About 2 years ago, Eric and I bought our first house, which we knew beforehand would be the equivalent of putting a giant root in the ground. And honestly, it’s a root we love, and we are so grateful for the space in which we live. However, I have severe bouts of travel lust about every 4-6 months, and will often drive by airport just to feel like I’m going somewhere. No, I’m not kidding. If anyone’s in the car with me during these rides, I inevitably ask, “If you could go anywhere right now, with no budget concerns, where would it be?”
For the past few years, my answer has been the Mediterranean. I long to visit Morocco and have an authentic tagine and buy purses and lamps. Italy would be a bonus. But beyond any of those places, I think Greece would be my destination of choice. Beaches. History. Food. While I would love to say that it’s my obsession with olives that would drive me there (I have been trying to like them for years), it’s really my feta fetish (how could I resist?). In the past few years, I have invented reasons to buy goat cheese and garganzola, but my Wisconsin-native-cheese-loving heart cannot get away from sneaking feta into every meal that I can.
My love of this food family probably started in college after my friends staged a successful intervention to get me into vegetables. They then started introducing me to ethnic food. We visited the much loved Holy Land Cafe and Bakery more times than I can count, and some of my happiest memories involve excess cucumber sauce all over my fingers and mouth as I bit into an authentic gyro. (Please, someone, tell me how to pronounce this word right). But along the line, I started making this Mediterranean pepper salad and incorporating red wine vinegar into everything I could and of course, eating feta straight out of the container with a spoon when no one was home to see me.
So when Eric bought me Simply in Season last winter, and I diligently poured over its recipes, I flagged this Greek Chicken Salad right away. Fact #1: This is not a “chicken salad.” There is no mayonaiss-ey chicken goopiness involved in this meal. Wretch. Fact #2: It is a green salad filled with late summer vegetables, topped with seasoned, grilled chicken, drizzled with homemade dressing, and made perfect by a heaping sprinkle of feta. You should definitely make this before the next frost kills all the tomatoes and they disappear forever.
Sneaky Fact #3: Never, ever turn down the chance to get a free salad spinner. I deemed it a frivolous waste of kitchen space while registering for our wedding a few years ago, but then purchased one on a whim (for $3.00!) at Ikea a few weeks ago. I’m not sure now how I lived without one…all those years of ripped lettuce as I tried in vain to dry it with a kitchen towel….
VEG TIP: You can totally vegetarian-ize this meal by leaving out the chicken. If you’re looking for some protein, throw some chickpeas into the mix.
Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken
(Adapted from Simply In Season)
(Yield: 6 servings)
I tweaked this recipe in a few different ways. First, I doubled the dressing so that we could coat the salad in greek dressing goodness (plus have extra for dipping bread into the next day). I also used a homemade vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth. I diced up a 1/4 of a red onion; whereas, the original recipe only called for 2 sliced rings, and I added in the bell peppers because they’re irresistable. Finally, I omitted the olives because, even though I long to love them, I just don’t. But you should, you really should.
1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
4 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh oregano (or 2 tsp. dried)
4 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (optional if you want to keep it vegetarian)
8 c. lettuce and/or salad greens (romaine or spring greens depending on the time of year)
1 c. chopped cucumbers
1 c. chopped tomatoes
1 c. chopped bell peppers
1/2 c. chopped red onion
(almost) 1c crumbled feta
halved Kalamata olives (optional)
Pita bread, pita chips, or even a thick foccacia bread.
Combine broth, red wine vinegar, oregano, olive oil, sugar, salt, black pepper, and garlic in a small bowl. Set aside all but a 1/4 c.
Brush the dressing on both sides of the chicken. Grill over medium heat about 7 minutes per side or until no longer pink inside. Cut into thin slices when done.
Now you have some options. I serve this as a deconstructed salad, with the following in separate bowls: lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onions, feta, olives, chicken, and dressing. Then you can build your own salad. Or, throw pita bread out there and stuff everything inside the pockets. Or, put everything in a bowl, dressing included, and toss it like a salad. The choice is yours, my friend.