make a healthy and delicious snack!

I hope you enjoy this simple, authentic-tasting tzatziki recipe!