While Greece has made its way into the news within the last 8 years for aspects they’d prefer to move past, it will always be a place that for me is filled with friendly, welcoming people, thousands of years of history, small towns tucked into mountains, and my first real taste of adventure. And I will always remember it and be thankful to this place for turning my fear of food completely around. I realized here what good, fresh food actually tastes like and to not fear gaining a few pounds because life is more important than the size of the waist band on your jeans. In the three months I spent there in 2008, I learned a lot about food – but most importantly that it doesn’t need to be extravagant to be good.
Enter the Greek salad.
Although I like to experiment with making new foods, I find that I sort of stay in a recurring pattern for the lunches I take to work. If I can, I try to make it revolve around a salad or vegetable of some kind. Ideally a salad with a whole lot of protein and healthy fats.
La Pepita Salad usually enters the rotation every other month or so, then occasionally a roasted vegetable and tortellini salad, and then I tended to have a Greek themed salad about every 2-3 months. For the longest time I kept it like a pasta salad with orzo, but after finding whole wheat orzo became too challenging, I began to branch into other similar shaped grains. I landed on farro being the best option. It’s full of fiber and more protein than orzo, and has a great chewy texture while the orzo used to get really mushy soaking up all of the dressing.
Greek Farro Salad
Makes 4 large portions or 6 smaller
- 1 cup farro, cooked
- 1 can/15oz garbanzo beans, rinsed
- 1 large cucumber, quartered and sliced
- 3 small or 2 medium tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
- 4oz feta, crumbled
- 10oz can sliced black olives, drained
- 1/2 red onion (optional)
- 1/3 c red wine vinegar
- 1/2 c olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the farro – in a large pot, bring water and a pinch of salt to a boil (it doesn’t matter the amount as long as it is at least 2 times as much farro). Add in one cup of farro and cook until farro is tender yet chewy. Most grains will not split open.
- While the farro is cooking, wash and chop the vegetables and place in a large mixing bowl.
- Drain excess water and rinse farro under cold water. Dump into the mixing bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients.
- Toss to combine.
- In a mason jar or other sealable container, shake up the vinaigrette ingredients until well combined.
- Pour about half of the dressing over the salad and mix together. Add in as much of the rest of the dressing as you would like to suit your tastes.
- The salad holds well for a few days and potentially longer if you dress is on the day you will be eating it.
And although I like black olives, if you want a bit more authenticity, go for some kalamata. For ease of eating lunch, I go with what is already pitted.
The flavors definitely bring me back to those vegetable salads I ate while studying there almost 10 years ago. (Has it already been that long!?) Contrary to what you will see on Greek restaurant menus here in the US, the typical salads did not have lettuce – unless you ordered a green salad which was different than the regular salad of quartered tomatoes, red onions, cucumber, and a block of feta on top.Most often if you want the traditional style someplace other than Greece, they may call it a village salad or something to that effect. But whatever you decide to do, get as close to the farm fresh vegetables as you can get – they will make all of the difference.
Greece, I love you and some day I’ll be back. And until that time, I’ll try to recreate some of my favorites to the best of my ability.
What are some favorite foods from your travels and have you tried to re-create them?