While cooking, listen to this: Destination Unknown by Missing Persons
There's this magical eatery in Metro Detroit called Leo's Coney Island. A humble little place where you can get the most delectable Greek salad. A place where your thighs stick to the vinyl booths in the summer, but you JUST DON'T CARE because even if their fries are a little bland, there's nothing that can't be fixed by a smothering of their world (read, Detroit) famous Greek dressing.
Leo's is the reason that "Greek salad" has been my favorite food since I turned 6. I remember learning that "real" Greek salads don't have lettuce, and almost bursting into tears. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I haven't met a Greek salad that gives me more joy than Leo's. Since college, I've spent countless hours trying to replicate their infamous dressing. Too garlicky. Too little oregano. Too much vinegar. Not enough Dijon. I got close once, playing around with this (pretty damn delicious) recipe from Cookie + Kate. I finally resolved that I'll never duplicate the dream that is Leo's.
I still haven't. But this Greek salad is still a game-changer.
One of the biggest qualms I have with the aforementioned C+K recipe is that I HATE working with garlic. Don't get me wrong, it is one of the most delicious, versatile ingredients in any kitchen, but peeling it, mincing it, crushing it, and then having your hands reek of it?! It's all too much. Or maybe I'm just incredibly lazy (probably the latter). Garlic rant over.
This dressing is the lazy foodie's dream. A simple olive oil and white wine vinegar combo topped with dried oregano and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste and that's it. Yep, it's really that simple.
The next step is finding the best ingredients for your salad: good quality feta (I love the Whole Foods brand block in brine), perfectly ripened tomatoes, some olives from the deli. This is your chance to get creative - mix and match your favorite ingredients - add grains, proteins, exotic veggies. It's a fool proof recipe, guys. Which, in my opinion, is the best kind of recipe.
PS I know the Leo's website looks like the love child of AOL and 1990's Microsoft Word Art, but do NOT judge a website by it's poor graphic design. Otherwise, George R. R. Martin would be pretty obsolete right now.
LEMONY GREEK SALAD
Yield: 2-3 servings (or 1 very hungry herbivore)
Total Cook Time: 15m
Category: Salads, Sides
Source: inspired by Cookie + Kate
1 small vine tomato
½ cup of cucumber
½ cup of red or yellow onion
small handful of dill or parsley, finely chopped
⅓ cup of greek, green or kalamata olives
¼ cup block feta, chopped
½ cup olive oil
6 tbsp white or red wine vinegar
1 tbsp dried oregano
zest of ½ a lemon
salt & pepper to taste
Optional add-ins: chick peas, roasted beets, pickled pepperoncinis, sunflower seeds, romaine lettuce, quinoa or farro, whatever strikes your fancy!
Chop your veggies: Diced pieces are recommended here to get the authentic Greek feel, but if you're going Leo's-style, absolutely make your salad chunkier. When cutting your fresh herbs, remember to chop finely. I highly recommend checking out this excellent NYT piece on using a large kitchen knife. This will help you to chop herbs and not your fingers. No more using a fish knife to cut anything other than fish, I beg you!
Add feta (and any other add-ins): To make this vegan, feel free to skip the feta. I'd recommend adding something a little briny, such as extra olives or pickled artichokes, to make up for the missing flavor.
Make the dressing: Add olive oil and vinegar in a bowl or jar. Mix or shake until emulsified. Stir in oregano and lemon zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. Give it a stir. For easing storing, make your dressing in a mason jar.
Serve & enjoy! If you're feeling fancy, add a piece of crusty bread or homemade pita (I love this recipe!).