Chunky chopped vegetable salad with homemade Greek dressing
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FoodCan be made pareve or dairy

Chunky chopped vegetable salad with homemade Greek dressing

Not all salads have leafy greens

Chunky chopped vegetable salad (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Chunky chopped vegetable salad (Photo by Jessica Grann)

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that not all salads have leafy greens. In Mediterranean cooking, the majority of salads — take Israeli salad, for instance — consist solely of other vegetables, like peppers and cucumbers.

Greek salad is a favorite of mine. I cut the veggies into chunky pieces because I rarely have the patience for small dicing and chopping.

This salad is pareve but can be made dairy by adding feta cheese. The dressing can be made vegan if you substitute another sweetener for the honey.

I often add a can of stuffed grape leaves to bulk it up a little, and that makes a nice meal if served with spanakopita. It’s also amazing with all kinds of fish.

Ingredients

For the pickled onions:
1 medium red onion
1 teaspoon sugar
White vinegar

For the salad:

1 large green bell pepper
2 large red bell peppers
5-6 stem tomatoes
5 Persian cucumbers or 1 large English cucumber
½ cup of Kalamata olives

For the Greek vinaigrette:
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
A pinch of black pepper
2 teaspoons Greek herb seasoning, or 2 teaspoons of a mix of dried oregano, mint, dill and basil
¼ teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
⅔ cup quality olive oil

Optional:
½ pound of feta cheese
Fresh mint or fresh dill to garnish
1 can of stuffed grape leaves


Pickle the onions

Peel a red onion and cut it in half.

Cut each half into slices of your preferred width. Some people like these onions skinny, but they could also be cut into chunks.

Put 1 teaspoon of sugar into a Mason jar, then put the sliced onions into the jar.

Cover the onions with white vinegar, place the lid on and give it one shake to stir the sugar into the vinegar.

Let it rest for at least a half-hour before using. Onions can pickle at room temperature, but after an hour, put on a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate. These onions keep for weeks in the refrigerator if stored in a tightly closed jar

Prepare the vegetables
Stem and core the tomatoes and cut them into thick, uneven chunks about 2 inches wide.

Put the tomatoes into a colander and sprinkle with coarse kosher salt.

Allow the tomatoes to drain for a half-hour, then give them a quick rinse under water to release any excess salt. There is a lot of liquid in cut tomatoes, and that liquid is often what ruins a salad. This step will give you a crunchier salad that will last longer in the refrigerator if you have any left over.

Stem and cut the peppers and cucumbers into chunks and set aside in a large bowl before preparing the dressing.

Prepare the Greek vinaigrette
I rarely buy salad dressing because I prefer simple ingredients and I want to control the sugar and the type of oil. It only takes a few minutes to whip up a homemade dressing, and it will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator.

I use Mason jars to both mix and store the dressing. Greek salad herb seasoning is not available in every market. You can make it at home by mixing the dried oregano, mint, dill and basil. You can experiment with the measurements, but start with a half teaspoon of each to equal two teaspoons in total.

Add the garlic cloves, honey, lemon juice, herbs, salt, pepper and onion powder to the jar and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the liquid to soften the dried herbs.

Add the Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar, put the lid on tightly and shake for 30 seconds. This is typically when I taste-test the dressing. It will be more potent because it has not yet been cut with vinegar, but you can tell immediately if it needs more salt, pepper, garlic, mint, etc. When you’re happy with the flavor, add the olive oil, place the lid on again and shake vigorously for another 30 seconds or until the oil is emulsified.

This recipe makes more dressing than you’ll need for this salad. so you will have leftovers to enjoy. It’s a great basic recipe to keep on hand and soon you won’t be buying salad dressing, either.

Mix the salad

Toss the vegetables in a bowl and add about half of the vinaigrette before tossing again. You can add more dressing if you like.

Sprinkle the olives over the top and arrange the grape leaves if you’re using them.

Garnish with fresh mint or dill sprigs if you have them on hand, but they aren’t necessary.

If you wish to use feta cheese, add it on top. Some feta cheese naturally crumbles, and other feta is firm and looks better cut into slices or chunks. Serve the cheese however you prefer it.

Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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