The first time I made this, we were having a fairly large group of people over for a Greek-inspired cookout. In my head (and based on one or more cookbooks) was the vision of the perfect Greek salad–not so much the American-mall-food-court Greek salad but the gorgeous salads I’ve had in Greece. As always happens to me—and please don’t ask why I’m still surprised—everything happened later than I had planned. When actually faced with making the dish, I forgot all the careful research I had done into the niceties of the Greek salad. I remembered that there are two basic types, and it stood to reason that they must differ from each other in some way. I had a vague memory of things people had told me about what was absolutely essential and about what was offensively inauthentic—I remembered all the different ingredients, but they now shared the same list in my head. At the same time, I had promised a salad, and the clock was ticking.
In this recipe I make no claim to authenticity. The best thing about it is that, if you can use a knife, it lends itself to being made and dressed amid the absolute chaos of a dinner party that has alreay started. (I realize that you may be one of those people for whom entertaining involves no chaos; if so, keep it to yourself. I have on one and only one occasion hosted a stress-free dinner party: I refer to it as an event; my doctors, for some reason, call it an episode.)
The other really great thing about this recipe is that you can vary it in any way necessitated (or, in the better case, facilitated) by circumstance. The version pictured here includes chickpeas because I had extra from making hummus; usually I don’t, so they’re left out of the recipe below.
You can find any number of recipes for dressings that would work, and indeed you can buy a simple Italian or Greek-style dressing that will harm no one, but I dress this by eyeballing olive oil and red wine vinegar that I swirl on to the assembled salad. Oregano and possibly granulated garlic can be added to the oil and vinegar, and they can all be put on the salad together, or the oregano and garlic can be added directly to the lettuce mix, and the olive oil and vinegar can be done last. Finally, a hint: before you serve a dressed salad, pick out a single leaf of lettuce with your fingers. Eat this and use it to judge how well your salad is seasoned. In particular, use this leaf to tell you if you have enough salt. Finally again, another hint: if in doubt, always underdress and underseason a salad; too much of anything makes lettuce inedible.
- 3 heads romaine lettuce (or more as needed)
- 1 medium red onion, quartered and sliced
- fresh oregano (Greek or Turkish), to taste
- granulated garlic, to taste
- cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
- 1-3 tablespoons capers, drained (or to taste)
- 8 ounces Kalamata olives, drained and pitted (roughly chopped, if desired)
- 8 ounces feta cheese (preferably Greek), crumbled
- red wine vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse the romaine carefully and cut off the root ends.
- Slice the romaine crosswise into strips ½ to 1 inch wide and put in a large bowl.
- Add all remaining ingredients except for feta, oil, and vinegar.
- Just before serving, dress with oil and vinegar. (Taste one leaf to check for seasoning.)
- Crumble the feta over the salad and toss thoroughly. (Taste one leaf to check for saltiness.)